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NASCAR WCUP: Michael Waltrip exits Winston 500 on top

17 October 1999

Michael Waltrip exits Winston 500 on top after engine lets go

 TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 17, 1999) - Philips Chevrolet driver Michael Waltrip
did everything he could do to win the 31st annual Winston 500 Sunday at
Talladega Superspeedway.  He led early, and led late, spending almost the
entire day in and around the top five.  But, after rising to the point for
the second time on lap 150, Waltrip's engine expired, which ended his day
and left him with a 39th finish.

 During the spring event at Talladega, Waltrip sent the Winston Cup Series a
message that when it returned to the 2.66 mile tri-oval in October, he would
be a factor.  That message received some confirmation on Saturday during the
final "Happy Hour" practice session when Waltrip posted the fifth fastest
time among the 43 cars slated to start Sunday's 188 lap race.

 Early on, that impressive practice speed proved to be legitimate, as
Waltrip moved up immediately from his 12th place starting position.  Before
the race was 20 laps old, the Philips Chevy went to the front, establishing
Waltrip as one of the drivers to watch throughout the afternoon.

 When the first round of pit stops arrived under caution on lap 48, Waltrip
requested no changes from crew chief Bobby Kennedy.  But, during the next
run, Waltrip fell back in the field, running as far back as 16th.  When the
caution came out on lap 85, Waltrip once again chose to leave his set up
alone, even though he had dealt with a slight vibration and a car that
seemed a little tight.  Waltrip believed the culprit was simply related to a
set of tires, and the hunch proved to be on the mark.

 As the restart unfolded, Waltrip bolted back to the front, reclaiming his
spot among the race's top five.  With his car once again handling
flawlessly, Waltrip began to grab everyone's attention.  He seemed to run
anywhere he wanted, and could hold his own against the draft, which kept him
in the mix until the next caution.

 With 43 laps to go, Waltrip restarted fifth after a 16-second four-tire pit
stop.  Five laps later, Waltrip assumed the lead and showed no signs of
relinquishing it without a harsh fight.  But, after showing the way for four
more circuits, Waltrip's engine gave out, and he coasted into the garage

 "I just want to thank my team for what they gave me today," said Waltrip.
They were great.  I know I can get the job done, and I think these are the
guys that can help me do it."

 Waltrip now stands 27th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings with four
races remaining.  The series continues next Sunday at North Carolina
Speedway in Rockingham, N.C.