Darrell and Michael Waltrip, the only brothers to win the Daytona 500, took a backhoe to the daunting Turn 1 high banks of Daytona International Speedway on Monday.
The event served as the ceremonial groundbreaking on the historic repaving project at Daytona International Speedway.
“I’ve tried to knock the walls down but I’ve never tried to tear the track up. That was a first for me,” said 1989 Daytona 500 champion Darrell Waltrip. “It’s a good feeling. That piece of equipment is like driving a good race car. You have to have the right piece of equipment and we had it today. I’m excited about this project.”
“I’m going to get me a chunk of that and take it back to North Carolina,” said Michael Waltrip, the 2001 and 2003 Daytona 500 champion. “This place is special to our family. It’s part of who we are. I don’t come through that tunnel and not think about what this place means to me. I’m a traditionalist. I love Daytona and I love this being the Mecca of NASCAR racing.”
After taking their turns in the backhoe, both Darrell and Michael Waltrip were able to grab some pieces of the track.
“Taking chunks of Daytona International Speedway to my house is something I never thought of being able to do,” Michael Waltrip said. “It’ll be something that will be a trophy to me because this place sort of defines my career. The biggest wins that I have had have happened right here.”
The participation in the groundbreaking for Michael Waltrip comes on the heels of his victory as a car owner with driver David Reutimann in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Waltrip is excited about the thoughts of a repaved Daytona International Speedway for the 53rd annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011.
“When I went to Talladega for the first time and drove on that track after the repave, I thought somebody was kidding,” Michael Waltrip said. “It was the coolest thing I had ever felt in my whole life. My car felt like it was running 300 mph because it was sucked down and going so perfectly around that race track.
“The racing there, record lead changes in 2010 at Talladega, and a crazy race the other night at Daytona, none of that will change. These drivers will just be able to be more aggressive and it will be more fun to watch than ever. I can’t wait to be a part of the 2011 Daytona 500.”
Darrell Waltrip remembers the only previous time that Daytona International Speedway was repaved. The first race on the new asphalt was the legendary 1979 Daytona 500 where Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison crashed battling for the lead on the final lap in Turn 3. While Richard Petty celebrated his sixth Daytona 500, Donnie and Bobby Allison got into a post-race fight with Yarborough.
“To a stock car driver, to the history of this place, to the tradition of what it means to a stock car driver to win here, there is no place like it,” Darrell Waltrip said. “I’m excited about what they are getting ready to do here. It’s going to make the racing better. I can’t wait for the 2011 Daytona 500.”