INDIANAPOLIS – Michael Waltrip and the NAPA Racing team were on pace for a top-25 finish during Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when debris on the grill of the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota caused the engine to overheat on lap 65. Then after 80 more circuits, it expired. Waltrip was forced to park his car and was relegated to a 35th-place finish.
“When the race started we were really competitive,” said Waltrip, who posted the 23rd-fastest lap during Coors Light qualifying on Saturday afternoon. “We were able to run up in the top 25 and I was just looking forward to making more adjustments on the NAPA Toyota as it was a little bit loose at first. I think we had a good shot at improving it so that we could have moved up through the field to mix it up with the frontrunners. A lot of grass stopped up the radiator when two cars in front of me got together on a restart. One of them ran off the road and I guess grass was kicked up into my radiator. It messed us up. Then a little bit later the motor started missing and it finally blew up.”
For the fourth time this season, veteran driver Mark Martin led the 43-car field to the green flag. His pole at Indianapolis makes him the oldest driver to win a pole in a major event at the Brickyard. But it was Juan Pablo Montoya who quickly took over the lead on lap five to stay on top of the leaderboard for 116 circuits.
Waltrip’s first green-flag run in his NAPA Toyota saw him scored in the 25th position when he brought his car in for the first stop of the afternoon on lap 31. The two-time Daytona 500 champion reported his car was a little loose so crew chief Bootie Barker had the pit crew adjust the track bar and air pressure. The service took just 13.22 seconds.
Kyle Busch slowed the action down when he lost a tire and hit the wall on lap 58. Waltrip came over the radio to say his car was pushing then would go loose when he got on the gas. Despite the handling challenge, Waltrip’s lap times were competitive so the team chose to make no changes. The crew refueled the car and bolted on four fresh Goodyear tires. The service was completed in 13.99 seconds. The fast stop allowed Waltrip to return to the track one position higher in 25th place. However it was during the restart on lap 65 that caused the overheating problem. Waltrip was forced to pit on laps 67 and 68 to try and fix the problem. He returned to the track three laps down to run in 35th position.
The unfortunate loss of track position did not disrupt Waltrip’s performance. Throughout the rest of his Brickyard 400, he managed to run times still within the top-25 and after the 100-lap mark, he was as fast as the leader Montoya. Unfortunately, the NAPA Toyota would not make it to the end of the race. On lap 140, Waltrip’s car slowed and after the team put the hood up on pit road to diagnosis the problem, it was determined his motor had expired.
Winning back-to-back Brickyard 400s thanks to a pit-road speeding penalty assessed to Montoya was Jimmie Johnson. Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Martin, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, David Reutimann, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth.
Reutimann’s top-10 finish moves him up in the championship points standings to 13th position – just 68 markers out of The Chase. JTG-Daugherty Racing’s Marcos Ambrose scored 22nd.
Waltrip and the NAPA boys return to one of his favorite tracks – Pocono Raceway. Broadcast coverage of the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 will get underway Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. It can also be heard on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and MRN. Also, Waltrip will travel to Nashville Speedway on Saturday night to join Rick Allen and Phil Parsons in the SPEED broadcast booth for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. It can be seen starting at 8 p.m. ET on SPEED.
Brickyard 400 Unofficial Results:
Brickyard 400 Lap By Lap: