Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Waltrip Reflects On His First Cup Start In 1985

What is the key to running well at Lowe’s Motor Speedway?

“The key is being able to anticipate how the track is going to change throughout the course of the night. In the past, it was pretty black and white. All you had to do was loosen up your car. Now, about the time you get to mile-marker 500, you have to start tightening your car back up. The moisture in the air makes the track change. It makes it very difficult for a driver and crew chief to stay on top of it.

“I like to tell this story about the Coca-Cola 600 that sums it up pretty well. In 2004, I was running second and finished second to Jimmie Johnson. I told my crew chief at the time, Slugger Labbe, that the NAPA car was perfect and not to touch it when we pitted. I looked in the mirror and the guys were making a jack bolt adjustment. I called over the radio, ‘I said don’t touch it!’ Slugger radioed back and told me that we had to. He was right. That’s what a good crew chief and team will do. They will anticipate where that track is going. No matter how ahead you are in the Coca-Cola 600, you better keep working on your car to contend at the end. You’ll see all the teams doing it over the course of Sunday night’s race. Teams will be chasing the track all night long and the team that keeps up with it the best will win.”
In 1985, you started your NASCAR Sprint Cup career at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. How did you get started 25 seasons ago?

“I had this plan to race my way up through the ranks. I was trying to figure out how to get a NASCAR Nationwide Series ride when Richard Petty looked at me and said, ‘If you want to race Cup, if that’s what you really want to do, then you need to be doing it. You don’t need to be messing with that plan you have.’ Richard was adamant that I focused on running Cup. I changed my direction and began to figure out a way to get into the Cup Series. I called Humpy Wheeler for advice and he told me to go see Dick Bahre up in Statesville and I did. I told Dick I didn’t have any money, but I had a couple sets of tires that he could count on. All I wanted was a shot. Dick agreed and put me in the car.

“My first race at Charlotte, I qualified 19th. When it came to the race, I broke a transmission with 40 or 50 laps to go. But before that, I was competitive. It proved to me that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing was exactly what I wanted to do. More importantly, I proved to myself that I could do it. I could run with the Cup guys. I think what happened to me is proof that having a map, a blue print or a plan of what you want to do is important, but you also have to be open minded and be willing to improvise and vary from it. In my case, I learned that someone else had a better plan than me. Opportunities allow you to chase your dream and I chased mine. On May 26, 1985, at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, I stopped chasing my dream and started living it.”

Michael Waltrip Fast Facts
  • NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will be competing in his 737th NASCAR Sprint Cup race when the 12th event of the 2009 Sprint Cup season, the Coca-Cola 600, gets underway at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
  • Waltrip made his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut at Charlotte during the 1985 Coca-Cola World 600. He started 24th and finished 29th behind the wheel of the No. 23 machine owned by Dick Bahre. His brother Darrell was the race winner. 2009 marks Waltrip’s 25th season in NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing.
  • Waltrip will start in his 48th Cup race at the 1.5-mile track. His best start is second (October 9, 1994) and best finish is second while driving the NAPA machine on May 30, 2004. In total, he has four top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. Waltrip has completed 15,368 of 17,030 laps (90.2%) at the track and has led a total of 72 laps in competition.
  • During his 33-race Busch career at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Waltrip has earned two victories (March 29, 1993 and Oct. 9, 1999), two pole positions, 12 top-5 and 13 top-10 finishes. He has led 189 laps in competition.
  • Entering this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, Waltrip is 28th in the driver and owner points standings. The NAPA Toyota Camry is guaranteed a starting spot in Sunday’s race.

Race: 12 of 36
Coca-Cola 600
Lowe’s Motor Speedway

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

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1 comment:

  1. I love reading these stories about Mikey's early days in racing! Please...write a book about your NASCAR career!!!