SPARTA, Ky. (June 2004) Despite competing in a full NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule coupled with the time-consuming demands of testing and sponsorship promotion, veteran driver Michael Waltrip has not ruled out the possibility of also running the entire NASCAR Busch Series.
Waltrip, who received sponsorship from Aaron's for at least half of this year's Busch races, including "The Meijer 300 presented by Oreo" on June 19 at the Kentucky Speedway, said recently that he may complete the balance of the Busch season if that's what the sponsor wants him to do.
June Cover of Ky.
"We're prepared and we could run them all, easy," Waltrip told Dave Rodman of NASCAR.com just prior to the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway. "We have all the equipment to do so. But it's just a matter of deciding if we think it's something that Aaron's wants to tackle, as far as from the monetary side, because it's going to cost us more money to race in 2004 if we add races to our originally budgeted program. We have to decide if that's something that we want to do and how it works logistically."
Waltrip, 41, has had less than a remarkable start in the Cup Series, finishing out of the top-10 in all but one of the first 10 races, driving the No. 15 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet fronted by Dale Earnhardt Inc. His best finish was on March 28 in the Food City 500 at Bristol, Tenn., where he finished 10th.
Waltrip's luck has been better in the Busch Series. After the first 10 races, he had garnered three top-five finishes, including a win at Nashville on April 10, and seven top-10 finishes, which placed him second in points behind Martin Truex Jr.
An Owensboro, Ky., native and the younger brother of retired NASCAR champion Darrell Waltrip, Michael Waltrip began racing go-karts as a teen, moving on to the Mini-Modified division at his hometown track and later to the Goody's Dash Series, of which he captured the championship in 1983.
Unlike many drivers, Waltrip entered NASCAR's Cup Series competition prior to the Busch Series. His Cup debut was in 1985; his Busch debut in 1988. He has since jockeyed between the two series, but has yet to capture a championship in either.
In 2001 Waltrip joined DEI with no Cup wins to his credit. He won his first race that year in the prestigious Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. He has since won twice in Daytona, in 2002 in the Pepsi 500 and in 2003 in the Daytona 500, making him the all-time leading money winner at the track. Waltrip also won in 2003 at Talladega.
Waltrip's performance on superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega could bode well for his trip to the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in June. He had the opportunity to test at the track on May 12 in his Cup car alongside DEI teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Speedway officials have said that heavy testing at the Kentucky Speedway by Nextel Cup drivers like Earnhardt Jr. and Waltrip could positively effect the venue's push for a Cup race there. That, and the fact that the speedway continually sells out for its Busch Series races.
Waltrip is one of seven Nextel Cup drivers, including Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Robby Gordon, Johnny Sauter, Johnny Benson and Derrike Cope, expected to compete at the Kentucky Speedway in its fourth year of Busch Series action. Last year at the speedway Bobby Hamilton, Jr. took first place before a sell-out crowd. He will return this year to defend his title.
Qualifying for "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo," Busch Series race at the Kentucky Speedway will be Friday evening, June 18, followed by "The Kentucky 150" NASCAR Kodak Southeast Elite Series race at 8 p.m. EDT. The 200-lap, 300-mile Busch race will begin at 8 p.m. EDT Saturday, June 19. It will be broadcast live on FX.
For more information on the NASCAR Busch Series "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo," visit the Kentucky Speedway website.