Michael Waltrip finished 17th in his Can-Am duel race, the second of two qualifying races for Sunday's Daytona 500. He will start 32nd in his #15 Aaron's Toyota for his last start in the Great American Race and in his career.
After hanging up his helmet, Mikey will continue to be a part of FOX's NASCAR broadcasting team. He was on pit road greeting drivers during his signature pit walk prior to the first duel. After speaking with Daytona pole winner Chase Elliott, he said, "This place is energetic. I'm in my happy place here."
Elliott went on to win Duel #1, which ended at 8:15pm. He was the first driver to win the pole and the first duel race for the past twenty years.
The second duel race was underway next, with Dale Earnhardt Jr starting first. Mikey was slated to start 17th, but he dropped to the rear of the field due to a transmission change. Drivers strapped into their cars at 8:34pm. Grand marshall Sandy Scullion gave the call to start engines three minutes later, and twenty-one cars took to the track.
"All right, guys. I appreciate everyone for the hard work," the crew chief praised. He said they would take it easy tonight and get it driving good for Sunday. "Happy working with you, Michael." He mentioned they'd be working with the #7 car of Elliott Sadler.
"Thanks, everybody," Mikey replied. "I appreciate it. We're in the race, and we'll just be smart tonight."
"10-4. We'll go get 'em on Sunday."
"Check them belts. Have some fun here," the spotter said. "7 car going to be on your outside. He's laying back here, bud. All right, bud. Coming to the green."
The green flag waved at 8:51pm.
"Pace car's down. Be ready. Ready? Ready? Green green green. Outside, 7 car. 7 car up top one back. You're clear up high if you need it."
Mikey was 20th by the end of the first lap, having advanced one spot.
"Outside. Still outside there. Got one at your quarter. Still up there. Still outside, right at your quarter. Clear clear."
Denny Hamlin challenged for the lead, but Earnhardt Jr held onto it going into Lap 3. Mikey was 18th.
"Still got no help there. Stay in it," encouraged the spotter. "Outside. Clear high if you need it. Still there. Clear clear."
Hamlin led Lap 4. Mikey was 17th. Earnhardt Jr was back out front one lap later.
"Right there with him, bud. Keep digging."
The crew chief asked about racing with the #7.
The spotter noted that Sadler had dropped to the back. "We're up here with the pack."
The crew chief said he was asking, because the #55 of Reed Sorenson, who had run the first duel race, was contending to make the field based on how other go-or-go-homers in this race fared.
"Back to one outside. Coming back three wide. You're in the middle. Back to one inside. Still inside down there. Clear low."
Mikey was 13th by lap 7.
"77 coming back to you. Still inside. Clear low if you want it. Outside. Still outside there. No help now. Cleared off. Still outside there. Clear up top there. Coming inside now. Inside. Clear low. Inside here now. All clear him. All clear."
Mikey dropped back to 16th as Earnhardt Jr continued to lead.
"Everybody's single file up top now. Two cars going down to the bottom there. Still inside. 31 only right there at your door. Everybody's still single file up top. Twelve laps in the bag, bud."
Mikey was still in 16th on lap 10. One lap later, he was 15th.
"A couple cars going with you to the bottom there. Outside. Still outside here. Still outside. 41 only up there now. Got five cars on the bottom. Still outside. Clear high if you want it. Back outside. Still outside."
Kyle Busch's #41 was marked in front of the #15 on lap 16.
"Five cars on bottom, rest on top. Still outside."
The crew chief asked for the water temperature and an update on the car.
"Still outside there. 41 only."
"220. Car's fine," Mikey said.
"220," the crew chief echoed.
"41's still up top, bud. Just you and two more on the bottom here now. 41's still up there. Clear high if you want it. Working lap 17 here, bud. 3 car outside now. Five of you back on bottom. Clear high if you want it. Inside. 41 still inside down there. Clear low if you want it."
On lap 20, Mikey was 15th. Everyone in front of him was running single file.
"Inside there. 31. Clear. Five of you on bottom now."
Cars started breaking into two lines again.
"Inside. Just three of you on the bottom. Outside 41. Clear high."
"I'm beating the crap out of the road," Mikey said.
"Half back to the 31 now. 10-4 on beating the road there, bud. Inside now, 31."
