Waltrip Enjoys Turnaround

It's an old cliche but one Michael Waltrip is happy to hear.

What a difference a year makes.

After last season's Daytona debacle when Waltrip was disqualified for an illegal fuel substance, an incident that cast a shadow over the entire Toyota camp, this year's performance has nearly erased those bitter memories.

Waltrip turned the second-fastest lap of Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying session to lock himself into next Sunday's running of "The Great American Race."

“I didn’t expect to sit on the front row,” Waltrip said. “I knew we would have a chance, but what I hoped was that we could be the fastest car with a star beside it (go-or-go-homers). There is much relief for everybody.”

The good news extended to Waltrip's teammate David Reutimann, who posted the fourth-best time of the session and locked up a spot in the 500.

"I didn’t care coming into this if I started dead last, as long as I started,” Reutimann said. “I can’t take any credit for today. Ryan Pemberton and my entire Aaron’s Dream Machine team and Toyota deserve it all. We ran a 48.468 (seconds) yesterday in practice and picked up quite a bit (48.267 seconds) today”

Reutimann said the feeling coming into this season was completely different than it was in 2007.

"It was just a different feel coming into the garage this time,” Reutimann said. “I felt really good. We all have a different mentality at the track and back at the shop. We have great people in place that have wonderful work ethic. Last year, we had our struggles and we are putting all of that behind us. Thankfully, Toyota hasn’t given up on us. I’m a firm believer in Toyota and I feel like we will be in the position to win this year.”

Waltrip will take some time to enjoy the successful debut and reflect on the stunning turnaround his second year team has made.

"I can't tell you how many dollars were lost and how much credibility was taken away with that a year ago," Waltrip said. "I had to work really, really hard over the last year in order to try to prove that we were worthy of this opportunity."

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