DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Who could forget Michael Waltrip's first win in NASCAR cup compeitition, in the 2001 Daytona 500, of all races.
He and Dale Earnhardt, Jr were 1-2 coming off turn 4 on the final lap with Dale Earnhardt, Sr, in third, trying to hold off the challengers to the two lead DEO cars. And then trouble! Sterling Marlin inadvertantly bumped the elder Earnhardt trying to get around him to chase down the leaders wjen contact was made and the No. 3was sent up the track into the outside concrte retaining all almost head-on, collcting Ken Scrader's car in the process.
Waltripwould go on to win the 2001 Daytona 500, his brother, Darrell Waltrip, having cheered him on in the broadcast booth. Junior would run to the ambvulance carrying his father to to Halifax Medical Center where race fans would later learn, the elder Earnhardt had died in the crash. Michael Waltrip wuld return to vioctory circle again in the 2003 Daytona 500.
But now after a decade-plus of chasing a dream, Michael Waltrip is calling it a career after the upcpoming Daytona 500, which will be his last NASCAR race.
The Feb. 26 race will mark the two-time Daytona 500 champ's 30th career start in “The Great American Race.”
The 53-year-old Waltrip retired from full-time racing after the 2009 season. He has continued running in restrictor-plate races since, including Daytona and the first Talladega race last year.
"The Daytona 500 in a lot of ways defines a racer's career," Waltrip said, " and I am proud to have been able to win our sport's most prestigious race twice."
Waltrip said he's experienced the "highest of highs and lowest of lows at the Great American Race. But when you are a NASCAR driver who has the privilege of racing here, you love Daytona no matter what happens.
Waltrip said that in his 30th and final Daytona 500 he's happy fgor the opportunity afforded him by Aaron's and the chance to take the checkered flag and raise the Harley J. Earle trophy.