Texas: Michael Waltrip race report

Waltrip darts 10 cautions to finish 17th at Texas Motor Speedway. Fort Worth, Texas (March 30) - A provisional starting spot was not the way the NAPA team anticipated their start to the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. ...

Waltrip darts 10 cautions to finish 17th at Texas Motor Speedway.

Fort Worth, Texas (March 30) - A provisional starting spot was not the way the NAPA team anticipated their start to the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. In fact, Michael Waltrip and team expected to start in the top-10 like they had the last two times they visited the Longhorn State.

"It wasn't for lack of effort," said crew chief Slugger Labbe. "Waltrip wheeled that car in those corners like he is supposed to, but the car didn't want to be there. Turns one and two were our weak points in practice and they got us in qualifying too."

The NAPA team turned their attention to Sunday's race. The No. 15 team entered the 334-lap event fourth in the championship standings and wanted to hold, if not better, their position. In order to do this, Waltrip had to escape 10 cautions and better his racecar with every pit stop. Coming from the 37th position these simple goals were tough.

An early caution on lap 13 allowed Waltrip to quickly communicate to his team how the car was running.

"It's bad everywhere," Waltrip said about his NAPA Chevrolet.  "The front
tires are skating because I have no front grip.  It's bad in, off and in
the center.  We need some major changes guys."

Labbe gave Waltrip what he asked for by adding rubbers in both rear springs and changing the air pressure in all four tires. Waltrip restarted 38th.

By lap 25, Waltrip said his car was better than he was on the first run, but his car continued to plow. On his next visit to pit road (lap 41), Labbe took more air out of the tires, raised the left rear track bar and changed all four tires. The NAPA crew made all of these changes returning the NAPA car to the track up six positions to 31st.

Slugger continued making the same kind of changes with each pit stop while the NAPA team did their job by gaining positions on pit road.

At the end of the day, the NAPA car lost one lap to the leaders and finished 17th.

"We started out really bad," Waltrip stated, "but we turned a bad day into a day that we could live with and won't kill us in the point's race. We could have given up early today, but everyone did his part to get us a decent finish. We gained 20 positions out there. This is what we have to do to maintain our point's position."

Waltrip held on to the fourth position in the Winston Cup champion ship standings, trails leader Matt Kenseth by 192 points. Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved in front of Waltrip into the third spot after finishing second behind Ryan Newman in the Samsung/Radio Shack 500. Newman became the seventh race winner of the 2003 season.

Waltrip and Earnhardt Jr. are favored in next week's race at Talladega Superspeedway. Don't miss this dynamic duo in the Aaron's 499 which can be seen live on FOX Sunday afternoon.

-dei/napa-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Michael Waltrip , Ryan Newman