PERFECT DAY FOR WALTRIP CAMP AS JARRETT RACES INTO DAYTONA 500 JOINING REUTIMANN AND WALTRIP DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 14, 2008) -- Emotions ran high today for all three Michael Waltrip Racing teams as David Reutimann ( ...
PERFECT DAY FOR WALTRIP CAMP AS JARRETT RACES INTO DAYTONA 500 JOINING REUTIMANN AND WALTRIP
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 14, 2008) -- Emotions ran high today for all three Michael Waltrip Racing teams as David Reutimann (#00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry) and Michael Waltrip (#55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry) lined up to meet their primary objective of helping Dale Jarrett's #44 UPS Toyota Camry earn a starting position into his final Daytona 500. And they did just that.
Waltrip, who was locked in after securing the outside pole position on Sunday, starts second while Reutimann begins 42nd. Jarrett takes the 20th-starting place for his final appearance.
"I just concentrated on our main goal," Waltrip said. "We needed to practice for a few laps to make sure we knew what we were doing. We did, obviously. Dale just had an awesome car. He did a great job. He could have made it without us, but there was no sense in taking that chance."
Waltrip led three times for 17 laps. After crossing the start-finish line on Lap 30, Jeff Gordon took the lead and the #55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry got shuffled back to 16th. Ironically, Waltrip ended up in the middle of Reutimann's #00 Aaron's Dream Machine and the #44 UPS Toyota Camry. That's when their plan of action was put into motion. As the Aaron's, UPS and NAPA teams paced the pit box, Waltrip, Jarrett and Reutimann began communicating strategy over their radios.
"All Michael and I cared about was getting in behind Dale and pushing him to the front," Reutimann said. "There was a lot of chatter between us and the teams. We just needed to make sure we got Jarrett ahead of all the go-or-go-homers and kept him there."
At that point, Patrick Carpentier, Ken Schrader and John Andretti were ahead of Jarrett and were fighting to transfer. By Lap 40, Waltrip and Reutimann helped Jarrett move into sixth place ahead of all of the go-or-go-homers. He also ran as high as third on Lap 44. From that point on, the #44 UPS team never looked back and were able to secure a position in The Great American Race.
"I'm really happy that I got UPS and Michael Waltrip Racing's third car in the Daytona 500," Jarrett said. "They gave me a great race car. The first part of the race I was kind of hanging out to see what was going to transpire. I saw a lot of cars were out of shape up in front of me. I found myself a comfortable spot. When Michael was able to line up behind me, my car was really good."
Jarrett went on to finish ninth and Reutimann followed not far behind in 12th. Waltrip, who put on his owner's hat today, finished 13th and was beaming after having all three of his teams locked into Sunday's race.
Reutimann is just as happy as he looks forward to running his second career Daytona 500 in his home state of Florida -- minus not being credited for leading the first lap of the Gatorade Duel #2 due to a NASCAR pass-through penalty for jumping the start.
"When the green flag waved, I took off and Michael didn't," Reutimann said. "Unfortunately, I got ahead of Michael and for 100 years the rule has been that you can't beat the leader to the line. I knew better because Michael was going to take it easy on the start. It's my fault. I'm just thrilled we will all be here Sunday."
Live coverage of the Daytona 500 on February 17th begins at 2 p.m. on FOX and 3:20 p.m. on MRN Radio.
-credit: Michael Waltrip Racing