Michael Curtis Waltrip (born April 30, 1963) is a professional race car driver, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, racing commentator, and published author. He is the younger brother of three-time NASCAR champion and racing commentator Darrell Waltrip. Waltrip is a two-time winner of the Daytona 500; having won the race in 2001 and 2003. He is also a pre-race analyst for NASCAR on FOX. He currently drives the No. 55 Toyota Camry part-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and the GT2 Ferrari for AF Corse in the FIA World Endurance Championship. He also competed in the 2011 edition of 24 Hours of Le Mans.
- 1 Early racing career
- 2 1986–90
- 3 1991–2000
- 4 2001–06
- 5 2007–present
- 6 Personal life
- 7 Controversies
- 8 Motorsports career results
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Early racing career
Waltrip's stock-car career got off the ground in 1981, when he captured the Mini-Modified division track championship at Kentucky Motor Speedway. A year later, Waltrip entered the Goody's Dash Series, where he won the series championship in 1983 and was voted the circuit's most popular driver in 1983 and 1984.
In 1986, driving the No. 23 Kool-Aid car for Bahari Racing, Waltrip finished second in the Cup rookie of the year race to Alan Kulwicki on the strength of a pair of 11th-place finishes at Martinsville and Pocono. The following season, he posted his first career top-ten finish when he ended up tenth in the spring race at Martinsville Speedway. In 1988, Waltrip began running Busch Series events, making five starts for his brother Darrell's team. He took the checkered flag for the first time at Dover in his fourth start. In 1989, he had his first top-five finish in the No. 30 Country Time Lemonade/Kool Aid Pontiac.
Crash at Bristol Motor Speedway
For Waltrip, 1990 was memorable for a horrific crash at Bristol in the spring where he destroyed his Busch Series Pontiac. Waltrip, after making contact with Steve Grissom, hit a turn-out gate at the corner exit, broke the gate and went head-on into the end of the wall, disintegrating the car on impact and collapsing the car into itself. Onlookers were sure that Waltrip was hurt because of how massive it was but his brother Darrell Waltrip having rushed to the wreck confirmed officially he was alive. Waltrip only suffered cuts, soreness, and bruises in the incident.
In early race lineups he was referred to as "Mike Waltrip" or Darrell's little brother. It wasn't until 1991 that he began being referred to in racing lineups as Michael.
In 1991, he gained new sponsorship from Pennzoil and won the Winston Open, as well as his first two career pole positions. He came close to winning the 1991 Transouth 500 with the team but had an incident that put him out of the running. Waltrip would have to wait 10 more years to get his first win. He stayed with the Bahari team until the end of 1995, when he was replaced by rookie Johnny Benson. He joined Wood Brothers Racing to drive their No. 21 Citgo Ford. He won the 1996 edition of The Winston after capturing the last transfer spot in The Winston Open. After posting one top-five finish over a period of three years, and missing his first race since 1986 at the 1998 Dura Lube/Kmart 500, Waltrip departed the Woods at the end of 1998 to drive the No. 7 Philips Chevrolet for Mattei Motorsports, posting three top-ten finishes and ending that season 29th in points. The next season, Nations Rent replaced Philips as the sponsor & he moved up to twenty seventh in points but finished in the top-five once, causing him and the team to part ways at the end of the season.
Waltrip was hired by Dale Earnhardt to drive his team's new #15 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Monte Carlo entry. In his first race with the team, the 2001 Daytona 500, Waltrip broke a streak of 462 consecutive Cup races without a victory and won his first career points-paying Cup race. His teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished in second. Unfortunately, the win itself was overshadowed by Dale Earnhardt, Sr.'s death on the last lap. Waltrip was not aware of Earnhardt's death until a half-hour later when celebrating in victory lane when Ken Schrader, whose car had been collected by Earnhardt's car in the same crash, and had been treated and released from the infield care center, informed him that Earnhardt had been taken to Halifax Medical Center, two miles from the speedway, where he had been pronounced dead-on-arrival at 5:15 PM EST.
Waltrip did not have another top-ten finish until returning to Daytona in July, where he finished second while holding off the field as teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won his first plate race (They finished in reverse order of the Daytona 500). Earnhardt, Jr.'s Pepsi 400 finish was emotional to the entire DEI team and when Earnhardt, Jr. did his burnout on the infield grass, Waltrip pulled up alongside him. Waltrip would have a second place finish at Homestead to Bill Elliott, and finished 24th in the standings.
