Michael Waltrip was in no mood to hide his enthusiasm as he and Univ. of Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart unveiled Michael Waltrip Racing's (MWR) No. 55 "Dream Machine" at Kentucky Speedway Thursday afternoon.

Waltrip's Aaron's, Inc., ride sports a paint scheme that pays tribute to the Wildcats 2012 NCAA men's basketball national championship team. On the hood, the message reads, "Nation8l Champions UK," a reference to the Wildcats' eighth national championship, claimed with a 67-59 win over University of Kansas on April 2.

Waltrip will race the car in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. The "Dream Machine" and the Wildcats' national championship trophy will be on display thru Saturday at the Aaron's, Inc., display along the speedway concourse.

"Obviously, it's a really fun weekend for me getting to race in my home state and getting to honor the championship team that Mitch and all the guys at the Univ. of Kentucky constructed," Waltrip said. "I went down to New Orleans and watched the game myself, along with my buddy from Kansas, Clint Bowyer. Obviously, that was really fun for me as well, to have bragging rights after that game."

The 2012 national championship game provided stark viewing contrast to Kentucky games in Waltrip's past.

"When I was a kid growing up, I used to sit in my home in Owensboro, Ky., and watch the replays of Kentucky games after the 10 o'clock news. Mom and Dad would let me stay up late on those nights so I could watch my team play," Waltrip said. "They have been my team my whole life — I have never cheered for another team, and to be able to race this car and honor the program is a real blessing." Barhnart said the decision to partner with MWR was a slam-dunk no-brainer.

"They came to us and said they have done this with other schools when they won national championships. Clearly, Michael has been a fan of Kentucky for a long time. For him to say, 'Hey, I want to put the logo on the car and let's go do it at Kentucky Speedway,' it's a great idea, we're in. It's a nice partnership," Barnhart said.

Waltrip's last NSCS victory came on Sept. 28, 2003, at Talledega Superspeedway.

Taking a home state Quaker State 400 victory with the Wildcats' colors would be a big deal for Waltrip and UK's Big Blue Nation fan base.

"You know, Dale Jr. is pretty big-time, and when he won that race in Michigan it was a crazy event. You drive this Kentucky car into Victory Lane here, it could possibly top that," Waltrip said. Saturday's Quaker State 400 anchors a NASCAR tripleheader weekend that opens tonight at 8 p.m., with the Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 and continues tomorrow night with the Nationwide Series Feed The Children 300.

Tickets, campsites and daily infield Fan Zone passes can be purchased by logging on to tickets pages of this Web site, calling 859-578-2300 or visiting the Kentucky Speedway corporate offices at 1 Speedway Drive, Sparta, Ky., 41086 just off of Interstate 71 Exit 57 and the newly-expanded, seven-lane Kentucky Highway 35.

Story by Jeff Hibbs

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