Michael Waltrip changing focus

by Monte Dutton

Michael Waltrip changing focus

For Michael Waltrip, the end is near. But that’s only his driving career. The younger brother of NASCAR great and Fox television analyst Darrell Waltrip owns his own team. He recently announced that Martin Truex Jr. will essentially replace him, though Michael will continue to drive the No. 55 Toyota in a handful of races next year. Truex will drive No. 56 full time. Darrell Waltrip won 84 races in the series now known as Sprint Cup. Michael has won four, but he has won the Daytona 500 twice, once more by Monte Dutton than Darrell. “When I was born, my brother was 16 years old, and all I’ve ever known my whole life is running up and down the road going to races,” said Michael. “From a very young age, I knew exactly what I wanted to be: I wanted to be a race-car driver, just like my big brother.” At present, Michael Waltrip ranks 31st in the Sprint Cup standings. He finished 20th in the 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. His most recent victory occurred in Talladega, Ala. in September 2003. He also won what is now the Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (Concord, NC) in 1996. Truex will move at season’s end, apparently, from Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. “I’m turning my car over to a guy whom I think can go win the championship,” said Waltrip. “I’ve always said… [that] if I wasn’t the guy to go race it on Sunday, somebody else would take my place. “Martin [Truex] is the right guy to take over my car and go win races in it…. I didn’t have to quit. I didn’t need to quit. I just wanted to do this for… the sponsors, and NAPA has been the greatest sponsor I could ever have, and I thought this was an opportunity to put them in victory lane on a regular basis.” Waltrip, 46, presently fields Toyotas for himself, David Reutimann and, through a cooperative relationship, Marcos Ambrose. Reutimann won the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 on May 25 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston [NC] Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at

Copyright 2009 King Features Syndicate

Car owner Michael Waltrip has an nounced that Martin Truex Jr. will essentially replace him next year, though Waltrip will drive the No. 55 Toyota on occasion. (photo by John Clark/NASCAR This Week)