TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS)
Michael Waltrip — Notes & Quotes
Talladega Superspeedway – May 4, 2013
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 Aaron’s Alabama National Championship Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
How do you prepare for Talladega?
“Well, yesterday was big — usually important for me because when you take off from Daytona until May, there’s so many things you need to orientate yourself with — something as simple as just being able to see the water temperature and water pressure gauges in your peripheral without having to pay attention to them, understanding how the cars move when other cars come around you. I have to do a whole lot of visualization — like after practice yesterday, this morning, before I race tomorrow — I visualize what I saw in practice and what I think I’ll see during the race. And the other cats, it’s repetition — they were racing last weekend side-by-side, bumper-to-bumper all over each other, so theirs just comes natural. I have to really focus my mind on the task at hand in order to make sure I’m ready for it. Quite honestly, for the first 100 miles or so, I won’t be aggressive at all because it’s just a matter of getting in the flow and getting back to what you know you know how to do so well. My last victory in NASCAR in the Cup Series came here at Talladega in 2003 and so I know how to win here. I think I was in a pretty good chance to win last fall, so the confidence helps a lot. It’s like when I play golf I know I suck and so the ball doesn’t go very good. But when I come to Talladega, I know I know what I’m doing and so therefore after all my focus and visualization on what I think I’ll see and how I’m going to do — then some laps the first 100 miles or so getting into the game — I feel like I’m perfectly prepared to do win the race.”
What are your most memorable fan interactions at Talladega?
“I just appreciate this is NASCAR. This feels like home to me. I appreciate the energy and of course the passion for our sport and when you come to Talladega you get to feel that first hand. Some of my fondest memories are back in 1986 when I started coming here as a rookie we stayed in the Days Inn in Anniston (Ala.) and just seeing how folks love the sport and wanted just to talk to you about the sport and now today with the infield and all the energy around the event — just sharing stories. People wanting my hat off my head. People wanting to talk about (Clint) Bowyer being so crazy or (Martin) Truex (Jr.) being so close to winning. I’m more of a fan than a lot of you might realize and so a lot of times I’ll sneak off and just go wandering around the infield at race tracks and a lot of people do that here, so my goal is just more or less say hi to the fans and hang out. I’m weird. They like me.”
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
“Well, the car owner deal is much more difficult for me. When I was trying to win, I was chasing my dream and getting to live my passion and getting to race cars and the wins were elusive certainly for a long time, but I loved every second of it. And in the car owner role, I just stand there and watch, you know? We work hard to make sure we give our people all the tools they need to be successful with, and whether I’m doing TV or if I’m sitting on the pit box, you have to trust the folks that you empower to do the job. Certainly, I’m welcome to give input, but ultimately it’s not up to me to go win the race and so it’s really hard to let go and just say, ‘You guys can do this.’ And, the success we’ve had the last couple of years made it easier, but it’s certainly very difficult. That’s why I’m so thankful for Aaron’s letting me run these four races in 2013 and hopefully I’ll get to run a couple in ’14 and beyond for a while. But, just letting go and trusting that you’ve done everything that you can do for the team basically when the green flag drops. We have great sponsors and a great manufacturer in Toyota and my responsibility mainly these days is to help enhance their experiences with their partnership with Michael Waltrip Racing. And, so I work really hard at that, stay on the road a lot taking care of those folks and that’s my job. Clint (Bowyer) and Martin (Truex Jr.) and (Brian) Vickers and Mark Martin’s jobs is to go win and that’s not really my job anymore except for tomorrow.”
What have you learned from you mom?
“She was a hardworking woman. When I was a kid I was the fifth of five and my dad worked at the Pepsi plant and she was a cashier lady at the IGA and so I would go to the IGA and I would have a dollar and I would try to buy $3 worth of stuff and get there and tell her that I needed that stuff. She was probably making $2 an hour and it wasn’t really fair for me to think I needed that, but I didn’t know much so I just told her to write a check. I saw she had some in her purse. I’m appreciative of who she was and how even though my mom and dad worked eight to 10 hours a day, I felt loved. I had a home, it was clean and it felt like where I belonged. My mom is 86 now and we had a birthday dinner Monday night in Cornelius (N.C.) at Red Rocks and she’s just as sweet and as spry as ever. She’s physically a little bit off, but mentally she’s strong and loving and caring. I just want to feel loved — if I’m a kid I just want to know my parents love me and I’m fortunate I had that. I hope everybody gets that and I know they don’t and that sucks.”
