Two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip will drive the No. 40 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota for Hillman Racing in the 2012 Daytona 500; his 74th start at Daytona in one of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, the most of any driver.
|Michael Will Race The 500|
Speedweeks 2012 will be a busy affair for Waltrip. He will drive the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota in the Feb. 18 Budweiser Shootout, oversee his three NASCAR Sprint Cup teams at Michael Waltrip Racing and host several top executives from corporate America attending the races with the team. Waltrip will also work as a commentator for SPEED-TV’s Camping World Truck Series broadcasts and begin a new role as analyst for NASCAR On FOX’s Sunday broadcasts, joining elder brother and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Darrell Waltrip.
The younger Waltrip made the first of his 25 consecutive Daytona 500 starts in 1987. He and Darrell are the only brother combination to win the Daytona 500. Michael’s 2001 and 2003 victories make him one of only eight drivers with multiple wins in “The Great American Race.” This year’s race marks Michael Waltrip’s 767th Sprint Cup start and 1,054th NASCAR start. He, Richard Petty and Mark Martin are the only drivers with more than 1,000 starts in the sport’s three top touring series.
“Aaron’s really does make your dreams come true,” said Waltrip. “When I was a kid thinking about racing in Daytona I never dreamed I would start more NASCAR races there than anyone. That’s amazing. I appreciate what the folks at Hillman Racing -- including Joe Falk -- are putting together. Hopefully, my experience at Daytona will help them get out of the gate strong with their new team.”
Aaron’s Chief Operating Officer Ken Butler said the chance to have Waltrip drive the No. 40 while Mark Martin steers MWR’s No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine in the Daytona 500 was too good an opportunity to miss. “We could not be more pleased to work out a deal to sponsor Michael for his 26th consecutive start in the Daytona 500,” said Butler. “There isn't a better way to introduce our 2012 Dream Machine program than having both Mark Martin and Michael competing together in NASCAR’s biggest race. I look forward to watching Michael and Mark bringing our Dream Machines to the checkers side by side in the first and second spots.”
While Hillman Racing is making its NASCAR debut this season, the organization is anything but new to the sport. Team owner Mike Hillman Sr. played a key role in the founding of Germain Racing and was the architect of the group's two NASCAR championships in 2006 and 2010. Hillman acquired the team’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series assets following the conclusion of the 2011 season and is set to embark as owner and general manager of Hillman Racing for the 2012 season.
“I can’t think of a better way to start off the season than to have Michael Waltrip behind the wheel of our car at Daytona,” said Hillman. “I’ve been in this sport a long time, but I’ve never been so excited to go to Daytona. To have two Daytona 500 champions at the start of the season – with Ward Burton in the truck and Michael in the Cup car – positions Hillman Racing for a strong debut and a chance to win both races.”