Talladega: Michael Waltrip preview

WALTRIP AGAINST THE CLOCK AT TALLADEGA Text Box: In one of the most creative winning celebrations in NASCAR history, Michael Waltrip busts through the roof hatch to celebrate his win in the 2003 EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. NAPA ...

Talladega: Michael Waltrip preview

WALTRIP AGAINST THE CLOCK AT TALLADEGA

Text Box: In one of the most creative winning celebrations in NASCAR history, Michael Waltrip busts through the roof hatch to celebrate his win in the 2003 EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip finds himself in an unusual position coming into this weekend's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. The Owensboro, KY., native finds himself outside the top-35 in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series owner's points. Since only the top-35 owners are guaranteed starting spots, Waltrip will have to qualify his way into the field.

"The reality is, this year has been tougher than I thought it would be," said Waltrip."I never dreamed we would be outside the top-35 but we are, so we need to really focus on fixing that."

"We understood that this year would be a bit of a challenge without factory support. We thought we could survive that and build and be ready for our Toyota venture in 2007. Talladega is a big part of that. If we can make the race, then we can start patching up what's been going wrong and hopefully get better going forward."

If Waltrip can make the race, he instantly becomes one of the favorites to win. The NAPA car has won four restrictor plate races in the last five years including the 2003 fall event at Talladega.

"We are going to work from Monday until we hit the track on Friday to make sure we give ourselves the best opportunity to qualify," said Waltrip.

Michael Waltrip Talladega Fast Facts...

* NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will attempt to make his 41st start at Talladega Superspeedway. That places him fourth among full-time active drivers with starts at the 2.66-mile track. Kyle Petty leads all full-time active drivers with 48 starts.

* Waltrip will celebrate his 43rd birthday on Sunday. Waltrip's birthday wish -- a starting spot for the Aaron's 499. "The race is on my birthday, man," said Waltrip. "I can't miss the race."

* The last time Waltrip missed a NASCAR Cup race was in1998 at Phoenix International Raceway. He has missed only that one race in his last 571 starts.

* Waltrip will be the guest for the NEXTEL Wake-up Call. The press conference will take place in the Ken Patterson Media Center at Talladega Superspeedway on Friday, April 28 at 11:30 a.m. (local).

NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip on the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway...

You were one of the strongest proponents of the soft nose that NASCAR had implemented for this weekend's Aaron's 499. Will it stop the dangerous bump drafting we saw at Daytona?

"What bump drafting would do is every now and then a guy would hit a guy the wrong way and wreck them. That was dangerous. People are used to running into people and bump drafting, so they're not going to learn immediately not to do it. It should calm it down some. It might not change the racing at all, but it might cause one less wreck. And if it does, it was worth it."

Did NASCAR go soft enough on the new nose?

"Probably not, from what I wanted to see. But if you take what was in the front of these cars and look now, you can see it is a tremendous difference."

-wjr-

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