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 Aaron’s Alabama National Championship Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing (cont.)
What did you learn from your Nationwide team that you apply as a Cup owner?
“I just had the Nationwide cars behind my house because that’s what all the other drivers did back then. Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett — they all had their own little teams behind their houses so I wanted to be like one of the guys and that’s how mine started as well. We were able to win races and attract the attention of Toyota and eventually it became what it is today, but it was all for fun back then. My relationship with Dale (Earnhardt) and watching him have his little team behind his shop and going to race for (Richard) Childress, I just always loved that and wanted to live that so I’m really thankful I got the chance to do just that. That’s why I respect guys like Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer.
Kyle’s got a full blown Truck and Nationwide team. Clint has got a dirt team. All of these racers — Martin Truex Jr. has got a Late Model — all of them do stuff. Mark Martin helped kids from Florida race. I think that’s what I love most about our sport is the stars that care enough to give back and give people a chance to race. That’s fun to watch and I think it’s a great story for people to cover. My passion for owning a team or my desire to own a team and seeing a guy take it from behind his house to the Cup level was Dale (Earnhardt), and I always liked the way he walked through the shop and the way people looked at him like, ‘These are Dale’s cars. We’re going to make these babies fast.’ So, hopefully a little bit of that goes on at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) because of the commitment that we’ve made to race cars.”
Do you enjoy working on the FOX NASCAR broadcasts?
“Well, the television work is me being able — remember when I said when the green flag drops I’m not involved and I just watch the cars race? The television work keeps me involved. I get to participate. I’m on a team. The FOX team in my opinion is the best commitment to NASCAR that I’ve ever seen and I’m just thankful that I get to be on their team. Sitting in
the Hollywood Hotel with Chris Myers I watch every lap of the race with my eyes wide open looking for stories or angles that I might be able to explain to the fans. The negatives — I can’t think of any because I learn so much from watching and I get to help bring NASCAR on FOX to the massive audience that watches. We win the ratings war most every weekend in
being the most watched programs on TV all weekend and I’m honored that I get to be a part of such a great team. I wouldn’t change anything I don’t think. I look forward to continuing being a part of the FOX broadcast team because I think that they explain racing pretty dog gone good. All of the broadcast partners in NASCAR are committed to the sport. Obviously, it costs a whole lot of money to put a race on TV with all of the cameras and technology that you need to cover it, but I’m really proud that I’m a part of the NASCAR on FOX team.”
When will you announce the driver of the No. 55 Camry for next season?
“Well, we’re — obviously I said we’ve raced with Aaron’s for 14 years and we hope that we can sign something that will put that deal together for the near foreseeable future to come — three years or so. And, we’re working hard with Aaron’s. We’ve targeted Brian Vickers as the guy that we want to drive our car. We think that Brian is a future champion of the Cup Series so we want Brian to drive it and we want Aaron’s to sponsor it. That’s the news and that’s where it’s at. I think both Aaron’s and Brian are very into making that happen. It would just be a matter of getting the details worked out in order to be able to announce it soon. So, when it happens it won’t be a surprise because that’s what we’re after. I think Aaron’s growth in the business world, the amount of stores that they had when we started together and the amount they have now — I used to kid people all of the time, I said I don’t believe they think I had anything to do with that, but just in case I’ve been there the whole time and let’s just keep him around. That was sort of the way that it started with Aaron’s and now with the ‘Aaron’s Dream Weekend’ and everything that they do in NASCAR, they’ve committed to this sport and hopefully that commitment will continue with Michael Waltrip Racing into the future.”
Do you enjoy superspeedway races?
“I just always look forward to my chances to race at these tracks. I retired from racing full time a few years ago, but I’ve raced every plate race since then, so I feel like I still am up to speed on what it takes to be able to win and to run up front. We were fortunate enough to have a chance to win here last fall and I was able to lead the Daytona 500 this year in my first race of the season, so optimistic that we’ll figure out a way to get the No. 55 Aaron’s Alabama Toyota to the front when they throw the green flag tomorrow.”