Waltrip loves endurance challenges

Michael Waltrip is enjoying his ownership role with his NASCAR Sprint Cup organization this year, but he’s keeping busy with some outside interests, too.

Although he’s running only a limited NASCAR schedule, he’s getting in plenty of hours of competition. Next up on his schedule is the Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon in Lake Monticello, Va., on Sunday — which comes just hours after his two NASCAR Sprint Cup teams race Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

Waltrip has competed in several marathons, including the 2000 Boston Marathon. The triathlon Sunday includes a 0.9-mile swim course, a 24-mile bike course and 6.2-mile running course around Lake Monticello.

The competition comes a week after Waltrip tested a Ferrari in France for the 79th running of June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans — the world’s most famous endurance race. He and Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman will join Rui Aguas as the three drivers in the No. 78 AF Corse Ferrari in the GTE class.

Waltrip says that he uses “special events for motivation.”

That includes the times when he races, such as in this year’s Daytona 500 and at Talladega.

“I feel like it’s a privilege for me to get to do those things,” Waltrip said. “I just look forward to them so much. They motivate me; they inspire me. The triathlon is just a part of that. Keeping in shape, having boxes in your life that you always wanted to check and accomplish that. The marathons that I ran were just that.

“I didn’t run marathons because I have a marathon body; I just ran them because it was part of me being a race car driver. It motivated me to stay fit and focused on a goal and being able to accomplish running on my feet for four hours. I just always believed there would never be a race on Sunday tough enough that I couldn’t tackle. The triathlon is a part of that. It’s wanting to be able to race my car when I get a chance.”

As he heads into the triathlon, Waltrip admits that the part that worries him the most is swimming — he simply hasn’t had that much time to train in that area.

“I really haven’t swam at all, to be honest with you,” he said.

He was planning to work with his daughter’s swim coach to get as efficient in the water as possible before the event.

“I feel like I’m a pretty efficient runner and I’m really comfortable with the bike," he said. "I haven’t actually been on a bike that goes down the road. I’ve just been on the stationary bike, but I ride really hard and my last marathon I trained for I only went outside to run to verify what I was doing on the treadmill. I was confident that I was doing a good job on the treadmill pushing myself, and I’d go outside and run seven or eight miles just to see if I was helping myself.”

As to the 24-hour race, Waltrip can find some comparisons between endurance racing and running something like a triathlon. He likes to push himself in both areas.

“The 24-hour race is going to be physically demanding, and it’s really hot,” Waltrip said. “You don’t really realize how aerodynamic or how tight those things are filled up until you try to drive one on a 16-turn road course for two hours on a hot day with shifting and everything you have to do in that Ferrari.”

Waltrip and Kauffman spent last Sunday at the historic Circuit de la Sarthe in France testing the AF Corse Ferrari F430 they will race in the 24 hours of Le Mans on June 11-12.