"Five laps to the competition yellow. Let's just fall back and play it safe. Is it mostly splitter, or is it (something) hitting too?"
"Uh, I can't tell. Feels like everything," Mikey said.
"Clear all around. I'm not seeing sparks, Mark," the spotter informed the crew chief. "Outside. Three of you on bottom now. Two of you, still outside. Still outside, bud. Back to outside. Still outside here now. Three of you on bottom. Still outside. Going to be coming up on slower cars on the bottom there, off of 1. Clear high if you need it. Inside here. Clear one lane. Back inside here. Two cars only on the bottom here. One inside now. Still inside."
Earnhardt Jr continued to lead on lap 25, and Mikey was 16th.
"Clear low if you want it."
"Everybody's dragging the ground," Mikey observed.
"10-4," the crew chief Mark replied.
"Clear high if you want to go."
Mikey was 15th when the competition caution came out on lap 26. The spotter said he saw some sparks.
Mark called for a round out of both rears to help the splitter and four tires. "It's driving good though, other than hitting the ground?"
Mark changed his call to a half a round out of both rears and a piece of tape off the rear. He also said they'd put four tires on it and would take fuel too. "Nice and easy. No mistakes here."
"Pit road is open."
"Pit this time. Half a round out. Piece of tape."
"Who am I coming around?" Mikey asked.
"You're coming around the 33, and I think they might be out."
Jeffrey Earnhardt's #33 was a lap down.
The spotter and crew chief called Mikey to the pits, but Mikey missed his box.
"It's my fault. I haven't made a pit stop in a while," Mikey admitted.
"That's all right. Get it out before Sunday," Mark replied.
"We'll just go around here and will do the same thing. Four tires and fuel and take a half a round out and a piece of tape."
"And a water, please."
Mark said they'd give him a water. He asked if he needed a tear-off. Mikey didn't. Mark asked if Mikey needed anything else. Mikey asked him to repeat this, which he did.
"Uh, no. Not at this point."
"He's good, bud," the spotter relayed. He reminded Mark about the drink.
The crew chief and spotter led him on and off pit road.
"Where's the water bottle?" someone asked during the stop.
"Hey, Michael, the 7 ran the whole time in the transfer spot the whole time. So if you run with him now, you'll be in good shape. We need to keep the 7 in front of the 96."
Mikey pointed out a problem with the water bottle.
The crew chief apologized and said they'd have that fixed by Sunday.
Mikey commented how the water was better than nothing. "I just gotta learn to be more specific."
"We'll have it fixed for Sunday. Sorry about that, bud."
"Spotter, tell the 7 what I'm going to do. Make sure he knows I'm just going to help him out."
The crew chief explained that all three of the open cars fell back, but the 7 stayed in the transfer spot. He said whatever they could do to keep the #7 in front of the #96 would help.
"Yeah, I don't care. I'm just going to wait around with him. I drafted enough. I learned enough. I'll just try to help him."
The crew chief said they had nothing to lose and everything to gain, and he was confident the #7 could stay in front of the #96.
The green flag waved. Earnhardt Jr led, and Mikey was 16th.
"Three wide now. You're on the bottom. Still three. 33 is outside, 7 is one back lined up. You're all clear. 7 car is one back on the very top. Here he comes outside. Slow one on top right there. Back up on outside. That's the 7 right there, bud. Outside there. 33 only. Clear clear. You're dragging just a little bit, Mark. Looks like the back right."
"I'll evaluate it after the race," the crew chief said. "It will be fine."
Ryan Blaney dropped beneath Earnhardt Jr and got out front momentarily, but the #88 held onto the lead on lap 35. Mikey was 19th.
"All right, bud. Just you and the 7. I'm still with you here."
Mikey asked his spotter just to keep his eyes out front, and his spotter said he would.
"I think this might work out to our favor. Doing good, man. Thanks," the crew chief praised.
"I don't believe that 7 car is helping us, Mark," the spotter said. "We're losing the draft."
"That's our best position. It's a team effort," the crew chief replied. "This is all we can do right now, bud."
Mikey said something that was hard to hear.
"We'll stay back here, hope that 96 loses the draft, and we'll drive right by him," added the crew chief.
