Coming to Daytona this year must provoke mixed emotions for Michael Waltrip, who for the first time in a decade, will not be here as a team owner.
"At the end of 2015, we closed MWR and in a couple weeks, we're going to have an auction and that's sad," Waltrip said at Daytona 500 Media Day.
"When you see everything you worked for and sacrificed for and all the money you've spent come down to an auction, that's a really harsh reality to be slapped in the face with."
Until I just can’t get in there or don’t want to get in there and mix it up, I’m going to keep doing it if I get the opportunity
Michael Waltrip on when he will stop racing
Waltrip will pilot the No. 83 Maxwell House Toyota Camry for BK Racing in this weekend's 500, his 29th appearance in 'The Great American Race.'
MWR employees/equipment find new home at BK Racing
The team is jokingly calling themselves 'MWR-South." 2015 MWR driver David Ragan is there, as well as several former employees from the now defunct race team. In fact, BK Racing has even acquired some of Waltrip's cars and equipment.
"I'm thankful that we are able to help this guys out and I think we have."
The Owensboro, Kentucky native will start 13th in the second Duel, but is locked into the race through the charters BK Racing possesses. With his place in the race certain, does Waltrip believe he can win a third Daytona 500 on Sunday? Only five other drivers have ever accomplished such a feat.
“Well, if I hadn’t qualified 29th, I’d feel better about it. You can’t be the hero the better part of a second off the pole – that’d be a hard day’s work, but we’ll go out there Thursday and maybe in the draft the car does things that I recognize, that I need to have to be able to win. Then my optimism will go up a notch or two. But after qualifying, I feel like we can be in the top-five because we squeezed our way in there, but our car is a little bit off of the pace.”
Retirement in the cards?
At 52 years old, Waltrip has started 781 Cup races in a career that spans over two decades. So is the 'R' in the forefront of his mind?
“When I quit racing full-time in ’09, I had a team in MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) and we had sponsors that wanted me to run races. They wanted to complement their schedule with the other drivers with me running a couple, so I said, ‘Heck yeah, I love it,’ and since then I almost won like three of these things – that’s what kept me going is being competitive.
"Until I just can’t get in there or don’t want to get in there and mix it up, I’m going to keep doing it if I get the opportunity."