WHEN IT comes to success on the racetrack, Michael Waltrip will never be confused with his brother, Darrell, a three-time Winston Cup champion in the 1980s. But over the last two weeks Michael (right) has been running as strongly as anyone in the Nextel Cup series. Following a runner-up finish at Phoenix on April 23, Waltrip placed third at Talladega on Sunday; those high finishes lifted him from 28th to 16th in the point standings.
Can Waltrip, whose spot on the DEI race team is rumored to be in jeopardy, keep this momentum going and qualify for the Chase for the Championship? The answer will go a long way toward determining whether he'll return to DEI in 2006. Talk in the garage has Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s buddy Martin Truex Jr., who's running a limited Cup schedule this year, possibly replacing Waltrip on a fulltime basis in 2006. Truex drove a car co-owned by Little E to victory in last Saturday's Busch Series race at Talladega.
"If you look at my career statistics, it's not pretty," says Waltrip, who has won only four times in 615 career Cup starts. "This is the first time that I've had back-to-back top five finishes. I'm not proud of that stat, but I think our team is moving along pretty good." -- L.A.