The next season, Waltrip won the second Gatorade Duel. His next top ten finish would be a second place finish at Talladega, where he and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. combined to lead more than two-thirds of the race, with Earnhardt, Jr. taking home his second of four straight wins at Talladega. The following week, Waltrip finished tenth at Auto Club. He had eighth place finishes in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and the first Pocono race, and fourth place in the first Michigan race. He picked up his second career win at the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. After a ninth place finish at Watkins Glen, and eighth place finishes at New Hampshire and Talladega, Waltrip finished 14th in the points standings.
In 2003 Waltrip won a rain-shortened Daytona 500 and also took victory at the EA Sports 500 at Talladega (his only non-Daytona win), while running in the top-five for most of the season before falling back to 15th in points. Of trivial note, Michael Waltrip won the first three NASCAR on Fox races at Daytona (2001 and 2003 Daytona 500s, and the 2002 Pepsi 400) with Michael's brother Darrell in the broadcast booth. His Talladega win was also his only win at a NASCAR on NBC race.
In 2004, Waltrip went winless and dropped five spots in the standings. Despite one pole and seven top-tens in 2005, Waltrip announced he and sponsor NAPA would depart DEI to drive the No. 55 Dodge Charger for Bill Davis Racing. In 2005 Waltrip only had a few top tens resulting in the top 20 in the final standings. He had an incident with Robby Gordon at New Hampshire. After Waltrip accidentally wrecked Robby Gordon and was spun in retaliation, Gordon furiously wagged his finger and threw his helmet at Waltrip's hood. Waltrip repeated the words Gordon said the previous year in another helmet-tossing incident: "He just threw a helmet on my car." Waltrip was fined $10,000 after he supposedly gestured at Gordon for the damage on his car from the helmet but Teresa and him appealed and the fine was cancelled after a short investigation proved the charge false. Gordon however was fined $50,000 and put on probation for the rest of the year after he was discovered to have said "You know everybody thinks Michael is this good guy...he is not the guy he acts he is and he wrecked me and he is a piece of ****." Waltrip and Gordon after a talk made up and continued their careers. After the former No. 77 Jasper Motorsports team closed its doors at the end of 2005, Waltrip split unofficially from Davis and assumed the former Jasper team's owner's points in order to be guaranteed a spot in the first five races for the season. Running under the banner, Waltrip-Jasper Racing, the team would be used to set up Waltrip's new Toyota operation in 2007. Waltrip failed to qualify for the first time since 1998 at the Coca-Cola 600. He bought a slot from the No. 74 McGlynn Racing Dodge from Derrike Cope to drive in the race and to keep his streak of 262 consecutive races. Waltrip ended up missing three races total in 2006 and did not have a top-ten finish.
Waltrip moved his NASCAR Nationwide Series team, Michael Waltrip Racing, full-time for the 2007 season. He hired Dale Jarrett and David Reutimann to race in the three car operation. After the first round of qualifying for the 2007 Daytona 500, NASCAR inspectors found evidence in the engine manifold that Waltrip's team had used an illegal fuel additive. NASCAR confiscated the car, forcing Waltrip to move to a back-up for the Daytona 500. On February 14, 2007 NASCAR officials announced at a press conference the penalties that would be levied: Bobby Kennedy (Director of Competition for Michael Waltrip Racing) and David Hyder (Waltrip's Crew Chief) were removed from Daytona International Speedway, and suspended indefinitely. David Hyder was also fined $100,000 and was placed on a leave of absence, eventually to be released by the team in April. Waltrip was docked 100 driver points and Buffy Waltrip (the team owner, also his wife) was docked 100 owner points. Waltrip's initial qualifying time was disallowed, but he was permitted to qualify by racing a backup car in his Gatorade Duel qualifying race for the Daytona 500. The Interim Crew Chief was announced as Scott Eggleston, who was Waltrip's former crew chief in 2001. After a 30th place finish in the Daytona 500, Waltrip became the first driver in series history to go into the second race of the season with a negative number of points (−27). Waltrip failed to qualify for the next eleven races following the Daytona 500, so he maintained his negative point total for almost 4 months. He qualified for the thirteenth race of the season at Dover and finished 28th, moving his point total above zero to 52 points.
On Saturday April 7, 2007 he fell asleep behind the wheel of his Toyota Land Cruiser which overturned and hit a utility pole. Waltrip crawled out from the car suffering only minor cuts. There was no Nextel Cup race held that weekend. He was charged with reckless driving and failing to report an accident.
After failing to qualify for the Pocono 500 in June, Waltrip bounced back the following week by finishing 10th at the Citizens Bank 400 in Michigan.
On October 6, 2007, Michael won the pole for the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the first restrictor plate race to be run with the Car of Tomorrow. He finished 25th after a wreck, but bounced back the next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway with his second top-10 finish of the season.
