It’ll be impossible for most of the 125,000 people attending Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway to sit quietly by as Michael Waltrip makes his 50th NASCAR Sprint Cup start on the 2.66-mile Alabama track.
That’s because the two-time Daytona 500 winner’s No. 15 paint scheme honors BCS National Champion Auburn University. It marks the second consecutive year Aaron’s and Michael Waltrip Racing honor an Alabama university celebrating a football title. Last year MWR’s David Reutimann raced a red and white University of Alabama paint scheme honoring the Crimson Tide’s 2010 BCS Championship.
Waltrip knows his “War Eagle” paint scheme is sure to stir the emotion of many partisans in the crowd including Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik who is the race’s grand marshal and asked for a picture with Waltrip by the Auburn car before the green flag flies on Sunday.
AUBURN PAINT SCHEME: “Wait ‘til you hear me introduced at driver introductions. I bet I get as many boos at Kyle Busch and as many cheers as Dale Jr. I don’t care if they boo or cheer. The cool thing is people will notice the Aaron’s car. I mean think about it; a Kentucky guy driving an Auburn car in front of a lot of Alabama fans in a NASCAR race at Talladega. You can’t write stuff better than that.”
GOALS: “That’s easy. It’s to win this race. We led twice in this race last year and several laps in the fall. Crew chief Bobby Kennedy and these boys that work on the No. 15 give me a good car each time we race. There are a few races during the course of the year that I think I can still win and Talladega is one of them. That’s the goal. Race for the win.”
PRESSURE: “Gene Chizik went undefeated last year. He was 14-0! Nobody does that in racing. I went 0 for 462 once. But, I got a best selling book out of it. I’ll ask him if he has any advice when I meet him on Sunday, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to say just win.”
50th TALLADEGA START: “That’s a lot. I’m proud of that. There’s no track that puts on as good of a show for the fans at Talladega. I love everything about the place. I wish I could make 50 more starts there.”
ADDITIONAL NOTES OF INTEREST
· Waltrip will appear with Auburn University head football coach and race grand marshal Gene Chizik Sunday at 9 a.m. in the Talladega media center.
· Sunday’s race marks Waltrip’s 50th career start at Talladega. He won the fall race in 2003 and has led 211 laps.
· Waltrip and Michael Waltrip Racing Co-owner Rob Kauffman will test at Le Mans on April 14 then race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the world’s oldest and most famous endurance race -in June driving an AF Corse Ferrari in the GTE Pro class.
· Waltrip’s book “In the Blink of an Eye” spent several weeks on the New York Times best-seller list peaking at fourth.
· This race marks his 1,053rd start in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. He and Mark Martin are the only drivers to win in those series in four different decades.