For Michael Waltrip, victory in Kentucky as Sprint Cup car owner 'would be very emotional'

mstory@herald-leader.comJune 25, 2014 

NASCAR Talladega Auto Racing

Michael Waltrip climbs into his car in the garage during practice for Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 NASCAR auto race Friday, May 2, at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala.

BUTCH DILL — AP

Owensboro native Michael Waltrip finished 30th as a driver in the 2012 Quaker State 400. He remains the only Kentucky-born racer to run in a Sprint Cup event at Kentucky Speedway. No native Kentuckians are entered in Saturday evening's race.

Still, it is possible that Waltrip — as a car owner — could win one for the home folks. MWR cars have finished in the top 10 every year the Sprint Cup Series has run in Sparta.

In 2011, MWR's David Reutimann was second behind Kyle Busch. Martin Truex Jr. ran eighth in 2012. Last year, Clint Bowyer was third and Truex Jr. seventh.

This year, with MWR down to two full-time Cup teams from three, it will be up to Bowyer and Brian Vickers.

Waltrip, whose older brother Darrell worked as a consultant for Kentucky Speedway in its early days, says he has imagined what a home-state victory would feel like.

"With my brother's ties to the (Speedway) and our racing history in the state, it would be very emotional for me for one of our cars to win in Kentucky," he said. "It would mean a lot."

No Cats-Cards in 2014

Growing up in Owensboro in the 1970s, Michael Waltrip was such a big Kentucky Wildcats basketball fan, he stayed up late on school nights to watch tape-delayed broadcasts of UK games on TV.

Last year, it was easy to wonder if the two-time Daytona 500 champion and current color analyst on Fox Sports broadcasts of Camping World Truck Series races was going to face excommunication from the Big Blue Nation.

MWR ran a paint scheme on the No. 55 car of Vickers at Kentucky Speedway in last June's Quaker State 400 celebrating the 2013 NCAA men's basketball championship won by the Louisville Cardinals — UK's archrival.

Waltrip said he did not take grief from Cats fans.

"As I explain to the people in North Carolina (where MWR is based) all the time, if you're from Kentucky, (the University of) Kentucky is your number one team. But when they are out of contention, you root for the other teams from the state."

Of course, in 2012, Waltrip drove a car honoring UK's 2012 NCAA champs at Kentucky Speedway.

For the 2012 finals between Kentucky and Kansas, Waltrip flew to the game with his team's star driver, Clint Bowyer — an Emporia, Kan., product and Jayhawks fan.

"I ended up with bragging rights on the flight home," Waltrip said. "Clint was pretty quiet."

This year, the Sprint Cup Series was at Texas Motor Speedway the same weekend the Final Four was in Arlington, Texas. So Waltrip was in AT&T Stadium for UK's 60-54 loss to Connecticut in the 2014 finals.

"I thought just in case it was me (the good luck charm) in 2012, I needed to be there again," Waltrip said. "But we learned for sure this year, it wasn't me."

Triple duty

For the second year in a row, NASCAR stars Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski are doing "triple duty" at Kentucky. The duo are on the entry lists for the Cup, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series events in Sparta.

Last year, Busch finished third in trucks, fifth in Nationwide and fifth in the Cup race; Keselowski was second in trucks, won the Nationwide race but came in 33rd in Sprint Cup after getting collected in a wreck caused by Kurt Busch, Kyle's older brother.

Other Cup Series drivers on the entry list for Friday evening's Nationwide race are Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson. Cup regular Austin Dillon will also run in trucks race Thursday.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com.

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