2-time champ Michael Waltrip fails to race way into Daytona 500, needs help

By Mark Long, AP
Thursday, February 11, 2010

Waltrip now needs help to make Daytona 500 field

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Michael Waltrip failed to race his way into another Daytona 500, leaving him to root for help to get in.

Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 winner, spun out in the closing laps of the first qualifying race Thursday. It left him cheering for Scott Speed and Bobby Labonte in the second 150-mile race. If either driver races his way in, Waltrip would earn a spot in the 43-car field based on results of last weekend’s time trials.

“In about an hour, I’m either going to be crying or cheering,” said Waltrip, who has speculated that this could be his final Daytona 500.

Waltrip’s car struggled to turn on the high-banked track, but he called the spin “my fault.” He said a tire started vibrating a few laps earlier, but he had no choice but to stay on the track in the all-or-nothing event.

He also said there’s no chance of him buying his way into the season opener.

“I’m not going to buy my way in,” Waltrip said. “I’m either going to make it on my time here in a minute, or I’m going to load it up and go home. I want to race, but I don’t want to race like that.”

“I don’t want my last one to be like that. It’s a shame, because it’s just tight, really tight, and the car started shaking a couple laps before and it just gave up. I don’t know if it blew out or not. We just didn’t have the setup right.”

Waltrip won the Great American Race in 2001 and 2003. His first one came seconds after Dale Earnhardt fatally crashed coming out of the final turn.

“Just highs and lows,” Waltrip said. “Just Daytona, that’s what it means to me. The best of times and the worst of times. So I can live with it.”

If he doesn’t make the field for Sunday’s opener, Waltrip said he’s unsure whether he’ll try to race next year in the sport’s premier event.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m pretty disappointed right now. I’d rather not answer that question at the moment. I feel I should have been able to avoid that.”

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