Originally created 04/13/02

Waltrip to start 19th in return to racing



MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Darrell Waltrip chalks up his one-race return to competitive driving as research for his television job.

The three-time Winston Cup champion, who retired in 2000 to become a Fox television broadcaster, qualified 19th Friday for the Advance Auto Parts 250 NASCAR truck series race.

Ted Musgrave won the pole when he was given a second chance to try, and Jason Leffler also got a front row spot. Winston Cup car owner Andy Petree also was a surprise, qualifying third for his debut in the series.

But all eyes were on Waltrip during his run. The popular former driver had been as high as fifth-fastest in practice before the time trials.

Waltrip said the opportunity to fill in when Stacy Compton developed a scheduling conflict was too good to pass up, and should prove useful.

"I never raced with any of these new safety devices, the HANS or the Hutchens," he said. "And you hear the guys talk about the tires, the difference between the way they are now and a couple of years ago, so I just needed some fresh information for our telecasts on Sunday," Waltrip said.

Waltrip has raced twice in the truck series at Martinsville, finishing fifth after starting at the back of the 36-truck field in 1996. He said a testing session Tuesday helped get him reacclimated to racing.

"It was a matter of a couple times out on the race track," he said. "It's either there or it isn't. If you never had it, it ain't never there and if you did, it'll come back, and it came back pretty quickly."

Musgrave came back quickly, too, when NASCAR gave his a second chance at his qualifying run. His first was interrupted after one lap because the governing body's electronic scoring system was malfunctioning.

Musgrave, the co-points leader with Robert Pressley, turned a lap at 92.864 mph to bump Jason Leffler to the outside of the front row.

"We just went back out and ran about the same time we did the first time," Musgrave said of his second run. "It really didn't matter that much, but it's kind of unfortunate that it happened that way."

Leffler's lap came at 92.746 mph.

The two Dodges will be followed off the line for Saturday's 250-lap event by the Chevrolet of Petree and the Ford of Rick Crawford.

"I'm really surprised. This is better than I expected," Petree said.

Petree and Waltrip spent some time earlier in the day joking about who would run better, but Waltrip would clearly be the favorite there.

With 11 career victories at Martinsville, he's second only to Richard Petty's 15 among all drivers, and eager to get started Saturday.

"I said I had no high expectations," Waltrip joked before qualifying. "Come in and have fun. I just want to win the pole and the race. That's all."