Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NAPA Racing Press Box featuring Michael Waltrip

You’ve raced at Dover over 40 times. What would you tell a race fan about the place?

“If there is one track where I would want to put somebody in the right side seat of my race car and show them what I do every Sunday, I would take them straight to Dover. It is a crazy ride. You fly off into those corners so deep and so far that the banking is able to hold you. It’s a thrill ride for sure.”

Looking back, what was the difference at Dover when running on pavement versus concrete?

“Back in 1994 it was like racing on a gravel road. There were pot holes, and dirt chunking out of the track. We needed the track to be repaired so Dover put concrete down. At the time, they didn’t know how to put concrete down so it wasn’t the best of conditions. It felt like there were ramps and jumps. The concrete surface was crazy. But then a good thing happened. Dover wanted to run an Indy car race so they fixed the track by laser grinding it. It made the track nice and smooth. It was raceable. Transition that to now with what we have at Bristol, concrete is just as good as asphalt. Back in the day, if you would have mentioned concrete for a track surface, I would have said, “You can’t do that. It’s crazy.” Now, it’s down to a science. Concrete tracks are perfect.”

How intense are the final nine races for competitors?

“It’s very intense. You can’t leave anything on the table right now. You have to race every lap like it is the last lap. Whether you are racing for the championship or you are just trying to get the best finish you can to get as many points as you can, like I am doing, it is intense. We saw at New Hampshire just how intense it was out there. You saw a lot of close racing and some bumping and banging. You are going to have that and it is OK. If a guy slips a little bit, or the car isn’t right and you get a little bit loose, then you are going to run into each other. I know during the cool-down lap, it seemed like about half the field was mad at someone. They were all rubbing on top of each other. I saw some really angry people up in front of me. It’s intense for everybody right now.”

NASCAR discussed in New Hampshire the testing ban and the possibility of adding Greenville-Pickens Speedway as an approved track to test. Do you like the testing ban or would you like to be able to go back to the way it was?

“I love the current policy that NASCAR has in place and I hope it stays that way. I know how much money it saved my organization by not testing. It also takes some stress off our people as they can stay at home more. I think that is great. We have always struggled for some down time.”

Michael Waltrip Fast Facts

* NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will be competing in his 751st NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race when the 28th event of the 2009 Sprint Cup season, the AAA 400, gets underway at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware.

* Waltrip will start in his 48th Cup race at the one-mile track. His best start is first (June 2, 1991) and best finish is fifth (Sept. 16, 1990 and Sept. 15, 1991). He has two top-five and nine top-10 finishes at Dover. Waltrip has completed 17,941 laps of 21,104 (85%) at the track and has led a total of 31 laps in competition. His average start is 23rd. His average finish is 21st.

* Earlier this season, the NAPA AUTO PARTS team was relegated to a 35th-place finish after the engine let go shortly after the 250-lap mark in the Autism Speaks 400.

* Waltrip ran his first Nationwide Series race at Dover and won on Sept. 17, 1988. In total, he has raced in 19 Nationwide events at the Monster Mile. He has collected one pole, two victories (Sept. 17, 1988 and June 2, 1990), two top-five and eight top-10 finishes. He’s led 253 laps in Nationwide competition at the track.

* Entering this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, the NAPA team is 32nd in the owner standings.

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