In 2008, Michael Waltrip Racing underwent a change following the disappointing 2007 campaign. Waltrip welcomed business owner Robert Kaufmann, owner/founder of the Fortress Investment Group and was made an equal partner and got more aid with real estate developer Johnny Harris buying into the team during the 2007 off-season. Former Cup owner Cal Wells was brought to MWR to oversee day-to-day operations. On February 10, 2008, Michael qualified second for the 50th running of the Daytona 500, which guaranteed him a second place start in the race. Waltrip started the race with "gold wheels" on his car in tribute to the golden anniversary of the Daytona 500; after the race the wheels were signed and sold to benefit NASCAR charities. After leading the first two laps, he was not a factor in the race and finished 26th. Waltrip finished second at New Hampshire's Lenox Industrial Tools 301. He made his 1,000th NASCAR touring series start at Atlanta in October. He is second to Richard Petty in most career starts spanning all of the top divisions in NASCAR.
In early 2009, Waltrip announced that he would be sharing the No. 99 NNS Aaron's dream machine with David Reutimann and Scott Speed during the season. On May 25, 2009 Waltrip scored his first win as an owner in Sprint Cup Series competition in the Coca-Cola 600, with David Reutimann winning the event.
In the 2009 season, Waltrip garnered two top ten finishes (Daytona and Talladega) He came within a few laps of winning his third Daytona 500 as he was moving forward when the race was called for rain. He ended up seventh.
On July 7, 2009 Waltrip announced he would be driving part-time in the 2010 season starting with the Daytona 500. Waltrip also announced Martin Truex Jr. will be joining Michael Waltrip Racing as the driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota full-time in 2010.
In 2010, Waltrip announced that he would only be racing at the Daytona 500 unless more sponsorship was found. Waltrip qualified 21st on Daytona Pole qualifying day. This was not fast enough to get in the race on speed, however. He then wrecked out of the first qualifying race. Waltrip was able to gain a spot in the starting grid when driver Scott Speed raced to make the 500 using his qualifying time in the second qualifying race, giving Waltrip the 43rd place starting position. He finished in a respectable 18th place. Since then, Michael has started the No. 55 Prism Motorsports entry at Bristol, finishing 41st. Waltrip qualified for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway and raced his way to the lead early, but wound up finishing 39th after "The Big One" on lap 84 of the race. It was announced in May that Waltrip would pilot the Toyota Sponsafier winning paint scheme on June 20 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA, but he failed to qualify. Waltrip also ran the Amp Energy 500 in a Michael Waltrip Racing fielded No. 55 Toyota. Waltrip lead a handful of laps but finished 28th due to a last lap crash.
Waltrip and his business partner Rob Kaufmann have entered various GT endurance races, participating in the Dubai 24 Hours and also the 24 Hours of Spa, driving a Ferrari F430 GTE for Italian team AF Corse in both races. Waltrip, Kaufmann, and the AF Corse team finished 5th overall and 3rd in class at Spa, clinching a podium spot.
In 2011, Waltrip announced that he would attempt to make his 25th consecutive Daytona 500 start. Aside from the Sprint Cup event at Daytona, Waltrip also competed in the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series races at Daytona. He captured an emotional win in the NextEra Energy Resources 250. The win came 10 years to the day of the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt and his first Sprint Cup Series victory. The victory also made Waltrip the 22nd driver to win a race in all three NASCAR national touring series. He followed up his Friday night win with a solid 9th place finish in the Nationwide Series race the next day. On Sunday afternoon, as part of the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death in the 2001 Daytona 500, which Waltrip won, Waltrip drove a replica of the #15 NAPA Auto Parts car that he drove at the time. However, Waltrip finished 40th in the race because he was caught up in an early wreck, which eliminated 14 cars. For the rest of 2011, Waltrip said he was working on plans to attempt the Sprint Cup Inaugural event at Kentucky Motor Speedway in July, along with his first Le Mans start with AF Corse. He ran in the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans in June in one of the AF Corse entered Ferraris. The car he co-drove with Robert Kauffman and Rui Águas completed 178 laps before retiring, finishing 38th overall. On September 29, 2011, it was announced that Waltrip would be replacing Jeff Hammond in the FOX's Hollywood Hotel on NASCAR on Fox beginning with the Daytona 500 in 2012 with Chris Myers and his brother Darrell Waltrip.
In January, he was confirmed as a driver for AF Corse Ferrari in the inaugural season of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Four weeks before the Daytona 500, Waltrip and Rob Kaufmann entered the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona. After a series of mechanical problems and off course excursions, Waltrip, Rob Kaufmann, Rui Agas, and Travis Pastrana never gave up and pressed on to finish 22nd in GT and 35th overall.
