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

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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 signs Callum Ilott to young driver academy

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Ferrari has confirmed the signing of rising British racer Callum Ilott to its prestigious driver academy ahead of the 2018 season.

Ilott, 18, is a former member of Red Bull’s junior program, and has spent the last three years racing in the FIA European Formula 3 series, taking eight race wins.

After finishing the 2017 season fourth in the championship with Prema Powerteam, Ilott has now linked up with the Ferrari Driver Academy in the next step of his racing career, becoming its first British member.

“Ferrari Driver Academy is pleased to announce that British driver Callum Ilott is the latest promising young driver to be selected for its development program,” an announcement from Ferrari reads.

“18 years old, Ilott joins the FDA in his third season in car racing, having just finished the FIA F3 European Championship. He comes with a strong pedigree in international Formula 3 racing, having made the jump directly from karting as reigning European Champion.

“Ilott joins Charles Leclerc, Antonio Fuoco, Guan Yu Zhou, Giuliano Alesi, Marcus Armstrong and Enzo Fittipaldi in the programme, which supports talented young drivers on their career path in motorsport.”

Besides its existing roster, the Ferrari Driver Academy also played a part in the careers of Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and the late Jules Bianchi.