Michael Waltrip on Danica Patrick, the 2012 Season and His Driver/Analyst Role

James WilliamsAnalyst IIIFebruary 28, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 27, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Well, Matt Kenseth won the wildest, longest and strangest Daytona 500 in its history and now with that win the 2012 NASCAR season is now officially underway.

There is no doubt that NASCAR president Michael Helton would love to have another year like 2011. Television ratings were up after three years of decline and the Race for the Cup wasn’t decided until Tony Stewart beat Carl Edwards in the final race of the season in Miami-Homestead.

Michael Waltrip is a two-time winner of the Daytona 500. He is a team owner, race driver, analyst for Showtime and one of the busiest men at Daytona.

I spoke to him just before he ran in race one of Thursday’s Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying races where his No. 40 Toyota wrecked, thus keeping him out of the 500 this year. We did, however, have time to talk about the storylines for the 2012 season.

JW: Danica Patrick will run a full season on the Nationwide Series as well as eight to 12 Sprint Cup races. What will be a successful season for her?

Waltrip: "I think you have to define success. She can compete and grab some top-fives in Nationwide. Can she win in cup? I didn't see her fast enough on track to win, but that's why you have to define success. Learning how to run those 900-horsepower beasts in your first season can be viewed as success."

JW: What are the key changes at the super speedways like Daytona and Talladega?

Waltrip: "This season, NASCAR modified the restrictor plate, made the spoiler smaller and adjusted the radiator on the cars. It has also banned driver-to-driver communication through in-car radios. That will reduce the two-car drafts that had come to dominate superspeedway racing like Daytona."

JW: What is it like to be a car owner, driver and Showtime analyst?

Waltrip: "I just love the sport. I'm trying to make the Daytona 500 behind the wheel today. But come the weekend, I want to share my enthusiasm and experience with the fans who love the sport like I do. Racing and talking racing are both passions of mine so this is not that difficult of a balance for me. The two mesh quite well."

Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Showtime there will be a special edition of Inside NASCAR, featuring Michael Waltrip, Kyle Petty and host John Roberts. They will review all the action at Daytona and preview the 2012 season. There will be multiple replays of the show throughout the week