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Waltrip Takes First Laps At Sebring

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 9 2012

Michael Waltrip took laps at Sebring in a TRG Porsche this week. (Photo courtesy of the American Le Mans Series)

RacinToday.com

NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip’s foray into sports car racing continues this week when he tested at Sebring for next month’s annual 12-hour race.

Waltrip, who drove his first laps at Sebring on Thursday morning. The two-time Daytona 500 winner is eyeing his first start at the track following the second day of the annual Sebring Winter Test for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.

“There’s a lot more turns than I thought!” Waltrip said. “I haven’t really had a chance to experience it yet because I’m constantly trying to figure out where I am. I’ve gone really slow. I’m still learning the turns. I can’t imagine how fun it’s going to be when I know the turns and I’m able to commit to them and get on the gas and go.”

He drove a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for TRG during the test although he will likely drive a Ferrari F458 Italia in the 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida next month. Waltrip drove a Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last summer, at the Spa 24 Hours in 2010 and at the Rolex 24 earlier this month. But he says Sebring is its own animal – “a beast,” as he described it.

“I always remember the race ending in the dark, with the checkered flag flying and all the celebration at night. I thought that was really cool… that and seeing the prototypes bouncing all around here,” he said. “In NASCAR the tracks are really smooth and that’s not the coolest. The cool ones are the ones with some character and bumps. Sebring represents all that.

“Spencer (Pumpelly) has helped me and Rui (Aguas) has helped,” he added. “I’ve been studying this map for a week, but that doesn’t do (expletive). It’s not three-dimensional. I need to come up with a better way to prepare for these tracks I’ve never been to before like Le Mans and Spa. That’s what’s cool about these tracks. They’re all their own animal. Sebring is definitely different than all those because there’s no elevation change and there’s way more bumps. I’m enjoying myself.”

The 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón begins with the 60th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on Saturday on March 17. The race, set for 10:30 a.m. ET and will be broadcast March 18 on ABC and shown live on ESPN3 or ALMS.com. Visit ALMS.com for information on tickets and area accommodations.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 9 2012
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