Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Michael Waltrip Previews Darlington Raceway

What can fans expect to see this weekend at Darlington?
“If fans can’t get excited about what they’re going to see at Darlington Raceway on Saturday night, they shouldn’t even try and watch the Cup race because it is all going to be there. They’ll see lots of speed, running right up next to the wall, competition, tradition and it’s even Mother’s Day. Darlington produces the total package for race fans. I can’t wait!”

The track has gone retro this year after painting the retaining walls white and red to look like it did in the early years. You’ve raced there for 25 seasons. Do you have any Darlington stories that stick out in your mind?
“I remember watching the Darlington races as a kid on television. Wide World of Sports would sandwich my brother Darrell and Bobby and Donnie Allison between ping pong and sumo wrestling. That’s the only way back then to get a taste of NASCAR. You had to get it in a hurry. But, one of my favorite racing stories was back in 1985. I was coming off of Turn 2 and I was driving my rear end off. There was like 50 laps to go and I was so focused. I was into it. Just as soon as I came off of Turn 2, a car drove up beside me. This huge hand went out the window and pointed at me. It was Dale Earnhardt. He was telling me that I had cut him off. I thought to myself, ‘If I could just go down Turn 3 and make a right, I could make it back to Owensboro, Kentucky.’ All I wanted to do was remove myself from the uncomfortable situation. I really didn’t want Dale Earnhardt to kick my butt when I got out of my car after that race. When I think of that story, it makes me laugh.”

Do you expect the track to be different after sitting for a full year after running last year’s event when it was newly paved?
“Last year we saw well over 200 mph speeds going down into Turn 1 during qualifying. Who would have thought that? I liked it when I got there last year and saw how smooth it was, but I knew it was going to be fast and sticky. I think all of the drivers will be relieved a little bit if we get down there and the track is a little bit bleached out. When it bleaches out, and it is not as black, it means it has lost some grip. It will be the same old, tough Darlington, but you won’t have to go over 200 mph down into the corner. Some guys like that especially the guy that won last year – Kyle Busch.”

Michael Waltrip Fast Facts
  • NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will start in his 736th NASCAR Sprint Cup race when he competes in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C.
  • The No. 55 Toyota Camry will once again have the NAPA Adaptive One Brake Pads paint scheme. Adaptive One Brake Pads are designed to reduce noise and brake dust without sacrificing the ‘stop-on-a-dime’ braking power. During the month of May, NAPA is offering a great rebate on a four-wheel brake job using NAPA’s Adaptive One Brake Pads. For details, go to AdaptiveOne.com for all the rebate details.
  • Waltrip will compete in his 43rd race at the 1.366-mile track. His best start is sixth (March 18, 2001) in the NAPA machine and best finish is third (April 7, 1991).
  • During his career at Darlington, Waltrip has earned three top-five, eight top-10 and 25 top-25 finishes. His average start is 23rd and average finish is 22nd.
  • Waltrip has completed 12,463 of 14,088 laps (88.5%) at the track and has led a total of 214 laps in competition.
  • Entering this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, Waltrip is 24th in the driver and owner points standings. The NAPA is guaranteed a starting spot in Saturday night’s race.
Race: 11 of 36
Southern 500
Darlington Raceway

Length: 367 laps/501 miles

Distance: 1.366–Mile Oval

Date: Saturday, May 9

Time: 7 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN; Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Ch. 128

2008 Winner: Kyle Busch
2008 Pole: Greg Biffle

Cup Qualifying
Friday, May 8 at 5:00 p.m.

Cup Practices
Friday, May 8 at 11:30 p.m. & 1:30 p.m.

This Week in NASCAR
Monday, May 11 at 8 p.m.
Only on SPEED

All Times Eastern

Media Alert: Michael once again appears on the NBC sitcom, My Name is Earl. “Inside Probe Part 2” will air Thursday night at 8 p.m.

Vote for Mikey! Fast track Michael into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Sprint customers, vote on your phones by texting “NASCAR” to 7777 to download NASCAR Sprint Cup MobileSM to cast a vote. (Standard text messaging and data rates apply.)

Or, visit http://sports.sprint.com/speed/?id9=vanity:speed

Vote Now! Vote Often!

** Ryan Langley Front Tire Changer
Chris Hall Front Tire Carrier
Tony Cardamone Jack Man
** Mike Ellershaw Rear Tire Changer
** Eric Wakeland Rear Tire Carrier
Art Harris Gasman
Shawn Soules Catch Can
Ron Otto Eighth Man
** Terry Spaulding Hose and Sign
Craig Harper Gas Runner
Mark Maloney Second Gas Can

** New Crewmembers

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