What is the key to running well at Lowe’s Motor Speedway?
“The key is being able to anticipate how the track is going to change throughout the course of the night. In the past, it was pretty black and white. All you had to do was loosen up your car. Now, about the time you get to mile-marker 500, you have to start tightening your car back up. The moisture in the air makes the track change. It makes it very difficult for a driver and crew chief to stay on top of it.
“I like to tell this story about the Coca-Cola 600 that sums it up pretty well. In 2004, I was running second and finished second to Jimmie Johnson. I told my crew chief at the time, Slugger Labbe, that the NAPA car was perfect and not to touch it when we pitted. I looked in the mirror and the guys were making a jack bolt adjustment. I called over the radio, ‘I said don’t touch it!’ Slugger radioed back and told me that we had to. He was right. That’s what a good crew chief and team will do. They will anticipate where that track is going. No matter how ahead you are in the Coca-Cola 600, you better keep working on your car to contend at the end. You’ll see all the teams doing it over the course of Sunday night’s race. Teams will be chasing the track all night long and the team that keeps up with it the best will win.”
In 1985, you started your NASCAR Sprint Cup career at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. How did you get started 25 seasons ago?
“I had this plan to race my way up through the ranks. I was trying to figure out how to get a NASCAR Nationwide Series ride when Richard Petty looked at me and said, ‘If you want to race Cup, if that’s what you really want to do, then you need to be doing it. You don’t need to be messing with that plan you have.’ Richard was adamant that I focused on running Cup. I changed my direction and began to figure out a way to get into the Cup Series. I called Humpy Wheeler for advice and he told me to go see Dick Bahre up in Statesville and I did. I told Dick I didn’t have any money, but I had a couple sets of tires that he could count on. All I wanted was a shot. Dick agreed and put me in the car.
“My first race at Charlotte, I qualified 19th. When it came to the race, I broke a transmission with 40 or 50 laps to go. But before that, I was competitive. It proved to me that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing was exactly what I wanted to do. More importantly, I proved to myself that I could do it. I could run with the Cup guys. I think what happened to me is proof that having a map, a blue print or a plan of what you want to do is important, but you also have to be open minded and be willing to improvise and vary from it. In my case, I learned that someone else had a better plan than me. Opportunities allow you to chase your dream and I chased mine. On May 26, 1985, at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, I stopped chasing my dream and started living it.”
Michael Waltrip Fast Facts
NAPA AUTO PARTS Driver Michael Waltrip Sprint Cup Statistics – Lowe’s Motor Speedway
2009 NAPA AUTO PARTS PIT CREW
|Ryan Langley||Front Tire Changer|
|Chris Hall||Front Tire Carrier|
|Tony Cardamone||Jack Man|
|Mike Ellershaw||Rear Tire Changer|
|Eric Wakeland||Rear Tire Carrier|
|Shawn Soules||Catch Can|
|Ron Otto||Eighth Man|
|Terry Spaulding||Hose and Sign|
|Craig Harper||Gas Runner|
|Mark Maloney||Second Gas Can|
Race: 12 of 36
Lowe’s Motor Speedway
Length: 1.5-Mile Tri-Oval
Distance: 400 laps/600 miles
Date: Sunday, May 24
Time: 5 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN; Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Ch. 128
2008 Winner: Kasey Kahne
2008 Pole: Kyle Busch
Thurs., May 21 at 7 p.m.
Thurs., May 21 at 3 p.m.
Sat., May 23 at 2:30 p.m. & 6 p.m.
This Week in NASCAR
Monday, May 25 at 8 p.m.
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All Times Eastern