The crew chief asked if they were talking on channel 1 or 2. "I can't tell."
"Still pretty calm up there, bud. No three by three yet. Still pretty calm up there, bud. Still two by two. Working lap 42. All right, bud. You're going to pass the 21. He's got a left tire rub. He's entering 3. Still up here on the track. Clear."
The #21 of Ryan Blaney had nudged the wall. 16 laps remained in the race, and Mikey was 17th. Sadler's #7 was now just in front of the #15.
"Slow one blending up there in 1, bud. On the very bottom. Clear. Clear."
With 14 to go, Jimmie Johnson's #48 ran into the wall. The yellow flag waved for the second time.
"Caution's out. Turn 3. Don't see it. Looks like he must have spun there. 48 cut a tire down. He's on pit road."
"Yeah. Blew one up. Tire everywhere," Mikey said. "Crazy you didn't see it. You've got a bad angle."
"That was exactly what we needed to do here. We just need to see where the 96 plays out here."
"I don't know. The 7 ain't going to go up there, and I'm going to... yeah. I'm going to give up a chance to get a better starting spot, but it's more important, I guess. I don't know."
"Yeah, I know. It's just a big deal if we can get that 55 in there." They were trying to get the #7 and #15 in on time so Reed Sorenson's #55 would make the field.
"I'm going to race. I'm just going to go. I can't hang around here. It's dumb."
"Pit road is open. Did you hear him say come, bud?"
"Nope. I can't hear anything," Mikey replied.
"10-4. We're going to come down here and top it off with fuel. Worker truck down the bottom, bud. You're clear of him now. 4700 at your mark, ten away."
"5, 4, 3, don't slide 'em, 1. In the box," the crew chief said. "We're good. Go go go go go. Clear out, clear out."
"4700 out there, bud. Watch your speed. You'll be clear to go on up. One to go when you get here, bud."
"I know we didn't go as fast this time." The crew chief asked about the car.
"It felt worse. It felt like it handled worse. It felt like it drove worse," Mikey reported.
"10-4. That's good input for Sunday."
"When you take the green, it will be 9 to go," the spotter said. "All right, bud. Coming to green."
Earnhardt Jr led the restart, and Mikey was 13th.
"Pace car's down. Be ready. Ready? Green green green. Everyone's rolling here. 10 car inside. She's tight on you now. 95 inside. Still inside. Still inside. The top's moving pretty good. Still inside. Still inside here. Two by two, all the way through. Still inside. Third row's moving. The 95 is working with you. Three wide, you're inside. Back to one inside. Three, you're up top. Still three, you're up top. 95 on your bumper. Coming inside. Inside. Still inside down there. You got help behind you there. Clear low if you want it. Clear high if you need it there, bud."
Sadler passed Mikey with 6 to go. The #15 was now 17th.
"7 car coming to you quick. Outside. Still up there. Clear high if you want it. Two back to the 77. Five to go next time. One back to that 77. He's by himself. 77's down with you on the bottom there."
Rookie Erik Jones, in the #77 car, was now pushing the #15.
"Still with you on the bottom. 4 to go. Starting to get a little bit racey up there, bud. Two to go, two to go here."
Hamlin passed with 2 to go. Earnhardt Jr had no help. Mikey was 17th.
"Outside there. All clear. One to go, bud."
"Push that 7."
"Clear low if you want it, bud. Coming to checkered here, bud. Checkered flag now."
Mikey crossed the stripe 17th as Hamlin picked up the win in Duel #2.
"I about wrecked this thing, man," Mikey said. "I don't know what we did when we pitted, but it was terrible. I turned it dead sideways and about saved it."
"I thought it looked a bit funny over there," the spotter replied.
"10-4," acknowledged the crew chief. "I saw the replay. I think it was the left rear. Good knowledge for Sunday. We'll have a little fun. Thanks everyone for your hard work, man."
"I don't have any idea what he said, but I'm just happy we didn't get a back-up out," Mikey said. "I thought we had that 96. I tried to push up in there, but I was just hanging on."
"Marcose said he appreciated everything there," it sounded like the spotter said.
Be sure to watch Mikey on Sunday as he runs his last Daytona 500 and his last NASCAR race. Coverage starts at 1pm ET on FOX.