NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Gatorade Duel 2
Topics: Gatorade Duel
February 17, 2011
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: Let's roll into the post race for our second Gatorade Duel today.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Everybody said it was better to be in the second race because you knew what you had to do. The first race was way harder on me than the second one. Being in transfer position, having a chance just to roll his way home, then have a caution with just a few laps together, get that all mixed up. Bill made it. That made my job a lot easier. I was determined I wanted to finish up front. I didn't want to just ride around. I wasn't going to do that. My car is fast, has a cool paint scheme on it. NAPA has been a wonderful partner of mine. I'm proud my team was able to give me a car I could do that with.
At the end, we choreographed that a little bit. Kyle said to get over a little bit and he would push me. Darn, on the restart, I had a run and I was pushing. I know I could have got beside those two. I just felt like it wasn't the right thing to do. I felt like I needed to roll along in third there for a lap or two and then go at it from then nearer the finish and then I couldn't make the run. Those two cars tied together, I never got another chance. Rode the last five and a half wide open and never got any chance to make any ground on the Childress cars.
But I like running up there, seeing what it's going to take to win. I got a good lesson.
KERRY THARP: We'll take some questions for Michael.
Q. Michael, you've had every kind of rule change, every kind of car, track. How would you describe this style of racing?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, I came here in '87 for the first time and qualified a 1987 Chevy at 203 miles an hour or 205, and I ran ninth in my 125. We were nine cars single file holding our breath, sideways, I mean, wide open, half throttle, just bouncing our way to the checkered. We didn't race. We just hung on.
Then I raced in the '90s and '00s when we were 40 cars blobed together. This seems to be a hybrid of those two. It's wild to drive it and to be out there. Of course, we're figuring out now how to get the two-car pods tied together for maybe three or four pair of them battling at the checkered flag.
So it's different, but to me it's just another page in the history of Daytona. This is my 25th win in a row. In those 24 previous, I've seen a little bit of everything. This is another example of that.
I don't think NASCAR's rule change with the radiators and stuff accomplished quite what they hoped. Might have got close. But some guys could still run together for a long times a we saw at the end. Maybe if we really don't like this, we could tighten up the radiator some more. But to me, it's just part of it. I don't mind it. I think it's interesting as anything I've ever done. And I'm tired (smiling). I can run like way farther than that on foot time-wise, but I'm really tired because it's mentally a mess.
KERRY THARP: Joining us up on the stage right now is another driver who got in on his qualifying time. That's Travis Kvapil. Congratulations. How does it feel to be running in Sunday's Daytona 500?
TRAVIS KVAPIL: Well, it feels great. This team last fall, we missed Talladega, getting in on speed. Worked really hard in the winter getting some better equipment. Got the new FR-9 Ford engine. Bob Jenkins made some good investments over the wintertime to get us better equipment. It paid off for us last Sunday. Just great for our team. That's three cars we have locked in the field so we're really proud of that. Just kind of rode it out there today.
It was my first time doing the two-car stuff in competition. We practiced in practice, but it is definitely a craft. It takes a little bit of time to kind of figure that out, what you can and can't do. Feel pretty comfortable with it now. Like Mike says, it's kind of cool.
Q. Michael, did it help that you knew that you were in the race based on the first race and also are you comfortable with the speed you're running based on today's races?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I was comfortable going 206 the other night. You can't tell any difference. I was on Kyle's bumper the other night, couldn't see where I was going, and it felt fine. So I don't know what speeds we ran today, but speeds are not a factor. It's just the style of racing we're doing is fun and it's crazy and it's going to be a wild 500 when you get twice as many cars on the same track. I don't know if there's room for all of them. That will be the question: where will they all fit?
We're coming to the checkered with two or three two-car tied together sets, but where are they all going to go? I want to see the finish of this Daytona 500.
On the other question, you wouldn't believe how relieving it is when you get in, no matter how you get in. And Bill Elliott, I saw him this morning first thing like at 7 clock, he was rolling in, I said, I need you to go, bro. He said, I'm going to go. And he was. It felt good.
Q. You look a little emotional here, the 10th year, everything that goes into it. Can you spill your guts for us?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, you know, I knew that 2011 was going to be the 10th anniversary. Whether I had my car painted up like I do or wrote a book or not, people are going to want to talk to me about that day.
You know, I wanted to celebrate Dale's life. I want people who hear stories about Dale that maybe they hadn't heard before. I spent six months writing the book. Asked NAPA if they would mind if I painted my car black and put the number 15 on it to celebrate the 2001 race when I drove for Dale and celebrate his life. They agreed to do that.
Most of the time I'm all right. Schrader came over today. We can't look at each other without crying about it. We were probably the two, other than Dale Jr., drivers that were as closely tied to the events of that day than anyone. We cry a lot. It's hard.
