DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 10, 2002) * He finally did it. On his 463rd NASCAR Winston Cup Series start, Michael Waltrip won a points race. But he didn't win just any points race, he won the 43rd annual Daytona 500. Waltrip won the "Great...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 10, 2002) * He finally did it.
On his 463rd NASCAR Winston Cup Series start, Michael Waltrip won a points race. But he didn't win just any points race, he won the 43rd annual Daytona 500.
Waltrip won the "Great American Race" on Feb. 18, 2001. After taking the lead on Lap 184, Waltrip held off his Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. and numerous other challenges.
"With 15 laps to go, I thought I'd never hold on," Waltrip said. "With 10 laps to go, I said, 'They're just sitting back there waiting to pounce.' With five laps to go, I said, 'Maybe I can win this thing.' "
Waltrip ended up winning and joining his older brother Darrell as the only siblings to win the Daytona 500. Darrell Waltrip, who won the Daytona 500 on his 17th attempt, had the opportunity to call Michael's victory while serving as an analyst in FOX Sports' first NASCAR broadcast of the Daytona 500.
As with tradition, Waltrip ended up losing his winning No. 15 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet after the race. The car has been resting inside DAYTONA USA for the last year. He got a chance to visit the car in July when the DEI team visited the attraction for a victory celebration.
In a celebration ceremony at the "Official Attraction of NASCAR," Daytona 500 rings were distributed to the team and Waltrip received numerous gifts. The champion then took a stroll around his race car.
"The confidence I had when I started that race, I could feel it," said Waltrip about his thoughts when he looked inside the car. "It was a great feeling. I just knew it. When I look at the car, I remember the feeling I had when I was in it. When I get near that car, I just feel it."
Being among the greats that have won the Daytona 500 is something that Waltrip understands. He appreciates the history of the race and having his name mentioned alongside other racing greats such as Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and his brother Darrell.
"Everything that I know about racing centers around the Daytona 500," Waltrip said. "When I was just 5 years old, we use to load up in our car in Owensboro, Ky., and drive 14 hours to Daytona for Speedweeks every February. When I was young, I thought it was real cool because I got out of school and I thought it was pretty cool that my brother was in the Daytona 500.
"I watched Darrell work so hard for so many years to try to win it and he finally pulled it off. It's the same deal with Dale Earnhardt working so long and so hard to pull it off. I was able to do the same thing * work forever and finally win the Daytona 500. It's just a great race to win. I'm real proud to be the champion. I understand the history of the event. I understand the importance of it. I'm real proud to have my name on the Harley J. Earl trophy."
Now it's time for Waltrip to go for another Daytona win. He finished second to Earnhardt Jr. in the 43rd annual Pepsi 400 and will look to join Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and Sterling Marlin as back-to-back Daytona 500 winners.
He'll begin his pursuit of his second straight Daytona 500 win next week as the second wave of Winston Cup teams participate in the Jan. 14-16 Winston Cup test session at Daytona International Speedway. Besides Waltrip, other drivers expected to attend the test include Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Burton.
Said Waltrip: "We went to Daytona in July and had a really good chance to win the race and ran second. We know how to win the race obviously. It didn't take me winning the Daytona 500 to know I could win it. I'd already proved to myself I knew how to win it. I have a lot of confidence about that track and about what you have to do to be successful there. I'd think it would be normal to try to do it back-to-back and we feel like we can pull that off."
This weekend's NASCAR Goody's Dash Series test sessions and the Jan. 14-16 Winston Cup test session are free and open to the public with access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of DAYTONA USA.
Tickets for the 44th annual Daytona 500 can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.
<pre> Session No. 2, Jan. 14-16 Teams that are expected to attend the Jan. 14-16 Winston Cup test session at Daytona International Speedway:
No. 20 Pontiac, Tony Stewart No. 28 Ford, Andy Hillenburg (subbing for Ricky Rudd) No. 18 Pontiac, Bobby Labonte No. 2 Ford, Rusty Wallace No. 99 Ford, Jeff Burton No. 10 Pontiac, Johnny Benson No. 17 Ford, Matt Kenseth No. 9 Dodge, Bill Elliott No. 25 Chevrolet, Jerry Nadeau No. 12 Ford, Ryan Newman No. 21 Ford, Elliott Sadler No. 15 Chevrolet, Michael Waltrip No. 19 Dodge, Jeremy Mayfield No. 7 Dodge, Casey Atwood No. 43 Dodge, John Andretti No. 90 Ford, Rick Mast No. 45 Dodge, Kyle Petty No. 23 Dodge, Hut Stricklin No. 41 Dodge, Jimmy Spencer No. 13 Ford, Hermie Sadler No. 30 Chevrolet, Jeff Green No. 92 Dodge, Robert Pressley No. 33 Chevrolet, Mike Wallace No. 29 Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick No. 57 Ford, Derrike Cope No. 81 Chevrolet, Kerry Earnhardt