LOUDON, N.H. – Michael Waltrip and the NAPA team finished 27th during Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The two-time Daytona 500 champion battled back from a loose-handling Toyota and an accident. The team’s never-give-up attitude put them back on track with a car that kept getting faster as the race went on.
“Gene (Nead) and the guys did a good job for me,” said Waltrip who qualified for the 301-lap event in 21st position. “We just need to have a better Happy Hour. That’s the same thing that happened to us in Atlanta a few weeks ago. If we can do a better job in that final practice, then I think we will have more confidence and a better car when the race starts. We just were way off in the beginning yesterday. Gene made good calls throughout the race on adjustments and got the NAPA Toyota running decent at the end.”
Throughout the first half of the Sylvania 300, the NAPA Toyota was extremely loose. Opportunities to fix the car came on laps 69, 88, 143 and 166. The combination of wedge and track bar seemed to help Waltrip the most. During this portion of the event, the NAPA team ran in the top 30 as Chase qualifiers Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin took turns running in the top spot.
Then on lap 168, the NAPA team dodged a bullet when Elliott Sadler spun across the backstretch. The incident involved several cars that included Robby Gordon, Joey Logano, Reed Sorenson and Paul Menard. Waltrip was not excluded. He sustained damage to the left front and rear of his car. The pit crew worked quickly to repair the NAPA Toyota in the pits on laps 169, 171 and 173. The race returned to green on lap 174. Tony Stewart was the leader and Waltrip was scored in 33rd position.
By the 180-lap mark, Waltrip was down two laps in 31st place, but in line for the Aaron’s Luck Dog Award. He was awarded one of his laps back when the caution came out on lap 193. Waltrip liked the direction Nead’s adjustments were going and asked for more wedge and track bar changes. The team pitted on lap 195. Waltrip returned to the track in 31st with the hopes of racing his way back on the lead lap. It was during this next green-flag run that his lap times were consistent with the front runners an impressive feat considering his car was damaged.
The NAPA team’s final stop came under green on lap 270 for two tires and fuel. Waltrip went back out in 29th place. His focus was on David Stremme, the other driver who was on his same lap. When all was said and done, the NAPA Toyota passed the Penske driver to finish in 27th.
The final 20 laps saw two caution flags to set up exciting double-file restarts. Mark Martin was the leader and had several challenges from Juan Pablo Montoya. He was able to prevail and capture his fifth win of the season. The victory also posts him on top of the championship points standings -- 35 markers ahead of Jimmie Johnson. Rounding out the top-10 finishers in the Sylvania 300 were Denny Hamlin, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Elliott Sadler, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer.
As for Waltrip’s teammates, David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose, they earned 12th and 20th.
Next Sunday, The Chase continues at Dover International Speedway. Broadcast coverage gets underway at 1 p.m. eastern on ABC. It can also be heard on MRN and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
Sylvania 300 Unofficial Results:
Sylvania 300 Lap By Lap: