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NASCAR WCUP: Post race quotes from Michael Waltrip, Daytona 500

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
Michael Waltrip, No. 15NAPA Chevrolet Monte Carlo – (Winner): “Wellit’s just unbelievable. I’d be 0 for463 if it weren’t for Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., man. He dreamed that he won theDaytona 500 man, and he did. I just gotto beat him to Victory Lane. Let me askyou a question though: Is one for 463really that better than 0 for 462? It’sthe Daytona 500, that’s all I know. AndI won the Daytona 500.

“If I’ve ever done anythingsmart in my life, I made a good call and a good judgment on the last pitstop. I asked Scott (Eggleston, crewchief) to loosen me up a little bit and it was perfect. I was really aggressive. I knew if they passed me, it was going to betough. And then the fact that I had (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. and Dale (Earnhardt)back there, I knew they would wait ‘til late. So I just started playing the game and hoped that I could hold them off,and I did.

“What a team, man. You go to Mooresville and you see DEI andwe’ve got a lot of support. I’m justreal tickled it all happened this way. Scott (Eggleston) did a great job. Thiswould all be a dream if it weren’t for Dale Earnhardt. He and Teresa gave me this opportunity andI’m so thankful. I think he (Dale)might have been in a wreck. I don’teven know that right now, but if he is, I just pray that he’s okay.

“This is not anythingpersonal to you all, but the only person who won this race was Dale Earnhardt.I was just so looking forward to doing well for him and then he wasn’t there inVictory Lane and I didn’t know that he was hurt. I just pray that he’s okay. That’s where my mind is. He’s more than just my (team) owner, he’s myfriend. My heart is hurting right now‘cause I want to know what he’s going through and I want to be with him to tryto help him. I’m just so thankful foreverything he’s done for me. And now wedo this. And this is how it all turnsout. It doesn’t all seem exactly right at this moment for me.”

Did you feel pressurebecause you had so many Winston Cup starts without a win? “What people wrote, or what people thatdidn’t know me thought, or said, honestly did not matter. The only thing I thought about with my careeris that I wish I would have been good enough along the way to have made adifference somewhere where I was at, to where I could have come with a team andhad the knowledge and ability that I had and went with them. I can’t do it all. I think that why you see such gracious winners in this sport, youknow, guys like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, these guys come in and I know that they know they’re justfortunate to get to sit in the type of equipment they get to sit in. And when I got this ride, the pressure’soff. I don’t care about performance, Iknow I can perform. And we did.”

Can you talk about what itwas like during the cool down lap? “It was great. I always wantedto stop on the front straightaway and stand on my car, but Steve Park alreadydid that at Watkins Glen and I thought that was pretty cool, but I didn’t wantto re-do it. I don’t like when peopledo donuts, I can’t get into that. So I thought I’d just ride by and wave at allthese fans. It’s almost like you’re ina bowl when you do that and they were all giving me praise and congratulatingme for winning the race. That was a special feeling. I didn’t know that Dale (Earnhardt) had been injured oranything. I think I was in a daze. Ipulled in Victory Lane and did the interviews with Fox and talked to mybrother. I was just kind of wild. I was thankful and I was happy. I felt the feeling, you know. The only thing that came to mind during thatwhole process is that this is the Daytona 500. Sometimes I make things less important in order to emotionally handleit. And then I realized that this is the Daytona 500 and I needed to bethankful for that no matter how out of control it makes you feel. When I wonThe Winston that night, I thought now okay, don’t act like a dummy. It’s a bigdeal, but just be calm.”

With the new aero packageand how close the cars are, what are your thoughts on that? “Well, I didn’t enjoy particularly today asmuch as I thought I would. The 125’swere fun, but that was half as many cars. But today, you couldn’t do anything. You got one groove running up highand one groove running down low and the only way to make any moves was shoot upthrough the middle. And so it wasdefinitely crazy. I didn’t watch therace, so I don’t know how it looked on TV. But last year’s race, if I was ever going to say a race wasn’t any funto watch – which I hate when people do that, when they didn’t really watch thepit stops or the strategy to win – the race that was lacking a little bit ofexcitement it was the 2000 Daytona 500. And this race was more exciting. So I don’t know. I’d have tolook at it and see. I was in the middleof it and it was frustrating that the track seemed like it was alwaysblocked. There was nowhere to go.”

When you were hired by DEI,could you talk about their philosophy as far as on the track? “Everybody’s kind of for themselves – youhope – that your teammate will help you. And I would hope that Dale Jr. would help me. And I would hope that other people would help me. Dale Jr. gotwith me and he helped me a lot. But italso helped him. But there’s nopromises. Dale Jr. didn’t say if youget the lead, we’ll follow you. So Iwatched him very carefully if he did something to counteract it. But I didn’t expect anything out of him. I was prepared for the unexpected. We talked about it before the race and said if we get in aposition to help each other, then let’s do it. But you’ve got to do your own thing. But I remember I didn’t get behind anybody in particular. I got the the back, and then was able to getup to the front.”

When did you find outabout Dale Earnhardt? “I found outDale was hurt from Ken Schrader. Hecame to Victory Lane to give me a heads-up. He said that he thought he washurt. That’s all I know. I’ve asked everybody I could find, and Ihaven’t been told anything other than what Schrader told me. I got to go,thanks a lot.”

Text provided by Nancy Wager

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