Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NAPA Racing Press Box featuring Michael Waltrip - AMP Energy 500

Does it take a certain mentality to succeed at Talladega?

“The day I won my race at Talladega, it was just one of those days where I didn’t play the lay-back game. I chose to run up front all day long. If I am in the wreck, I am in the wreck. You can go about racing at Talladega two different ways. You can kind of hang out or you can try and be aggressive and run up front. I am not sure if one is better than the other. Sometimes one strategy works and sometimes the other one works. I can’t wait to race at Talladega. It is probably my best chance to win a race with what’s left of my career. I am going to be on it.”

Do you think restrictor plates are good for the sport?

“Absolutely because we wouldn’t be racing at Daytona and Talladega if we didn’t have them. The speeds would be too fast without them. The plates are also for the fans. It keeps them safe.”

Do you think the yellow line at Talladega is needed?

“In my opinion it saves lives. It makes racing more entertaining. If we didn’t have the yellow line, we would get to Turn 1 and the guy on the inside would realize there isn’t a turn for him. He’d be on the apron. He would have to make a move to get over. What we saw between Tony Stewart and Regan Smith on the last lap would have happened whether there was a yellow line or not. Regan made a conscious decision to go under Tony. Tony was going to block. Then the last time we saw Brad Keselowski make a conscious decision not to go below the yellow line and hold his line. Carl Edwards blocked him. A big crashed ensued. If the leader doesn’t hold his ground at the yellow line, he’ll eventually hold his line down at the grass. That same wreck will happen. I believe the yellow line forces drivers to think twice before they make a move. Drivers know the rule. The yellow line does not cause wrecks at Talladega. A driver’s decision does.”

Looking back, what was your favorite race at Talladega?

“One of my favorite races at Talladega was when Dale Earnhardt won the race when he was running 18th with two laps to go. He took the checkered flag with Kenny Wallace pushing him to the line. It was the fall of 2000 and it was the last race he won. It was an amazing race and an amazing day. I am pretty sure fans are going to see more cool stuff at Talladega. The place may be the Eighth Wonder of the World because of what happens on Sunday at Talladega.”

Michael Waltrip Fast Facts

* NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will start in his 755th NASCAR Sprint Cup race when he competes in the Amp Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala.

* He will start in his 47th race at the 2.66-mile track. His best start is first (Oct. 7, 2007) and best finish is first (Sept. 28, 2003). During his career at the superspeedway, Waltrip has earned seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. His average start and finish is 20th.

* Waltrip has completed 7,660 of 8,589 laps (89.2%) at the track and has led a total of 202 laps in competition.

* Earlier this season, Waltrip and the NAPA Racing team outlasted two big wrecks and a finish that saw Carl Edwards run to the finish line after his car went airborne into the catch fence during the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. The NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota was damaged but managed to finish the race in 21st place after being caught up in a 10-car crash with just nine laps to go. Waltrip’s car wasn’t perfect during the event, but he showed his muscle by running in the top five many times

* In Nationwide Series competition at Talladega, he has 11 starts that equate to two top-five and five top-10 and finishes.

* Entering this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, the NAPA team is 33rd in the owner points standings and is guaranteed a starting spot in Sunday’s race.

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