|For Michael Waltrip, 2001 started off exactly as he and team owner
Dale Earnhardt had dreamed. After moving into a high-profile ride with
Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Waltrip, ended his 0-for-462 skid in the Winston
Cup Series with a win in the Daytona 500.
Earnhardt's death in a crash on the final lap of that race not only
tarnished Waltrip's achievement, but changed the face of the sport
His win at Daytona, an emotional second-place finish to teammate
Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Daytona's Pepsi 400 and a resounding
second-place finish in the penultimate race at Homestead were the
only top-10 finishes he mustered all season.
Waltrip's No. 15 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet team was bedeviled by six
DNFs, numerous crashes and 12 finishes of 30th or worse. He scored
only 11 top-20 finishes and consequently -- even though he won a
career high $3,411,644 -- finished 24th in the standings.
In 17 seasons his best points finish is 12th, twice. He has won two
poles, the first of which came at Dover in 1991. Waltrip did lead eight
races in 2001 and he more than doubled his previous total career
output, where his best finish had been a single second-place in 462
Waltrip spent the early part of his career racing in Kentucky, Indiana
and Tennessee. In 1983, he won the Charlotte-Daytona Dash Series
championship. He then moved to North Carolina, where he lived with
the Petty family for a time while trying to establish his career. Since
then, he has been successful in the Busch Series where he continues
to field a team -- with eight wins and 11 poles.
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