Two-time Daytona 500 champ ending retirement at area race track

The plan to bring Michael Waltrip to Shadybowl Speedway started the same way most great racing stories do.

“While having a couple of beers with some of the drivers,” Waltrip said, “I told them I’d like to come join y’all and race one night.”

Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 champion and current NASCAR broadcaster with FOX, will compete with the Vores Compact Touring Series on the 3/10th-mile paved oval July 20. It will be his first appearance at the track that has also hosted NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and, most recently, Sterling Marlin last season.

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Waltrip, an Owensboro, Ky., native, got his start racing 4-cylinder subcompact cars at Kentucky Motor Speedway in 1981. He returns to his roots in a Toyota Celica with a special paint job courtesy of BJ’s Body Shop on Germantown Pike in Dayton.

When Waltrip started racing his paint scheme was modeled after his brother Darrell’s No. 11 Mountain Dew Buick Regal. Waltrip’s No. 11 Toyota will carry the same paint scheme, but with Monster Energy – which Waltrip has a partnership with – replacing Mountain Dew.

“I’m going to enjoy the opportunity and re-live that car,” Waltrip said. “I was a senior in high school and it was my first chance to race. My brother was my hero and I wanted my car to look like his. We’re going to paint that car up and go racing.”

Waltrip, 56, hasn’t raced since finishing eighth in the 2017 Daytona 500. It’s been about eight years since he raced a local track like Shadybowl. What does he know about the track dubbed the World’s Fastest Three-Tenth’s Mile Paved Oval?

“Nothing. I googled it and it looked pretty cool. We’ll go see what it’s all about,” Waltrip said. “I’ve traveled all over the country short track racing but I don’t recall that I’ve ever been there. I’ve heard of it.

“I just want to have fun. I want to go fast and I want to make sure I can be competitive. I’m going to feel pressure to (put on a good show) but it’ll be from me, not from others. It’ll be fun.”

Waltrip was the guest speaker at the Vores CTS awards banquet last year. That’s where the idea first came about. Steve Vore, owner of the series, took it from there.

“I knew I would race something somewhere,” Waltrip said of coming out of retirement. “This is a great opportunity to do just that.

“When I show up I want to beat everybody. I’m assuming everybody wants to beat everybody else, too. I don’t take offense to someone saying they’re going to beat me. I look forward to the opportunity to race. I appreciate those guys and how hard they work on their cars to get them on the track. I’m respectful of them and I hope to be respected as well.”

Gates open at noon with racing at 7 p.m. Tickets for the second annual Bowl Classic, sponsored by BJ’s Body Shop, are $14 for adults, $10 for seniors and $6 for kids 12-15. Kids 11-under are free.

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