Waltrip Wins, NAPA Chevy Takes First Spot in Gatorade Duel ...
Waltrip Wins, NAPA Chevy Takes First Spot in Gatorade Duel #1
Daytona Beach, Florida (Feb. 17) -- Michael Waltrip silenced any talk of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. struggling at Daytona by edging teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the line to place the NAPA Chevy in victory lane for the first of Thursday's two Gatorade Duals. A perfectly timed pass in the fourth turn of the white flag lap brought the two door-to-door but Waltrip crossed the finish line first, beating teammate Earnhardt Jr. by a nose.
"This win was cool because we didn't have flat out straight-line speed in qualifying," said Waltrip. "We knew we had to figure out a different combination to race. The new team has really worked out well for me. I needed something to be different with the NAPA car for 2005. I am more grateful for Ritchie and DEI for having the confidence to put me with those guys and know I could perform. That's what testing and this off-season has proven to all of us."
Michael Waltrip started the 60-lap event from the 18th position, but by lap 10 the NAPA Chevy had broken into the top five. The first pit stop of the day came under green on lap 29 for four tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment. On lap 32 Waltrip took the lead and held it until the second caution came out on lap 44. In the final ten laps Michael Waltrip found teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. and began to draft to the front from the seventh position.
"Dale Jr. said that everything would be clear after Thursday, and I think that's right," said Waltrip, driver of the No. 15 NAPA Chevy. "We've got fast cars. I am proud of the guys. We worked real well and I am so happy. I've got a setup in here that I have never raced before and it feels great. They've got us more power coming. People wanted to see if they could do anything else so more power is on the way."
When he took the white flag, Waltrip was pushing Earnhardt Jr. past then leader Mike Skinner. Earnhardt Jr. and Waltrip entered the final turn one and two. In an aggressive move just before the start finish line Waltrip brought the NAPA Chevy to the outside of the Budweiser car and slipped past his teammate for the win.
"I saw that Skinner was two-wide behind me and I knew that it had a shot of working if I got a good enough draft off Skinner to push me up toward Junior. I thought maybe I could get around him and it worked," explained Waltrip of his last lap pass. "When I came up off turn four my car just handled so well. It stuck in the corners and I was able to leave the gas flat on the floor and aim my way past Dale Jr. I never really dreamed it would work. I come up with all kinds of plans and they never really work, but that one happened to."