DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 6, 2002) -Michael Waltrip drove to victory lane under caution in front of the largest night time sporting event in the United States at the Daytona International Speedway in the Pepsi 400 Saturday night. The driver of...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 6, 2002) -Michael Waltrip drove to victory lane under caution in front of the largest night time sporting event in the United States at the Daytona International Speedway in the Pepsi 400 Saturday night.
The driver of the No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet led a race-high 99 laps as the 2001 Daytona 500 winner posted his first win this season and his second career NASCAR Winston Cup victory. The Owensboro, Ky. native also claimed a Gatorade 125-mile qualifier earlier this year.
Darrell Waltrip, the 1989 Daytona 500 Champion and brother of the race winner, watched from the tower while serving as an analyst for Fox Sports.
"It's real tense on the restarts and we just led like the whole last half of the race and I didn't want to see it get away from me," said Waltrip following the 160-lap event. "I knew the key to this victory was the way the car handled."
The race ended under caution following a three-car accident with just three laps remaining. But as the raced progressed, Waltrip's car - and chances of winning - did, as well.
"I could drive it and look out the rear view mirror," Waltrip added. "When I won the Daytona 500 the car was the same way."
Waltrip, who has helped Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) win five of the last seven restrictor-plate races, posted his seventh top-10 finish of 2002 and jumped from 14th to 12th in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings. Rusty Wallace drove his No. 2 Miller Lite/Harley Davidson Ford to second place.
"I said, 'I'm gonna get this old hot-rod up front and, man, it took off like a bullet," said Wallace. "Everybody laid on the bottom and those guys laid on the top and I just blew right through the center."
The race saw six lead changes among six drivers. There were nine cautions for 39 laps; the race lasted two hours, 56 minutes and 32 seconds.
Sterlin Marlin's third-place finish kept him on top of the NASCAR Winston Cup standings by 77 points over second-place Mark Martin after 17 of 36 events on the 2002 schedule. Marlin has led the standings since his runner-up finish at Rockingham in February.
"We're back with the Silver Bullet for the rest of the year," said Marlin, whose third-place finish was his best since his win at Darlington 12 races ago. "I was hoping the race would go green the rest of the way, but I'd like to thank my teammate Jimmy Spencer. He gave me a hell of a knock down the back straightaway and I was able to pass a bunch of cars."
Rounding out the top ten were Jimmy Spencer in fourth position, Mark Martin in fifth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in sixth, Todd Bodine in seventh, rookie Jimmie Johnson in eighth, Ward Burton in ninth, and Geoffrey Bodine in tenth. Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick finished in the 11th position.
The NASCAR Winston Cup Series returns to Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 500 on February 16, 2003. For tickets, call the ticket office at 386-253-RACE (7223) or visit daytonainternationalspeedway.com.