Michael Waltrip's #66 BlueDEF / AAA Toyota was destroyed on the last lap of the second Budweiser Duel race, one of tonight's two qualifying races for Sunday's Daytona 500. Although his 18th place finish did not earn him a starting position, Mikey will race in Sunday's Great American Race based on owner's point standings; he is 42nd on the grid. Michael Waltrip Racing drivers Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers ranked 20th and 32nd respectively in their #15 5-Hour Energy Camry and #55 Aaron's Dream Machine. Clint will start in the rear of the field with his car owner; his car was also collected in the multi-car accident on the last lap, having flipped 180 degrees before landing on its wheels.
After the second duel, Mikey noted that Jimmie Johnson's #48 had run out of gas, which had caused the wreck. "He had his hand out the window, so I think he lost his momentum, and Jamie just clipped him there. And I had a car right in front of me, and I moved up a little and hit another, tapped another car. And then I thought I saw my... I'm the owner of that 15 car, and I thought I saw him flipping. And he landed on his wheels, and we unfortunately caught the inside wall. You know, better judgment for our team would have probably been just, we had 15th locked up, and we couldn't really go anywhere. And hindsight's always 20/20, and the best decision probably would have been to just back out of that mess. But I don't get to race very often, and I get all... the adrenoline was pumping, and I was on it!"
Before competing in the second duel race, Mikey was in Fox's Hollywood Hotel with Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond for the first. He talked about his strategy in getting into the Daytona 500. "My best chance is just to go out there and run in the top 15," he said. "When we were here in July, I finished in the top 5 with everybody out there. So I think I have a good shot of doing just that. The strategy that I'm going to have is - when they throw the green flag, starting in 17th - I'm going to try to go to the front right then. But if it doesn't work, and your moves you play out don't get you where you're going, then you might just lay back and let things develop a bit. I think handling is going to be interesting tonight, and also watch closely all the side drafting you're going to see."
When Chris Myers recognized him for his impressive record at this track, Mikey said, "I've run well here over the years, but a fast car is what's going to make you run good at Daytona."
Jeff Hammond asked Mikey about potential drafting partners.
"Everybody's a fair weather friend," Mikey replied. "You talk a good game in the garage area beforehand. When you go out there to go race, it's a different story. So I'm just going to be on an island and do my own thing."
Matt Kenseth in the #20 won the first duel race. Brian Vickers' 16th place finish put him on the bubble; whether he would have a starting position in the field for the Daytona 500 depended upon the results of the second qualifying race.
The call to start engines for the second duel race came at 8:52pm ET. The crew chief Chad said that they would pit for fuel only between lap 37 and 39. "It is imperative that he doesn't slide his tires."
"You're going to have fun watching this guy do his business," his spotter said.
The #66 team then performed a radio check. "10-4. You got me down there, Michael?" asked the spotter.
"Yup. Everyone hear me okay?" Mikey asked, and everyone confirmed that they could. "All right."
"You can turn gear fan on right now, Michael," Chad directed. "Before I forget."
Mikey acknowledged. A little while later, he told his team, "My first goal is just going to be to get into the 500. I'm going to be pretty conservative until we can figure that out."
"I'll keep a good eye in front of you, man," the spotter replied. "And when it's go time, I'll tell you."
After another pause, his spotter added, "Have fun, man. I'm fairly certain you have a good car."
"10-4," Mikey replied. "Thank y'all for everything. I feel really fortunate to race a winning car, and I know this is a winning car. So thank you for that. So we'll see what we got. We'll definitely be ready for them."
The spotter reminded his driver to put left side tires on yellow line when leaving pit road.
"Yes sir, onto the track. 10-4," Mikey acknowledged.
The team then discussed pit road speed.
"Pit road speed right there is 4650," said the spotter.
"4650 on the pit road speed. One red light is fine if I want to speed a little bit. One red light," Mikey confirmed, and the spotter agreed.
The spotter asked Chad if the radiator fan should be off.
Chad said the only fan that should be on is right front B blower, and brake fan should be on continuously.
Mikey told his team to remind Wayne Wright to get stickers for Peak, Toyota, and AAA for his visor. "Get all that crap on it." He then said it wasn't crap but all his wonderful sponsors with the stuff he wants to say. "Ones like we made before."