In early February it was announced that Waltrip would attempt to qualify for the 2012 Daytona 500 for Hillman Racing, driving the No. 40 Toyota with sponsorship from Aaron's. He failed to qualify for the race, crashing in a single-car incident in the first Gatorade Duel race.
He also qualified for the fall Talladega race. On the last lap, Waltrip was running 5th when he jumped to the bottom lane and made a move for the lead to try to win heading into turn 4 with drafting help from Casey Mears. In turn 4, Tony Stewart tried to block Waltrip but underestimated Waltrip's speed. Waltrip tapped Stewart, and went up into the tightly bunched pack, collecting 23 cars, while Stewart flipped over once and slid on his side airborne and pushed by the wrecking field. After the race Stewart apologized for the contact by saying "I just screwed up...I take 100% responsibility because Michael got a good run and it was my fault blocking to try to stay where I was at...unfortunately I costed everybody a good day with it." Waltrip finished 25th.
In 2013, Waltrip will drive three races in the No. 55 during the season; in addition, he entered the 2013 Daytona 500 driving the #30 Toyota for Swan Racing, which was changed for Daytona to the #26 as a charity car to raise funds for victims of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting. Waltrip led four laps and finished 22nd in the race.
In his first race in the #55 for the season at Talladega, Waltrip finished fourth. He also ran at Daytona in July and finished 5th. When he isn't racing, he is a commentator alongside Darrell Waltrip for NASCAR on Fox.
Waltrip was married to Elizabeth "Buffy" Franks. They were divorced in 2010. They have one daughter, Margaret Carol (AKA Macy) born on September 29, 1997. Michael has an older daughter, Caitlin Marie from a previous relationship, who was born on January 12, 1990.
Watrip wrote a book published in 2011 called In the Blink of an Eye: Dale, Daytona, and the Day that Changed Everything. It became a New York Times best-seller. Waltrip's book also confirms that he and Buffy divorced in 2010.
In 1995 at Michigan International Speedway, Waltrip also hit driver, Lake Speed. Waltrip hit Speed twice on national television, while Speed was strapped in his car. Waltrip was fined $10,000 for his actions.
Waltrip had a much-publicized feud with Jeff Green, then driver of Petty Enterprises No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger in the early part of the 2005 season, which came to a head during races at Martinsville and Darlington, where Green and Waltrip wrecked each other on several occasions.
In the 2005 Sylvania 300, Waltrip wrecked Robby Gordon's No. 7 Jim Beam Chevrolet after the yellow flag had come out. The angered Gordon got out of his totaled car and threw his helmet at the No. 15 car as it was passing by. When TNT interviewed him about the crash he stated "You know Michael, everyone thinks Michael's this good guy. He's not the good guy he acts he is. The caution was out and he wrecked me and he's a piece of shit." TNT apologized for the incident on both drivers' behalf, and both Gordon and Waltrip were required to meet with NASCAR officials after the race. Gordon was fined $50,000 and docked 50 drivers' points. Waltrip was also penalized, but the penalties were overturned on appeal. Gordon and Waltrip ultimately decided to auction the helmet for the benefit of the Harrah's Employee Relief Fund, a fund that provides aid to Harrah's employees displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Both drivers signed the helmet, which was purchased by GoldenPalace.com for $51,100.
In 2007, Waltrip had his No. 55 Toyota confiscated by NASCAR officials after inspectors found an odorless, Vaseline-like substance in the car's engine. Later in the week, NASCAR handed down punishment to Michael Waltrip Racing, which included the ejection of team vice president of competition Bobby Kennedy and Crew Chief David Hyder from the garage at Daytona. Hyder was also fined $100,000, the largest fine ever handed down by NASCAR (Until Kurt Busch was penalized for a pit road incident). Waltrip himself was penalized with a loss of 100 drivers points and his qualifying time from pole day on Feb. 11 was thrown out. Elizabeth Waltrip, Michael's wife and the official owner of his car, was also docked 100 owners points. The substance found in the vehicle's fuel was referred to as "rocket fuel", later determined to be Sterno.
In 2008, Waltrip made contact with Casey Mears with 46 laps to go resulting in Mears successfully passing him. As a reply Waltrip rushed up to Mears, locked his hood on Casey's damaging car and tried to push it around through a struggle lasting over 4 seconds. Eventually Mears crashed and after a pit road stopping era NASCAR parked Waltrip as a punishment.
In the 2008 Sharpie 500, an irate Clint Bowyer, who was involved in a wreck involving Waltrip, said "Michael Waltrip is the worst driver in NASCAR period! Could not believe NAPA (his primary sponsor) signed him back on!" However, Bowyer made it up with him after 2008 and eventually joined Waltrip's race team in 2012.
