News & Media

Waltrip to pay tribute to Earnhardt in Daytona 500

January 31, 2011, Team Release,

CORNELIUS, N.C. -- Will make 25th consecutive 500 start in paint scheme reminiscent of '01 winner

Michael Waltrip Racing and NAPA Auto Parts announced Tuesday that two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip will drive the No. 15 Toyota in his 25th consecutive Daytona 500 on Feb. 20.

"This is a very special day," said Waltrip, who unveiled the paint scheme Tuesday morning during the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway media tour.

"Ten years ago I won the 500 in my first race with NAPA and we know February 18, 2001, is a day that NASCAR fans will never forget. What looked to be a storybook ending turned to tragedy seconds later," Waltrip said. "To mark the 10th anniversary of that race and my 25th consecutive 500 will be quite emotional for me and fans alike."

Waltrip broke an 0-for-462 streak when he won the 2001 Daytona 500 driving for car owner Dale Earnhardt, who died in a Turn 4 accident on the final lap. Waltrip chronicles the events of that weekend as well as his life and the challenges building a Sprint Cup organization in his book In the Blink of an Eye that goes on sale Feb. 1.

"I've spent much of last year writing the book. It forced me to put into words a lot of emotions from that weekend and how we and the whole NASCAR world dealt with the loss of Dale," Waltrip said. "When I got my first copy the other day I told people that I felt like I had given birth. The book has become a part of me and I know fans are going to love it."

"We could not think of a better way to honor our friend, Dale as well as mark this milestone in Michael's career than to bring the NAPA No. 15 back to the Daytona 500 with a special paint scheme," said Bob Susor, NAPA president. "We are hopeful fans, family and friends enjoy the tribute to both Michael and Dale."

While Waltrip will certainly relive events of a decade past, this year's time on the track and Daytona will be all about winning. While he has competed in just a handful of races in 2010, Waltrip finished 18th in last year's race and led laps at both Talladega Superspeedway races.

Waltrip won't be alone in the draft at Daytona. MWR will also field cars for Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann.

The Daytona 500 marks Waltrip's 764th Cup start and 1,049th NASCAR start. Waltrip, Richard Petty and Mark Martin are the only drivers with more than 1,000 starts.

While he's reduced his NASCAR schedule, he hasn't slowed down. Waltrip raced in Dubai earlier this month and took the Michael Waltrip Comedy Garage to appearances in Kansas and Canada. He plans a handful of superspeedway races in 2011 as well as more international racing.