When the Coca-Cola 600 kicks off later today, Michael Waltrip will make his 262nd consecutive start, which ranks sixth on the all-time list. But I'm favor of adding a big fat asterisk to Waltrip's spot on the list, because he didn't earn his spot, he bought it.
Now, granted, I am very much unfamiliar with NASCAR's rules and traditions and customs. I don't know if this sort of thing is commonplace or not. But apparently, if you aren't good enough to qualify for a particular field, you can just buy someone else's spot. That's what Waltrip has done here.
He finished 47th in the qualifying, which wasn't good enough. He's also not in the top 35 in car owner points, so he wasn't guaranteed a spot. But Derrick Cope was faster than Waltrip in the qualifying, and he got made the field. Waltrip is giving him some money, repainting his car, and taking his spot in the field. How weak is that? Here's Waltrip's explanation:
"You can look at it as, "Michael bought Derrike's ride, but that's not the case. That's not how it worked," Waltrip said. "What happened was we said, "If you would be willing for Michael to drive, we'll sponsor the car and that way you can go to Dover and Pocono and on down the road and have a better chance of success going forward."'
Tell yourself whatever you have to, pal. Congratulations on keeping your streak* intact.
Waltrip buys way into 600 [SportingNews.com]