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Only Yesterday: 10 Years Ago, Michael Waltrip Made Positive Impact Amid Tragedy

When people think about what Michael Waltrip did in 2013, most will point to his team, Michael Waltrip Racing, as the culprit of the biggest controversy in recent NASCAR history: Spingate. The incident occurred right before the playoffs, making it the biggest story throughout the rest of the 2013 season. But that’s an article for another time.

What most people forget is that Waltrip, MWR and its drivers — Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. — paid tribute to and honored victims of two different tragedies that befell 2012 and 2013.

In 2013, Waltrip was in the midst of his part-time career, in which he typically just ran the four superspeedway races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. While Waltrip typically ran for his own team, he put together a deal with the now-defunct Swan Racing to run for the team in the Daytona 500.

Waltrip was supposed to run the No. 30, but plans changed in late 2012 in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that saw 20 first-graders and six adults tragically lose their lives. Waltrip and then-NASCAR CEO Brian France visited the Newtown, Conn. school, along with other members of NASCAR and Swan Racing to meet with the victims’ families.

Shortly after the tragedy, in January 2013, Waltrip and Swan unveiled the No. 26 car (to represent the total number of people who perished). Instead of the car sporting Swan’s typical red and yellow colors from 2012, the car was unveiled with a green and white livery, the colors of the elementary school, with a big ribbon adorning the hood.

Waltrip was “sponsored” by the Sandy Hook Special Support Fund, where people could donate to Newtown. Along with this, all three of his MWR cars would have a decal on them that said “Text ‘Newtown’ to 80888” as another way of spreading attention to the tragedy.

Waltrip said at the time that the effort was like nothing he had ever done behind the wheel of a racecar. He finished the Daytona 500 in the 22nd position. But it would not be the last time he would honor a major tragedy.

See also
Only Yesterday: Dale Earnhardt Gets Beat at His Own Game at Pocono

On April 15, a terrorist attack during the Boston Marathon resulted in three deaths and nearly 300 additional injuries. Waltrip felt personally affected by the tragedy, as at the time, he was the only NASCAR driver to have run the Boston Marathon, having done it in 2000 (for what it’s worth, he finished with a time of four hours, 33 minutes).

“The news coming out of Boston this week was very personal to me,” Waltrip said at the time. “When I ran the Boston Marathon in 2000, I remember thinking about what a privilege it was to be able to participate and all the hard work it took to be there.”

In response, though Waltrip himself didn’t compete, all three of MWR’s cars once again sported a decal to bring light to the tragedy at Kansas Speedway the ensuing race. Only this time, it was a lot more noticeable.

Instead of its normal number fonts, Bowyer’s No. 15, Martin’s No. 55 and Truex’s No. 56 were redesigned to look identical to “bibs” — numbers worn across a runner’s chest in any given running race.

It’s a shame that the story of MWR honoring victims of tragedies may forever be overshadowed by Spingate. It’s obvious that had Spingate not happened, MWR may have lasted a lot longer than it did. On top of that, the 2007 rocket fuel controversy that plagued the team makes it seem like MWR was not a good organization.

However, while we should remember both of these massive penalties that MWR incurred so they don’t happen again in NASCAR, we should also remember how Waltrip and MWR did their best to ensure that the victims of two horrible tragedies in late 2012 and 2013 would not be forgotten.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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Alex Curtis

This article is hilarious and the writer should be embarrassed. Michael Waltrip turned out to be the biggest cheater in NASCAR history. He cheated at the very first race MWR attempted to qualify for and didn’t stop. Then he also got caught stealing a part from a rival team. The end came when his partner was so embarrassed by the ridiculous actions of Waltrip he pulled out. “Mikey” is a disgrace and should not be honored by anyone or any organization.

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