Michael Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 winner driving his final Great American Race, went out in style Sunday with an eighth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway.
It was Waltrip's 30th career start in NASCAR's biggest race across a driving career that has spanned three decades. It was his 56th start overall at Daytona, where he also won one July race and therefore accounted for three of his four career wins in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
"It's going to be a great memory to have a top 10," said Waltrip, whose main job these days is as a FOX Sports television analyst. "I had so many times I was in the middle of a crash and just missed it. So, you do a good job and you get lucky both.
"At the end I just lost the draft and that is unfortunate because I was able to weave my way past people. I had a really, really good-handling car. I'm thankful that I survived and I'm thankful for being able to run up front and I'm happy about the finish. I'm ready for it to be my last one, so it's going to be a good one to remember it by."
It was an eventful night marred by multiple multi-car accidents. By the time there were 50 laps remaining, Waltrip was one of only five drivers left in the 40-car field who had yet to suffer damage to his machine.
"I was in the middle of every wreck and was fortunate enough to do a nice job and miss a couple of them … and was able to bring the ol' Aaron's Dream Machine home," Waltrip said of his long-time sponsor that adorned the No. 15 Toyota he ran for owner Jay Robinson and Premium Motorsports. "My Toyota did a great job and my engine ran perfectly. I'm so thankful because everybody just kind of let me do my thing and run my last race.
"My sponsors were so nice and my friends were really kind to send me off -- and (I'm) just blessed to not tear my car up. I passed some of those guys we talk about on Sunday's (on the FOX NASCAR race telecasts) so now I can rub that in a little bit. That feels good."