Michael Waltrip admits what few will publicly: Talladega Nights is great


Michael Waltrip serves many roles in the NASCAR community: broadcaster, team owner, and this week, restrictor-plate driving specialist at Talladega.

He also admits “Talladega Nights” – the Will Ferrell NASCAR comedy from 2006 – is the best racing-related movie he’s seen.

“No doubt,” he told USA Today Sports’ Jeff Gluck. “To me, all the rest of them don’t capture what it’s all about. ‘Talladega Nights’ wasn’t trying to do that – it was just a comedy that’s hilarious, based on NASCAR. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then I think you’ve probably got some issues. I love laughing at myself and I love that movie.”

“Talladega Nights” made an actual on-track appearance in last year’s spring Talladega race. Kurt Busch and Phoenix Racing were able to run a livery similar to how Ferrell, or Ricky Bobby’s, appeared at the end of the movie.

Waltrip’s driving schedule has been reduced to just Daytona and Talladega, but that’s just as well given his other commitments. He still considers himself “great” at those two tracks – where he took all four career wins (three Daytona, one Talladega) – and merely “good” everywhere else.

This week, he’ll drive an Alabama Crimson Tide paint scheme on his No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota. Mark Martin has the week off, and Brian Vickers will be on standby for Denny Hamlin after Hamlin starts the race.

Waltrip has also dabbled in sports car racing with Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner and business partner Rob Kauffman. Waltrip raced in the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans, and finished in the top 10 of the GT class in a Ferrari 458 at this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.