Michael Waltrip, who will interrupt his Fox Sports job to race this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, was the guest of a bonus episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast.
The two-time Daytona 500 winner will be driving a No. 55 for Premium Motorsports at the 2.66-mile oval, where his last of four Sprint Cup wins (all on restrictor-plate tracks) occurred in September 2003.
Waltrip, who turns 53 Saturday, finished 30th in the season-opening Daytona 500. He believes with the proper car, he still could win.
“Yes, I think I could,” he said. “I also know I don’t have the opportunity to get in a car that’s there.
“The car I raced at Daytona and Talladega was built in the middle of 2015 at (Michael Waltrip Racing). The research and development and engineering and processes that the top teams have gone through since then have made their cars way faster than my car. But I did win, and I had a good run for a while with a car that was capable of it. I relish those memories and am thankful for them.”
As an analyst on Sprint Cup pre- and postrace shows and the Camping World Truck Series for Fox, Waltrip says getting behind the wheel informs his work on TV.
“I know it does week in and week out, despite the fact the racing style is different” at Daytona and Talladega, Waltrip said. “You have to make pit stops, you have to read the digital dash, you have to work with your spotter, you have to hit your pit road speed perfectly. You have to do all the jobs they do every week.
“The product on the track is different, but you’re doing the same things to win Richmond or any event. I know it keeps me current and tuned in to what they’re doing on the track.”
Waltrip already has insight into this year’s dominant team, Joe Gibbs Racing, which seems to have benefited with the addition of Furniture Row Racing in the Toyota Racing Development fold. Michael Waltrip Racing was one of TRD’s original teams and worked with JGR to lesser success from 2008-15.
“Our team could have meshed in as an organization with Gibbs as Furniture Row has, but I think the philosophy of (co-owner) Rob (Kauffman) and our team didn’t quite match up with the way Joe looked at the racing,” Waltrip said. “(Joe Gibbs) and (Furniture Row owner) Barney (Visser), it’s perfect, because Barney is, ‘What do we have to spend to win?’ And that’s the way Joe looks at it. So instead of meshing them together and saving money, they’ve meshed it together, and now we spend more. That’s the way you have to be in NASCAR.”
Waltrip also discusses how much longer he wants to race part time in Sprint Cup, the importance of teammates and the rest of his professional life.
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Here are time cues for easy reference in listening to the episode: