Phoenix, Arizona (Nov. 7) -- Michael Waltrip, driver of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, NAPA AUTO PARTS sponsored Chevrolet, overcame a practice accident to finish 17th in Sunday's 500-mile race at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). Waltrip...
Phoenix, Arizona (Nov. 7) -- Michael Waltrip, driver of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, NAPA AUTO PARTS sponsored Chevrolet, overcame a practice accident to finish 17th in Sunday's 500-mile race at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR).
Waltrip hit the wall on Saturday afternoon in the beginning of final practice causing the NAPA team to bring out the back up car making only a hand full of laps before having to prepare the car for Sunday's race.
The team put a set up in the car they believed would be beneficial to start the race, but once on the track, the NAPA car bounced back and forth from a tight condition to a loose condition all afternoon. They made chassis and air pressure adjustments with each pit stop, never able to find the secure feeling Waltrip was looking for to keep up with the top-10 cars.
Pit strategy found the NAPA car as high as the seventh position, but misfortune fell Waltrip's way when the caution flag waved during green-flag pit stops causing the No. 15 car to fall out of pit sequence and off of the lead lap. The car was fast enough to make its way to the first car one lap down and was rewarded the lucky dog. Waltrip returned to the racetrack in the 27th position and maneuvered all the way to 17th by the time the race ended.
Waltrip holds the 18th position in the point's race, two points out of 17th position held by Rusty Wallace, and 21 points out of 16th held by Jeff Burton.
"We finished 17th, running pretty well, but still a notch off where we needed to be," Waltrip explained after 315 tough laps around Phoenix International Raceway. "We got good track position at one point and ran in the top-10, but a green-flag pit stop put us a lap down. We raced to get our lap back and made it to the 17th position when it was all said and done. I was proud of the effort of the NAPA team. It is important to remember that this is only the fourth race that Pete (Rondeau, crew chief) and I have worked together. I think we are building a good foundation and that we can enter 2005 in better shape than we have ever been. I feel like we will show results right away. We've finished in the top-20 twice, which is certainly not where we want to be, but when you have a change, you tend to set your sights ahead. We are looking at 2005 and at testing Homestead-Miami Speedway this week in preparation for the last race of the season."