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Waltrip wins at Daytona on anniversary of Earnhardt's death



Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Ten years to the date of his bittersweet victory in the Daytona 500, Michael Waltrip won the season-opening Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

Friday marked the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death in the Daytona 500. Waltrip drove for Earnhardt's NASCAR Cup Series team when he won the Daytona 500, but Waltrip's first career victory in the series was marred by Earnhardt's fatal crash during the final lap of that race.

Earnhardt was a seven-time Cup champion and the sport's biggest star at the time.

After Waltrip's emotional win in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 truck race, the 47-year-old driver was at a loss for words in Daytona's victory lane, as one of his daughters, Macy, embraced him after he climbed out of his car.

"God bless Dale, his family and his fans," Waltrip said. "I came here to celebrate his life with the black truck and my 15 [Sprint Cup] car. I didn't come here to celebrate a win."

Waltrip's victory came in typical thrilling fashion at Daytona. He made a sling-shot pass on Elliott Sadler for the lead about a hundred yards from the finish line. It was his first truck win. He became the 22nd driver to win a race in all three of NASCAR's national touring series.

The 250-miler at Daytona featured two major accidents in the late stages of the race.

The second pileup occurred in the closing laps, involving 10 drivers. Brad Sweet got loose and turned sideways in the middle of a tight pack of trucks, triggering the melee along the frontstretch.

"I honestly don't know what happened," Sweet said. "I felt like somebody may have got my right or left rear corner, and then I went spinning up into the wall."

Kyle Busch, pole-sitter Austin Dillon, and Todd Bodine, who is the reigning series champion, were among those involved in the wreck.

"It's not a great way to start the season," Bodine said.

Sadler and Waltrip, the two front runners at the time, were the only ones unscathed by the incident. NASCAR halted the race for 10 minutes. The sixth and final caution set up a green-white-checkered finish.

Waltrip ran second to Sadler for the last restart, and remained right behind Sadler until he made his winning move shortly after they came out of turn four on the final lap.

"I didn't know I could push Elliott all the way around there, but I was able to do it," Waltrip said.

Waltrip, who made his first truck start since the 2006 season-finale at Homestead, FL, drove the No.15 Toyota for Billy Ballew Motorsports, which formed a partnership with Vision Aviation Racing during the off-season. Waltrip is also making his 25th consecutive start in the Daytona 500 this weekend, driving a car with a special paint scheme commemorating Earnhardt.

Sadler, a full-time competitor in the Nationwide Series this year, drove a truck for Kevin Harvick Inc.

"Michael is an amazing drafter, and we all know that," Sadler said. "When we came off of turn four, I tried to block him a little bit high, but he had such a good run that I probably wasn't quick enough to block him. I didn't want to give him the inside either. He made a good move, and that's just the way it goes."

Clay Rogers finished third, Miguel Paludo -- a rookie this season -- and Busch rounded out the top-five.

Jennifer Jo Cobb took the sixth spot, followed by Earnhardt's 21-year-old grandson, Jeffrey. Ricky Carmichael was eighth, James Buescher ninth, and Matt Crafton 10th.

Buescher led for most of the first half, as drivers ran single file to get more familiar with Daytona's newly paved surface.

The first big crash occurred three-quarters of the way into the race. Travis Kvapil, the 2003 truck titleholder, blew his left rear tire and backed into the wall between turns three and four, creating an accordion effect.

"I could feel the left rear kind of shake and vibrate, and I knew that it was going to be big," said Kvapil, who returns to the series full-time this year. "I got my hand out and let those guys know that I was checking up and trying to get up out of the way, but it blew out and turned me around."

Four-time truck champion Ron Hornaday was one of the 14 drivers caught in that pileup.

"That's what you get when you're around here; it's Daytona," Hornaday said.

02/19 00:38:25 ET


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