Scoring No. 1 for No. 3
Michael Waltrip and his No. 15 machine claimed an emotional and dramatic first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory by 0.061 of a second at Daytona International Speedway with a last-lap, frontstretch pass of Elliott Sadler's No. 2 entry.
Waltrip raced second following a Lap 103 restart and drafted tightly with the No. 2 for a majority of the final trip around the 2.5-mile tri-oval before sliding the No. 15 to the high line and soaring beneath the checkered flag.
The 27-year NASCAR veteran and two-time Daytona 500 champion revisited Daytona International Speedway's Victory Lane on the 10-year anniversary of the passing of his mentor Dale Earnhardt, who sustained fatal injuries during the 2001 Daytona 500.
"It's very emotional. God Bless Dale, his family and his fans. I came here to celebrate his life with my black truck and No. 15. I didn't come to celebrate a win, but I'm just so thankful.
"I didn't know I could push Elliott all the way around there and I was just able to do it. When I pulled out, I didn't know how much my truck would bog down and if Elliott could tick back inside of me. I didn't know (I could win) until I saw the checkered. We have our feet under us, maybe we can do this Sunday, too," Waltrip said.
Sadler led a race-best 32 laps before crossing the finish line with his fourth career top-five and fifth career top-10 NCWTS finish.
"Michael and I worked really well together the whole race. When it got to the end, we started a tandem and I knew when we came off Turn 4 it was going to be hard to block him. I was trying to block him high. I didn't want him to get under me because I felt I had a better chance by pushing him high. He made a great move," Sadler said.
Clay Rogers, Miguel Paludo and Kyle Busch respectively rounded out the top five in the season-opening event that generated six lead changes among six drivers.
The series races next on Feb. 25 at Phoenix International Raceway. Coverage is set for an 8:00 p.m. start on SPEED Channel Motor Racing Network radio and Sirius XM Radio 128.
Fans can enjoy 225-mile NCWTS races on July 7 and Oct. 1 this season.
Story by Mike Schmaltz