Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NEWSMAKER: MICHAEL WALTRIP; A Year after Scandal, Waltrip's Team Is Back Up to Speed at Daytona

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NEWSMAKER: MICHAEL WALTRIP; A Year after Scandal, Waltrip's Team Is Back Up to Speed at Daytona

Article excerpt

DAYTONA BEACH - A year after Michael Waltrip left Daytona International Speedway in disgrace after being caught with an illegal fuel additive, he found vindication by winning the outside pole for Sunday's Daytona 500. Shortly after qualifying last Sunday, Waltrip talked about the struggles of 2007 and the turnaround at Michael Waltrip Racing:

Q: Are you surprised by your qualifying effort?

I did not expect to sit on the front row. I knew we would have a chance, but what I hoped, and this was all I was bold enough to hope, was that we could be the fastest car with a star beside it [required to qualify on time]. That's the case, and we've got another car that's one of the fastest, so it's a very, very successful day for our team. There's much relief for everybody. There were questions over the summer whether we would even make it to the end of last year, and we not only start 2008 with a solid team - we're a lot better team than we've ever been before.

Q: Does this relieve some of the pressure?

It's a three-pronged organization. We've got NAPA, UPS and Aaron's. Two of them are going to be happy, and one of them will say, 'Hey, what about us? We need to get in this race.' Dale Jarrett has to get in on Thursday. Kurt Busch is a guy I'll be pulling for, but mainly I'll be pulling for Dale Jarrett to be able to race his UPS car up through the middle of it and have a good race on Thursday. I think he learned a lot [during the Budweiser Shootout]. He learned that even though his car wasn't right, it was fast enough to keep up and be in the middle of things.

Q: What was your goal for qualifying?

All I wanted to be was the fastest car with a star beside it, and I am that. I would venture to guess that Jimmie Johnson knew he was in the race when he got up this morning, and I didn't. I'm going to have to think that I'm the happiest guy in Daytona. …

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