Michael Waltrip to run final NASCAR race in Daytona 500

Michael Waltrip will run his final race in NASCAR on February 26 when he contests the Daytona 500. The news was released on Thursday.

“I have experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows at the Great American Race,” he stated. “But when you are a NASCAR racer who has the privilege of racing here, you love Daytona no matter what happens.”

Waltrip, a two-time winner of the 500, signed with Premium Motorsports to run the race in the #15 Toyota Camry with sponsorship from Aaron’s, Inc. He had driven with the number from 2001–2005 with Dale Earnhardt, Inc., for whom he won his two 500s and all four of his Cup Series victories. The number was later used by Michael Waltrip Racing for Clint Bowyer. After MWR’s shutdown in 2015, Waltrip drove the #83 of BK Racing in the 2016 Daytona 500.

In addition to being his final race, the 2017 Daytona 500 marks the 30th time he has competed in the event. In 29 races, he has recorded two wins and seven top-10 finishes. He has also won two Duel qualifying races. Although he failed to qualify on three occasions, most recently in 2012, the #15 team possesses a charter, meaning Waltrip will be locked into the race regardless of how he performs in qualifying or the Can-Am Duels.

The Fox NASCAR analyst’s sponsorship with Aaron’s has lasted 17 seasons, including serving as a primary sponsor of MWR’s #55 car, nicknamed the Aaron’s Dream Machine. “I can reflect on my career with a lot of emotions and one company that has been there for me is Aaron’s,” Waltrip said. “I started working with Aaron’s almost 20 years ago with some commercials and six Xfinity Series races when I had a team behind my house.” Waltrip’s #15 for the 2017 Daytona 500 will feature a “Thanks Mikey” design.

The Daytona 500 has been an emotional event for Waltrip. In 2001, he won the Great American Race with help from his DEI teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Earnhardt. However, the celebration was marred by the death of his owner and friend Earnhardt Sr. in a crash on the final lap. Two years later, he won his second 500 after rain forced the race to be declared on lap 109.

“In my 30th and final Daytona 500, I am just going to enjoy every moment and be happy that Aaron’s has given me one more opportunity to hoist the Harley J. Earl trophy.”

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