Michael Waltrip, owner of Michael Waltrip Racing and part-time driver in the Sprint Cup Series, will be testing his driving skills in the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the second straight year, teaming up with his co-owner and co-driver Rob Kauffman, MWR driver Clint Bowyer and Portuguese endurance racing veteran Rui Aguas, and driving the AF-Waltrip Ferrari 458 Italia.
Getting Bowyer into the fold was a difficult task for Waltrip. “We had an open seat, and we knew that (Martin) Truex (Jr.) couldn't do it because he had some off-season rib surgery, and he needed to rehab that,” said Waltrip in a recent NASCAR teleconference. “We had asked Clint if he was interested, and he said, I'm not sure. I don't really think so. So I asked Denny (Hamlin) if he wanted to do it, and Denny was like, heck, yeah, I'll do it. So I think the more Clint thought about it, the more he wanted to be a part of it. And he was like, no, I want to do it. I really want to try it.”
“So it was just him thinking about how cool it would be to be in Daytona, racing the road course, something that he had never done before, and driving the Ferrari for 24 Hours. It just was more than a dirt racer from Kansas could pass up.”
In spite of Waltrip’s many years racing in NASCAR’s top division, he’s still a bit star struck when it comes to sports car racers. Some of those moments happened last year, when Waltrip and Kauffman competed at Le Mans. “Just having breakfast in Le Mans at the hotel before you head off the track, and there is Allan McNish sitting there, and the guy that had so much success in road racing, you just are sort of in awe of what some of those guys have been able to do,” said Waltrip. “Tom Kristensen who sat right beside me one morning, he's won Le Mans like a hundred times, I think. But just to be able to rub shoulders with guys you've seen have success in road racing, and it's really cool to get to know them a little bit.”
“Brian Johnson from AC/DC was in the race, and I got to hang out and talk to him. So it's more about the experience in my eyes, getting to learn and drive a different car, and meet and compete against drivers from all over the world that you've always heard about. Last year down there, Hurley Haywood made some laps. When I was a kid, he was one of my favorite racers. So, yes, it's unique and it's fun, and you actually sort of get used to it, and you're able to battle side beside with them. It's really rewarding to be able to match skills.”
The Rolex 24 at Daytona gets underway Saturday, January 26th at 3:30 p.m. ET. Find out more about the event at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by NASCAR Media.
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