Chad directed Mikey to flip on the right front B blower, and he asked Mikey to tell him the water and oil temperature once he crossed the start / finish line.
"Water temperature is 200, and the oil temperature is 200."
A little later, the spotter talked about how pumped he was for this race. "I'm excited."
"Me too!" Mikey exclaimed. "I'm excited. Thank y'all, again. I really really appreciate the opportunity. So let's go make the most of it."
The green flag waved at 9:03pm with Martin Truex Jr leading the field.
"The 1 car is trying to get out there now. He's going to be coming," the spotter warned. "The 1 car behind you about four back. The 1 car went to the outside lane."
By lap 4, Brad Keselowski's #2 was leading. Mikey's spotter said that the #1 was trying to make the middle work, but it wasn't working. "One slow one in the middle - the #48. Still three, still three, still three-wide. The #15's in the middle behind him. Behind you. Three wide. Still three. Still three wide. 42's behind him. Still three man, still three. The 1 car still behind you. The 1 car went with the 48 in the middle. Three wide. Still three. The 42. Still three wide. Still three wide. 27's behind you. Still 3."
Mikey was 15th on lap 6.
"27 behind you. Two wide right there. Fixing to be three. Three wide right there. Three wide. Still three, still three. 27. Three wide. Three."
Mikey was 18th the next time around the track. Keselowski continued to lead.
"The 15 and the 52 behind you. The 15's behind you. Still outside there. 15 behind you. The 15 is trying to get to your outside now. The 15 is your last one. It's your last one right there - the 15. You're all clear. All clear. He fell in line."
Mikey was 23rd on lap 9.
"Still out there. Got the 52 and the 83. He's still out there. Last one to your outside. Working lap 10, bud. Still on your bumper. Still there, bud. You're all clear now, man. Good job. You're all clear. Still out there. The 15 is behind you. Still outside. He's coming outside. About five back to your next one. All clear."
On lap 13, Mikey was still 23rd. He was the last one in the draft. Truex Jr's #83 trailed the field.
"Still clear. The 51 is coming behind you now."
On lap 15, Mikey was 22nd, having passed Justin Allgaier's #51.
"51's with you. 93 is still outside. 51 behind you. You're clear, side by side behind you. Clear about three back, side-by-side behind you."
Passing Morgan Sheppard moved Mikey up to 21st on lap 16.
"Still too loose. The back end's jumping around," Mikey reported on lap 17.
"Copy," Chad replied.
"It's not hurting anything now, but if I had to go, I'd need some help."
"10-4." A little later, Chad said, "You're doing fine, Michael. You're making up a little bit of time to that lead lap.
"Let him know he's completing lap 20 the next time he comes around."
"Okay," his spotter replied. "Lap 20 right here at the line. Lap 20."
Keselowski continued to lead; he had led all but one lap. Mikey was 20th on lap 23, having passed Michael Annett. He was at the tail end of the second draft, which was catching the first. The first draft included the top twelve cars.
"Keep doing what you're doing, man," Chad encouraged his driver.
"Three cars on the bottom fighting there for the top," the spotter warned. "Clear right there. 42 is side by side with the 27. 42 27 lined up behind you."
Mikey was 18th on lap 28.
"Outside, outside. 27 about two back behind him. All clear, man. 27 there trying to get to your inside. All clear, man."
"She tightened up. I'm all right," Mikey commented.
"7 trying to come outside on you. Outside. It's your last one right there. Outside. Got a slow one up top here. It's the 34 car. He just lost the draft here. Coming to lap 30 at the line here. Lap 30." He then relayed that they were looking to put two rounds of wedge into the car when they stop in a few laps and fuel too. "All clear, man. All clear. Clear, all clear."
Mikey was 18th on lap 32 and Keselowski continued to lead.
Chad said the 11, 15, 2, and 1 were coming with them, and none of them were getting tires. "Remind him about not sliding the tires."
"10-4, bud. 10-4," the spotter replied. "Just give me a little heads-up like you did in two laps. Thank you."
"Don't touch it. It just went tight for some reason," Mikey instructed.
"Copy." After a pause, he said, "They're about twelve or so back. You've got two of them."
Mikey was still 18th on lap 35. He was noted to have just run the fastest lap of the race.
"We're going to be following the 15 right here."
