CORNELIUS, N.C. – A famous author once said you can never go home again, but Michael Waltrip plans to do just that this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
And it won’t be anything low key.
The 49-year-old Owensboro, Ky. native will wear the blue and white of his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats. The two-time Daytona 500 champion will honor the 2012 NCAA basketball champions as he seeks his first Sprint Cup start in front of his home state fans.
Waltrip enjoys many roles in NASCAR. He’s a television commentator for Fox and SPEED-TV broadcasts, a part-time Sprint Cup driver and co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing that won last weekend’s race on the Sonoma road course with driver Clint Bowyer. All three MWR teams are in the top 12 in owner points.
WALTRIP ON UK: “I have been a UK (University of Kentucky) fan ever since I was a kid. I grew up in Owensboro watching UK basketball. They would always show it tape delayed after the 10:30 p.m. newscast. I was fortunate to go to several games in my life. Clint Bowyer and I even went to the national championship game in New Orleans when they beat Kansas. I will have to say, it’s really cool for a Kentucky guy to have UK on my car racing in Kentucky.”
PART-TIME SCHEDULE: My schedule is really cool. I get to race on the tracks that I love (Kentucky, Daytona, Talladega). Kentucky was one of the races that I really wanted on my schedule. I know my name is on the building but the No. 55 really belongs to Mark Martin. It’s was really nice of Mark to let me drive this race. We will go to Kentucky and get the best finish we can get. I am honored to have the UK logos on my Aaron’s Toyota.
WALTRIP ON MWR: “I will never forget back in 2005 when I was driving for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and I thought life was great, Toyota came to me and said we are going Cup racing, why don’t you join us? I thought, well, that would be fun and give me something else to do. So, we started and golly it’s been so fun to have that relationship. Think about NAPA, they have been around since 2001 and Aaron’s since 2000. It’s because we are friends, we are buddies, that we do this together. Since 2005 with Toyota as well. Those type of partnerships and relationships are the only reason why I’m still in business today. It took us a while to get cars like we have now and the strategy and the philosophy to race the way we are now. I’m just eternally grateful Toyota gave us the time needed to be successful. To sit in Sonoma as winners of that event, and more than that, just contenders week-in-and-week-out is amazing. We are very grateful and very thankful team.”
- MEDIA ALERT: Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart will join Waltrip at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Bluegrass room at Kentucky Speedway to unveil the No. 55 paint scheme and hold a media availability.
- UK SOUVENIRS: UK fans can order special t-shirts and die cast replicas of Waltrip’s Kentucky car by visiting: www.nascar.com/aaronsgowildcats. No. 55 diecast cars are available at the MWR souvenir hauler or here.
- CHASSIS- 722 – Brian Vickers finished fifth at Bristol in this chassis while Mark Martin finished 21st in the All-Star race in Charlotte. Backup – 708 – has not raced in 2012.
- CAREER: Saturday’s race at Kentucky Speedway marks Waltrip’s 768th career Sprint Cup start. He’s started 1,055 races in the Cup, Nationwide and truck series. Click here for Waltrip’s career statistics.
- MWR STATS: MWR’s Toyotas are seventh (Bowyer), ninth (Truex) and 12th (No. 55) in 2012 owner points. MWR and Roush Fenway Racing are the only teams with that many in the top 12. Bowyer and Truex are also seventh and ninth in driver points which would qualify each for a berth in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
- LEADING THE WAY: MWR’s Toyotas have led 620 laps in the first 16 Sprint Cup Series races this season. Truex leads the MWR charge with 318 laps led, followed by Brian Vickers with 125, Martin with 79, Bowyer with 77 and Waltrip with 21.
- NO. 55 IN 2012: Mark Martin will race the No. 55 in 24 Sprint Cup points races, Brian Vickers in eight and Waltrip in four races.
- POLES: The No. 55 has won three poles (Phoenix, Richmond & Dover) in 2012 with Mark Martin behind the wheel.