CONCORD, N.C. (May 22, 1999) - During Friday night qualifying for The Winston, Michael Waltrip's pit crew helped him earn a ninth place starting position with an impressive two-tire change. Saturday night, that same crew played a role again,...
CONCORD, N.C. (May 22, 1999) - During Friday night qualifying for The Winston, Michael Waltrip's pit crew helped him earn a ninth place starting position with an impressive two-tire change. Saturday night, that same crew played a role again, but this time it was a radiator they were changing.
A lap 11 incident during the first segment of The Winston eliminated several good cars on the backstretch of Lowe's Motor Speedway. Waltrip was forced to drive straight through the melee, and although he fared better than many of his competitors, he did not come through unscathed.
When he arrived on pit road to change his four flat-spotted tires, the radiator on his Klaussner-Sealy Chevrolet began to belch water and stream on to the concrete. For a moment it looked as though his seventh trip to The Winston would end that quickly. But with nothing to lose, the crew decided to try to replace the damaged pieces in an attempt to keep their night going. With a lengthy clean-up underway on the backstretch, they found the time they needed. When the repairs were finished, Waltrip returned to the racetrack, and after a quick check of his gauges, determined that his car was again ready for battle.
Waltrip fought his way to eighth by the end of the first segment, but could not advance any further during the final two legs of the event. While eighth was disappointing to the 1996 event champion, he appreciated the chance to compete after being involved in the early incident.
"I'm proud of the guys for being able to keep me in this thing. That's what you call teamwork. It was awesome the way they were able to change that radiator so quickly," said Waltrip. "I'm just disappointed because we never quite hit it tonight. We went from pushing to loose and then back to pushing. I feel like I'm responsible for telling them what to do - I'm the only one driving it. We tried to make it better, but we just never did."
Waltrip and his Mattei Motorsports teammates remain at "home" for one more week, returning to Lowe's Motor Speedway for Sunday's running of the Coca Cola 600. Qualifying for the 12th round of the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup schedule is set for Wednesday night.