DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 17, 2003) -- The No. 15 NAPA Auto Parts hauler departed Daytona International Speedway heading back to Dale Earnhardt Inc. in Mooresville, N.C., short one stock car. On Monday at DAYTONA USA, the No. 15 NAPA Auto Parts...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 17, 2003) -- The No. 15 NAPA Auto Parts hauler departed Daytona International Speedway heading back to Dale Earnhardt Inc. in Mooresville, N.C., short one stock car.
On Monday at DAYTONA USA, the No. 15 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, Michael Waltrip's winning car from Sunday's 45th annual Daytona 500, was inducted into the official attraction of NASCAR.
The car will rest inside Gatorade Victory Lane at DAYTONA USA for one year and will be returned to the team before the start of the 46th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 15, 2004.
The car is in the same condition as it was when it left Victory Lane and bears the signatures of all of the crew members including Waltrip.
Waltrip, who also won the 2001 Daytona 500, participated in a fan forum along with his crew chief Richard "Slugger" Labbe and DEI executive vice president Ty Norris Speedway President Robin Braig presented all three with Daytona 500 leather jackets while Gatorade presented the 2003 Daytona 500 champ with a framed photo from last night's Victory Lane celebration.
Waltrip, who'll continue handling media obligations of a Daytona 500 winner in the next few days including an appearance via satellite on tonight's Late Show with David Letterman, visited with the reporters before the induction ceremony and fan forum.
He said he spent last night celebrating with the team on Teresa Earnhardt's yacht. He also got a warm welcome from family, friends and fellow drivers such as Elliott Sadler, Dale Jarrett and Ken Schrader outside his motor home.
"I thought it was fun to get to party with (Teresa) and just enjoy her company," Waltrip said. "I had a lot of good folks over. We went back to the motor home. I didn't do anything crazy. I just enjoyed the family and friends."
Waltrip's victory made him only the eighth driver to win the Daytona 500 more than once. He joins Richard Petty (7), Cale Yarborough (4), Bobby Allison (3), Dale Jarrett (3), Bill Elliott (2), Jeff Gordon (2) and Sterling Marlin (2) on the list.
Waltrip also has more Daytona 500 wins than his older brother Darrell, whose only victory in the "Great American Race" came in 1989.
Darrell Waltrip watched his brother's win on Sunday from the press box while serving as analyst for FOX Sports.
"I'm proud of what my brother has accomplished and what he has meant to this sport," Michael Waltrip said. "I feel like we're so lucky because he showed up at Daytona to do his new job and every time he has come here I've won. That's pretty cool."
Labbe got to celebrate his first Daytona 500 victory. He has previously led Waltrip to victories in the 2002 Pepsi 400 and in the 2002 Gatorade 125's.
"Well, we were lucky enough to win here last July and that was very special," Labbe said. "Like Michael said, to win in the Daytona 500 is just incredible. I remember growing up as a little kid watching (the Daytona 500) on TV. To actually be in Victory Lane where I watched many people do it like Harry Hyde and others, is so special."
The next time the NASCAR Winston Cup Series will visit the Speedway will be for the 45th annual Pepsi 400 on July 5.
To purchase tickets to any of the upcoming Speedway events, including the motorcycle racing, are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.