6 March 2009
Q&A - Michael Waltrip
Amazingly enough, Michael Waltrip is in his 25th Cup season.
Since his debut at Charlotte in May 1985, he has started 728 races and won the Daytona 500 twice (2001 and 2003). Early in his career, Waltrip lived for a short while with Richard Petty as he sought to get his bearings in racing. His brother, Darrell Waltrip, is a three-time Cup champion.
Michael, 45, who now drives for his own team, Michael Waltrip Racing, reflected on his career with Sporting News...
Can you believe that you've been in the racing gig for a quarter-century now?
No, I really can't. I guess I had a bit of a moment at Watkins Glen last year. I was standing on the grid - and we raced there for the first time (since 1965) in 1986 - and I was there. And when we lined up last August to race, it was me and 42 new guys. I was the only one there that day. That tells me I'm getting old. I don't know anyone who's started more consecutive Daytona 500s than me. I haven't looked at the stats, but just thinking, I can't think of anyone that's started every Daytona 500 since '87. So when you start setting marks like that, that means you've been around for a long time.
Who helped you the most along the way?
Physically helping me with advice and direction and a job was Richard Petty. He did a lot for me at a young age, when I needed help and direction. But what Darrell accomplished made my last name mean something, and that opened up a lot of doors and gave me a lot of opportunities. So Darrell and Richard are the two main people that helped me get up and running. And if it weren't for Dale Earnhardt believing in me at arguably past my prime in today's world, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish what I've accomplished.
It has been two years since the cheating scandal at Daytona that almost derailed the efforts of Michael Waltrip Racing. Do you feel you've gotten past that?
It's behind us, but in my mind, it'll never be forgotten. There was a lot of anticipation, and a lot of people thought, 'Wow, it's pretty cool what they're building'. And then it could have been over before it even got started. I want it to continue for 100 years. That's why I started it, so I'd have something to do when I'm old.
When you retire, how do you envision your farewell tour?
I don't. I'd kind of like to just race up till when I'm done and be done. Even when I quit, I'd like to run the Daytona 500 for a few more years. I love Daytona and Talladega. I'd like to think maybe I could quit one day running all the races and just run a few that I like.
You've described yourself as a 'goofball' with respect to your public persona. Is there a serious Michael Waltrip?
I'd like to think so. Some people might say I'm two different people, but I think it's more like seven or eight.
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