In late 2013, Michael Waltrip's team, was penalized with NASCAR's biggest penalty in history. In the autumn Richmond race, MWR's Clint Bowyer spun out with 7 laps left after radio conversation hinting at an order to do so, and Brian Vickers was ordered to pit because the team "needed one more point". Following an investigation by NASCAR, the team was fined $300,000, stripped 50 driver points and 50 owner's points for each team, indefinitely suspended team vice-president Ty Norris and put every MWR crew chief on probation until December 31st. With the points loss, Truex missed the Chase, which put Ryan Newman back in the wildcard spot. Waltrip stated as a reaction to the penalties that "I want to sincerely apologize to NASCAR, our sponsors, fans, and fellow drivers who were disappointed in our actions. We will learn from this and move on."
Motorsports career results
Daytona 500 results
24 Hours of Le Mans results
|2011||AF Corse|| Robert Kaufmann
|Ferrari 458 Italia GTC||GTE
- List of Daytona 500 winners
- List of NASCAR drivers who have won in each of top three series
- List of NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race drivers
- List of people from Kentucky
- Michael Waltrip Racing
- Pearce, Al (April 15, 1990). "Michael Waltrip Deems Survival From Horrifying Bristol Crash A `Miracle'". Daily Press. Newport News, VA. Retrieved 2013-03-10.
- Newton, David. "Waltrip buys Cope's car; will take spot in 600". NASCAR.COM. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
- Bowles, Tom (February 14, 2007). "His darkest hour: Can Waltrip rescue public image after cheating probe?". CNN/Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
- Harris, Mike. "Waltrip qualifies for Daytona 500". Associated Press. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
- Spencer, Lee. "Substance in question turned over". FOXSports.com. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
- "M. Waltrip charged with reckless driving in accident". Associated Press. April 10, 2007. Archived from the original on April 14, 2007. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
- "Witness: "I didn't think anybody was alive in there" after Waltrip accident". Yahoo.com. April 11, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
- 2007 UAW-Ford 500 Lineup
- MWR auctions gold wheels that ran in Daytona 500
- Michael Waltrip to run part-time in 2010
- Waltrip, Michael , Michael Waltrip, teammates learn the lessons of Le Mans "USA Today" June 11, 2011, accessed June 11, 2011.
- "Michael Waltrip joins NASCAR on FOX". Retrieved September 29, 2011.
- Dagys, John (January 23, 2012). "LE MANS: AF Corse, Felbermayr-Proton Confirm WEC Entries". Speedtv.com. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
- "Waltrip to drive No. 40 for Hillman in Daytona 500". NASCAR.com. Turner Sports. February 13, 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
- Diaz, George (February 23, 2012). "Michael Waltrip fails to qualify for Daytona 500". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
- Associated Press (January 10, 2013). "Waltrip to enter Daytona 500 with Swan Racing". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- Associated Press (February 24, 2013). "Daytona 500 Results 2013: Complete Finishing Order". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
- Michael Waltrip: Joker or Genius?
- http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1798604, Retrieved on June 1, 2009.
- "Kyle Puts on the Show; But Bodine Best at Martinsville".
- CBS coverage of one of the two 1995 Michigan races
- Smith, Marty. "Waltrip, Green feud all night at Darlington". NASCAR.COM. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
- Blake, Ben. "NASCAR Vows to "Do What It Takes" for Race Control". RACER Magazine. Archived from the original on January 1, 2007. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
- Coble, Don (February 12, 2007). "Waltrip could face a Sterno penalty". The Florida Times-Union. "[...] inspectors found a gel-like coating inside the manifold. Several engine builders from other teams said the substance appeared to be Sterno, a bluish gel that could provide a hotter, cleaner burn inside the engine to create more horsepower."
- Associated Press (May 5, 2008). "Waltrip, Mears make nice after Richmond wreck". ESPN. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
- Blount, Terry (October 8, 2011). "Them wasn't fightin' words". Retrieved February 14, 2012.
- Jensen, Tom (September 10, 2013). "NASCAR hits MWR with heavy penalty". Fox Sports. Retrieved 2013-09-10.
- Official website
- Michael Waltrip driver statistics at Racing Reference
- Michael Waltrip owner statistics at Racing Reference
- Michael Waltrip at Fox Sports
- Michael Waltrip at NASCAR.com
- Coca-Cola Racing Family's Michael Waltrip profile
|NASCAR Darlington Dash Series Champion
|The Winston Winner
|Daytona 500 Winner
|Daytona 500 Winner
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.