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Random Lugnuts: Michael Waltrip at The Daytona 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Michael Waltrip, Daytona 500 What is Random Lugnuts?  It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan.  The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop:  you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Random Lugnuts: Michael Waltrip at The Daytona 500

Bill Crittenden
February 16, 2008

Opening Lap

Ever since Dale Earnhardt put him in a NAPA sponsored car in 2001, Michael Waltrip has had an interesting run of races, to say the least.

In 2001, he won the Daytona 500, his first points-paying NASCAR Winston Cup win.  It was also his first race in the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. NAPA Monte Carlo, and it came as redemption for a long winless career with struggling teams.  However, the celebration was cut short when news of the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt spread.

He won it again, in 2003.  Cheated of a full celebration by the skies this time, a reversal of 2001 in that he never got to cross the finish line under the checkered flag in front of the crowd but he got to enjoy the win the rest of the evening, the race was in rain delay when he was informed of his victory.

Michael Waltrip had a lot of attention on him in 2007, being the face of the new Toyota Nextel Cup program.  He got even more, although not the kind he usually seeks, when his team was found cheating with a suspicious substance in his intake manifold.  He redeemed himself, in part, by racing into the show in the Gatorade Duels.  Overall, though, it was a dismal beginning to a very disappointing year.

This year, however, is different.  A resurgent Toyota program strengthened by help from Joe Gibbs Racing has sent Toyota teams to the top of the speed charts.  This year, Michael Waltrip did't have to worry about making the race on Thursday, his spot on the outside of Row 1 next to Jimmie Johnson was secure.

With the 50th running of the Daytona 500 this season, there's been a lot of looking back at the previous 49 races that have made this the marquee event in stock car racing, and now one of the biggest motorsports events in all the world, right up there with the Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Indianapolis 500 or the Dakar Rally.  For most of the last decade, Michael Waltrip has been an important part of the story.  And he's not done writing his chapter yet...

Here's a look back at Michael Waltrip's Daytona 500 record:

YearFinishStartCar #MakeSponsorPointsLapsMoney
1987221830ChevroletOxford Plains Speedway97/0193Running$18,110
1988222489PontiacCountry Time97/0197Running$14,065
1989212330PontiacCountry Time105/5197Running$18,825
199082430PontiacCountry Time142/0199Running$46,200
1991381330PontiacPennzoil49/035Out (Piston)$21,520
200039107ChevroletNations Rent46/0192Out (Accident)$91,650
2001WIN1915ChevroletNAPA Auto Parts180/5200Running$1,331,185
20025415ChevroletNAPA Auto Parts160/5200Running$409,159
2003WIN415ChevroletNAPA Auto Parts185/10109Running$1,419,406
200438915ChevroletNAPA Auto Parts49/070Out (Accident)$246,193
200537315ChevroletNAPA Auto Parts57/5161Out (Engine)$304,563
2006183055DodgeNAPA Auto Parts109/0203Running$274,241
2007301555ToyotaNAPA Auto Parts73/0200Running$269,708
21 Races
19.314.4109.7/2.3160.9**Running 77%$248,898.38
($5,226,866 total)

Totals are 2 wins (9.5%), 4 Top 5 finishes (19%), 8 Top 10 finishes (38%) in 8 Chevrolets, 8 Pontiacs, 3 Fords, 1 Dodge and 1 Toyota

*=NASCAR's statistics say Chevrolet, but I never recall the Citgo car as anything but a Ford.  At least, all of my Michael Waltrip stuff from the era show him in a Ford.
**=Excludes 2003 shortened race, 200 laps credited for 2006 overtime finish.

Tech Inspection

NASCAR waits until now, when the two top-tier series cars finally don't look almost exactly alike to identify the Nationwide cars on the front windshield?

Victory Lane

Well, it didn't take long for one of my predictions of last week to come true.  While it wasn't a points race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won in a Hendrick car already.  And the fans are coming around a bit...I've already seen online where a Junior fan, despite still calling the team "Hendprick," has grudgingly acknowledged that Junior's getting the equipment he needs to win.

Right behind in the Shootout was a Toyota Camry, driven by Tony Stewart.  It took Toyota all of 36 races last year to score just one third-place finish.  It took just two non-points events for Denny Hamlin put the first Cup Camry in Victory Lane, but in a non-points race against just half the field.  Might another one come true very soon (that Toyota will win its first Cup race and Tony Stewart will be the driver)?

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