Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

All-Star Race Evokes Memories of Michael Waltrip's First Win

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

All-Star Race Evokes Memories of Michael Waltrip's First Win

Article excerpt

The Sprint All-Star Race might never have a more unlikely winner than Michael Waltrip in 1996.

Saturday's all-star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will mark the 20th anniversary of Waltrip's victory. At the time Waltrip, now a television commentator, was better known as Darrell Waltrip's brother, an underachiever who had yet to win a Cup race in 309 starts.

The all-star race was, and remains, a non-points exhibition. But that mattered little to Michael Waltrip as he stood in Victory Lane after holding off Rusty Wallace in the Wood Brothers Racing's iconic No. 21 Ford.

"I smell like champagne," Waltrip recalled telling a reporter who had questioned the validity of the victory, coming as it did in a non-points race. "I've got confetti on me and I just won one of the biggest races of the year with the Wood Brothers."

Waltrip, then 33, came to the Concord track without a victory in 10-plus years on NASCAR's premier circuit. Although he felt better about his chances that season, he was still just in 14th place in the standings. A fifth-place at Talladega Superspeedway a few weeks earlier also gave him reason for optimism.

"We were probably a little under the radar," said Waltrip, who had to qualify for what was then called the Winston Select by finishing in the top-five in the Winston Open qualifying race. He did just that, finishing fifth.

Equally as important, Waltrip had discovered something valuable during the Open. …

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