LAS VEGAS – Michael Waltrip and the NAPA Racing team experienced a tough day on the job Sunday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. On lap 163 of 285, Waltrip’s car made contact with the turn four wall. His Toyota Camry sustained damage to the rear of the car. The contact put the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota down a lap, but the driver was able to hold on to salvage a 27th-place finish.
“We missed a good opportunity,” said Waltrip who qualified his NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry in 15th position. “I hate it that we wrecked. I have got to be tougher mentally. I drove the car too hard when it was risky. I shouldn’t have done that.
“I figured our car would be tight like it was in California, but this car reacted very differently. The Vegas car had some serious speed when we were up there in the hunt so that’s good. We’ll just have to regroup from this and go to Atlanta where I know we can run well.”
Jimmie Johnson led the 43-car field to the green flag for the Shelby 427 since the pole sitter, Kyle Busch, had to drop to the back of the field after losing an engine during Friday’s practice session. Waltrip got to line up in 11th after several other cars had to go to the back as well. Throughout the entire race, the NAPA team battled a very tight-handling Toyota Camry. A series of pit stops on laps 53, 61, 75 and 96 were completed. Crew chief Bootie Barker made air pressure adjustments during each service to help free up the car. During this segment, Waltrip ran as high as 10th and as low a 20th.
At the 100-lap mark, the NAPA Toyota Camry was scored in 19th position and Greg Biffle was the leader. The tight-handling condition remained so more air pressure adjustments were made on lap 124 under caution. The race returned green on lap 131 with Waltrip in 17th and Johnson back in the top spot. Despite the NAPA team’s effort, the car’s balance did not change. Barker opted to take one more shot at air pressure changes on lap 139 after Reed Sorenson brought out the yellow flag. Barker informed his driver that a track bar change was in the works if the car did not improve. Unfortunately, Waltrip lost control of his car on lap 163 to bring out the ninth caution of the race. The pit crew went to work on lap 165 and 166 to make repairs. The NAPA Toyota Camry restarted the race on lap 168 in 30th position, one lap down to the leader, Jeff Burton.
“Something was wrong with our car besides the tight condition,” elaborated Waltrip. “My car was bouncing up and down so bad that it was tough to see and it was like my steering wheel was being pulled out of my hands. I don’t know what caused it. The guys will have to study the car to find out exactly what went wrong.”
Despite Waltrip’s tough day and final result of 27th place, two laps down, Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) still had two solid performances. David Reutimann scored his first top-five of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career and Marcos Ambrose finished 20th. MWR currently has two top-12 teams in The Chase. Reutimann moves up seven positions to fifth place. Waltrip drops five spots to 12th.
Winning the Shelby 427 was Toyota driver Kyle Busch. His victory marked the 13th of his career. All 13 of his wins have come at 13 different tracks. Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Clint Bowyer, Burton, Reutimann, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Biffle, Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Next up for Waltrip and his NAPA Racing team is the Kobalt Tools 500 at NAPA’s home track, the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Atlanta, Georgia. Broadcast coverage gets underway Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET on FOX. It can also be heard on PRN Radio and Sirius XM Satellite Radio starting at 1:00 p.m.
Shelby 427 Unofficial Race Results:
Shelby 427 Unofficial Driver Points Standings (12th place/-5 positons):
Shelby 427 Lap By Lap: