CORNELIUS, N.C. – With more than 1,000 races in a quarter-century’s worth of NASCAR experience, you would think it would take a lot to get Michael Waltrip excited about an off-season race.
But Waltrip can’t wait for his first foray into the world of international sports car racing when the two-time Daytona 500 champion competes in the fifth-annual Dubai 24 Hour sportscar race at the ultra-modern Dubai Autodrome on January 14-16.
“I love racing cars,” said Waltrip. “The Daytona 500 is the ultimate race for a NASCAR driver to win. But how cool is it to go to Dubai on the other side of the globe and race a Ferrari? I never thought I’d have a chance to be part of such a unique experience.”
The Ferrari Waltrip refers to is a Ferrari F430 GT2 of the AF Corse team co-owned by Rob Kauffman who will be sharing driving duties with Waltrip, Marcos Ambrose, Rui Aguas and Niki Cadei.
Kauffman is also a co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing which fields NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entries for Waltrip, Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann. The Waltrip team has a technical alliance with Ambrose’s team JTG Daugherty Racing.
Waltrip and Kauffmann tested the Ferrari at the ACI Vallelunga circuit in Italy. Success at the test led the pair to review options for sports car races around the world before deciding to race in Dubai.
The 3.5-mile track at the Dubai Autodrome is one of the most modern in the world; it is also one of the most challenging, as it has a combination of high-speed straights and technical corners.
The race expects to start about 80 GT and touring cars.
“I have always thought of myself as a pretty good road racer,” said Waltrip owns two top-five finishes in NASCAR road races. “But, this is different. This is an endurance race. This is 24 hours, not the normal three-hour NASCAR race.”
Race fans can track Waltrip’s progress during the race on his Twitter account MWR55 and watch video updates at www.youtube.com/24hafcorse
“I can’t Twitter while I’m competing during a NASCAR race, but I bet I can during this one,” said Waltrip who plans to keep fans in touch with in-race updates during driving breaks. “While I am on the other side the globe, I don’t plan on leaving my fans hanging.”
Track action starts on Thursday, Jan. 14, with practice, qualifying and night practice. The 24-hour race will start on Friday Jan. 15 at 2 pm.