But, you know, I'm an emotional person. I don't mind people knowing that I'm not altogether right about all this. But I'm going to get there. And the book was really therapeutic for me. I really believe in what I learned in writing the book. I learned a couple things. I'll just tell you real quick. One was Dale was as happy as he had ever been on this earth Speedweeks 2001. When we were coming off turn four, he knew he was going to go win the Daytona 500. He had two cars that were going to do that. I have two cars this week. If my two cars are going to do that, I might just be the happiest guy on earth, too.
The third and last, I won't say anything else, I know and Travis will tell you, anybody that races cars, when we went into turn three, the only person that could beat us in that race that day from where everything set up was Dale Earnhardt. He was ahead of the three-wide, in front of the three-wide. He was not blocking at that point. He had blocked up until that point. At that point he was thinking one of two things. He was thinking Sterling, I'm coming over, or he's thinking, this is what I like to believe, Sterling, I'm getting in there and you're going to push me up beside those little punks and I'm going to go win this race.
I learned most of that. I didn't think all of that until I wrote the book and watched the tape of the race. I'm really happy I opened that chapter up because I don't think it's really smart, if something hurts, ignore it, it will go away, because that's not true.
Q. You're now kind of in that owner position where you have the two drivers and you're the owner watching your two drivers race. Does that kind of give you a little more insight into Dale on that day? If you were in the same position, would you be willing to do the same thing, obviously with a better result? Driving with the 15, has the DEI markings on it, how important is that for you?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Like Travis, he'll tell you, he knows as good as I could do, what his team accomplished putting three cars in this race is like our team doing it. You can't underestimate what Daytona is like, how important it is to a team.
Just the fact that we're out there together. Then I got two guys like Martin and David, they texted me and called me all throughout that race, the early one, you know, saying, He's going to make it. We're just a team. They have the right heart.
So if I could push 'em to the win, then I would be happy with pushing 'em to it. But I guarantee it, when I came off four, I would do the same thing that Clint just tried to do to Jeff. You know, at the last minute, you're going to say, We got this, baby, let's see who gets there first. That's what I like to believe Dale was doing that day. We got 'em now, let's see who can get there first.
Q. Michael, what did you think of the job that Trevor Bayne did today? He did a spectacular job until Gordon got loose.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Yeah, he's amazing. We love having him on our team. He's got a good heart. He's a good kid. We loved him being on our team. We just didn't have sponsorship. We couldn't keep him there without it.
I think, you know, Trevor should be thankful to us for not holding him back, and we're happy he was on our team and love to see kids show up that get it. You know, that's the fun thing. When somebody shows up you never heard of before, all of a sudden they can go out there and run with Jeff Gordon, that's pretty cool.
Q. Travis, what is your educated guess now on Sunday's race? Are guys going to try to find a single partner to draft with all day if they can? Are the spotters going to have to help you out on the swaps?
TRAVIS KVAPIL: It's a lot longer race, so I think there's going to be time to sort through that a little bit. I think I had three guys, four guys I worked with throughout the day. After a restart, you know, the guy I was with previously wasn't around. Either he was too far back or forward. It's tough on the restarts because you need to go, and you need to go hard. If you're looking in the mirror, I'm going to lock up with this guy, the field is going by you. You have to go on the restarts.
I wasn't towards the front where them guys probably had more of an idea or plan what they were going to do. I was back there mid-pack or so. For me, it was run hard for a lap or two, then hopefully there was somebody I could hook up with and go. I was able to do that.
I think to keep up, you're going to have to do all this two-car stuff. If you don't, and you try to just run in line or you get singled out, the lap time is so slow. The guys that are hooked up in the front running two cars, they click off laps pretty quick. You're going to have to attach to somebody.
And for me, I kind of found a day like Mike was saying, I got just enough grill opening where I feel like I could push all day long. You know, down the straightaways I'd kind of have to straddle people off to the side, get as much air as I could. It slows your lap time down half a second. I could get back in line in the corners and duck out of line a little bit on the straightaways and keep going. My water temperature would get hot, but it wasn't to the point where I needed to bail out and switch.
Q. We saw the 92 car almost take the lead and then finished fifth, had a shot to win. Do you think based on this two-car pod situation, if an underdog driver is in the right situation, do you think we could see a huge upset on Sunday?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Probably not. I'd say the guys that do this every week are going to be the ones that you'll have to beat. Brad deserves a lot of credit for pushing Brian in. That was awesome. I loved seeing that. Brad was committed and he made it work out. I don't know about you, but I thought that was a really cool story, and I agree with you.
But it's the Daytona 500. I'd be really surprised if anybody could sneak in there.
TRAVIS KVAPIL: Yeah, I feel the same way. I mean, to do it right, when you do have to make these switches, if you can do it in a corner, just barely lose any lap time to swap positions, it takes experience, it takes guys that have had a lot of laps, you know, have done it at Talladega the last couple years.
I guess anything can happen. We saw, I guess, Brad do it at Talladega a few years ago. It was definitely an underdog team for sure. I think we got a lot of similar situations now. At the time the two-car thing was pretty new. But I still think it's going to come down to guys that have the experience and have fast racecars.
KERRY THARP: Michael, Travis, congratulations on Sunday.
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