The spotter reminded Mikey not to slide his tires. "Good out the back, good out the back. Don't slide them right here. It's good, man. You're good."
The spotter and crew chief directed Mikey to his box. The #66 came in with just about everyone else with 24 laps to go.
"Go on me, go on me," Chad directed. "Go go go go go. 4650, 4650. Clear up."
The spotter repeated pit road speed. "Just watch your blend line. Clear the 40. Left side's on the yellow. Dig hard."
Keselowski was issued a penalty for going over five miles an hour above pit road speed.
"Single file behind you," the spotter noted.
"P16 right there. P16. Copy?" Chad asked.
Denny Hamlin was now in the lead with 22 to go.
"P16 right there. 2 car is going to pit. He was speeding down pit road. P15."
Eric McClure pit, requiring work to the side of his car.
"40 coming outside. All right, he's in line. Just some tire smoke up here. Everything is cool."
The tire smoke came from Keselowski's #2 as he slowed coming to the pits for his pass-through penalty.
"21 to go."
"One slow halfway down the back. The 2 car. I think he'll make it," the spotter noted.
Keselowski had a flat tire with 19 to go. Mikey was in the transfer position.
"15 to go, Michael. Still P15. Catching the single cars off the pace off of 2 in the middle - the 35 car. He's up high entering 4 now." McClure was in the #35. "You're clear right there. Side by side behind you. 40 just got in about three back behind you."
"Just so you know, that 40 is no pressure. They're in," Chad noted. He said the next car trying to race his way in was a bit behind him. "These two lap down cars in front of the 21."
"You're all clear, man. All clear. Ten to go at the line. Ten."
"P15, Michael. P17 is 27 seconds back," it sounded like Chad said.
"What's the car we're looking at behind us?" When no one responded, the person asked, "Hey, Chad?"
"I got a bead on him, bud. I got a bead on him," said the spotter.
"Just watch him!" Mikey directed.
"10-4, bud. Three, still three." He noted that the top was closing up and that the #21 was behind him. "Still out there. About three back to the 34 behind the 78. The top's open."
"P12," Chad said with 7 to go.
"You're clear. 78's still there. Still outside. It's going to be a quick hole behind the 51. Two back to the 21. One back to the 21. Closed up. The 34 is behind you now. Still outside. About one and a half back to the 21 behind the 51. Still out there, still there. 21's right behind him now with the 34 two back behind him. Still outside. Still out there. 21's right with him. Still there, man. Still there. 21 is behind you. Catching a slow one to the outside. 21's behind you. Three wide right there. Three wide. Back to two wide. 99's behind you now. Still outside. Lined up outside there. Still outside. 21 99 34. Still out there. The 7 and the 2 on the bottom. 99's coming inside, inside. You're clear up behind the 21. Inside. 34 is your last one."
Mikey had been left out with no help. He was 15th.
"3 to go, bud. 3 to go," Chad said.
"Still in line with you. Clear the 42. Three wide, back to two wide. You're clear. Two more."
Casey Mears' #13 ran out of gas with two to go.
"Single file behind you. Inside, inside. 42. 42's behind you. You're clear. Inside. Coming inside. 99's behind you now. One more. One more lap. P12. 99's trying to come in the middle. Inside, inside. 7 car's about three back behind you. The bottom's on the move now. Clear behind the 99 if you need it. Spinning up top. Stay down stay down stay down stay down. We're tore up, Chad. Make it across the start / finish line if you can. One down low here."
The caution flag waved on the final lap, along with the checkers. Jamie McMurray's #1 had tapped the back of Jimmie Johnson's #48, and multiple cars were collected - including the #66. Mikey crashed into the inside wall, then hit the wall head-on on pit road.
Clint's car flipped in the air and landed right-side up. He exited his car under his own power. Johnson's #48 caught fire. Truex Jr, Carl Edwards, and David Ragan's cars also sustained damage.
"Just stop right there, Michael. Stop."
"Well, that was great," Mikey said.
"Are you all right?" the spotter asked.
"Yeah," Mikey replied. He climbed out of his #66 on his own.
Although Mikey did not race into the field, he has a spot on the starting grid of the Daytona 500 based on owner's points.
Be sure to watch Sunday's Daytona 500! Coverage starts at 12:00pm ET on FOX.