Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Michael Waltrip - Pennsylvania 500 Preview


You have had success at Pocono Raceway. It has a challenging layout. What does it take to run well there?

“It is a lot of fun to drive. You have the big, long front straightaway. It has a nice high-banked first turn. Then there is the tunnel turn and when you go through there, you are going so fast that it seems extremely flat. That’s what I like. You go from a high-banked turn into a flat one. Then the third turn is even flatter yet. They put a patch of new pavement around the top of the third turn that drivers will go up there to try and get more grip.

“If you have a good car during the race, it is because you can go down low and find enough grip to pass someone up there on the patch. The key to Pocono is being able to go wherever you need to go. You have to adjust your line and be able to drive your car wherever the competition isn’t because it makes it really hard to pass a guy if you are following them. Pocono Raceway is just really fun to drive.”

For teams that ran well at Indianapolis, is it safe to say that they have a decent shot at running well at Pocono?

“I don’t think you can necessarily count on that. In the past, you could maybe think that, but now I don’t believe it is the case because of the splitter and how difficult it is run the splitter as low to the ground as possible. At Indy, the track is so smooth. It is easier to get the splitter close to the ground. But at Pocono, it has a lot of bumps and you are still trying to do the same thing. It is pretty hard to get it to match up at Pocono.”

When you first saw the track, what was your impression especially of Turn 1 and the long, front straightaway?

“When I was about 21 years old, I remember watching the drivers go into Turn 1 and they went in there for what seemed like forever. The drivers were wide open all the way into the middle of the corner. It was a learning experience watching. I went on to try it. When I finally caught my breath about an inch away from the wall, I thought to myself how different sound travels. The sound was a little bit delayed. I have had a bunch of fun times at Pocono. I’ve had some great races up there. I finished second in 1998.”

Michael Waltrip Fast Facts
  • NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will be competing in his 745th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race when the 21st event of the 2009 Sprint Cup season, the Pennsylvania 500, gets underway at Pocono Raceway in Pocono, Pa.

  • Waltrip will start in his 47th Cup race at the 2.5-mile track. His best start is first in the NAPA machine (June 12, 2005) and best finish is second (June 19, 1988). In total, he has three top-five and six top-10 finishes at Pocono.

  • Waltrip has completed 7,947 of 9,108 laps (87.3%) at the track and has led a total of 64 laps in competition. His average start and finish is 22nd.

  • Earlier this season at Pocono, Michael Waltrip Racing and its alliance with JTG-Daugherty Racing had a very respectable day at the Pocono 500. David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose finished third and sixth place. NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip rallied back from problems on pit road to persevere to a 17th-place finish.

  • The NAPA AUTO PARTS team is guaranteed a starting spot in Sunday’s Pennsylvania 500. The team is 31st in the owner points standings.

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