Late move keys Waltrip victory in Food City 250

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com
After surviving a race filled with cautions, Michael Waltrip was able to land his Aaron's Dream Machine into victory lane, and himself flat on his back with his head stand celebration.
"I did the same head stand at Charlotte several weeks ago, but tonight it had a lot more difficulty to it. There was more moisture on the ground, which caused my head to slip out," said Waltrip.
Making the winning move past Ron Hornaday with the Food City 250 winding down, Waltrip pulled away to over the last 35 laps of the event for the victory.
Kevin Harvick took the top spot away from pole sitter Jason Keller on the first lap down the front stretch.
Keller dropped back to fifth in the first green flag run, and then on lap 17, Mike Bliss got turned around in race traffic, slamming the inside wall.
Several cars were in a skirmish on lap 27, as Brad Baker, Casey Mears and Stacy Compton all received minimal damage.
The local Food Country team, owned by Charlie Henderson, appeared to be on its way to posting their second top ten of the season. Running in seventh, driver Jay Sauter had to check up on upcoming traffic as Larry Gunselman lost control exiting turn four on lap 62, which collected also former Busch Series champion Greg Biffle.
Matt Kenseth showed his strength in the early going, as he moved his Alka-Seltzer Relief Ford up into the top five by lap 75, and David Green struggled by going down a lap before reaching lap 100.
All the leaders came into pit with the exception of Brian Vickers and Ron Hornaday.
Kevin Harvick had led every lap until that point, but after a slow pit stop struggling with a left front he managed to get some trash on his Goodyear tires with the restart to drop him toward the rear of the field.
"It was a good night for us," said Harvick. "We thought we had a flat tire that put us behind. We got up there in all that debris and stuff and couldn't catch back up."
Bobby Hamilton pulled off the track after being black flagged for smoking, then Jason Schuler spun out on lap 143, giving a break to Harvick before going down a lap to race leader Brian Vickers.
Hornaday took over the race lead when Vickers made a pit stop that dropped him back to 17th for the restart.
It didn't take long for the next caution to fly, with contact being made from behind, which caused the Yellow Transportation Dodge driven by Jamie McMurray to spin on the backstretch.
Joey Clanton showed his displeasure towards McMurray after being helped from behind, which landed him into the wall.
This prompted a meeting with the Busch Series officials, regarding McMurray, following the race.
Michael Waltrip took the lead from Hornaday coming off the fourth turn on lap 186, and on lap 196 nearly avoided crashing into the Sauter brothers of Johnny and Tim, who had spun.
On lap 200, Waltrip missed a shift on the restart, which allowed Hornaday and Kenseth make the pass.
Two laps later, Kenseth was trying to make a move underneath of Hornaday, allowing Waltrip to close up.
Waltrip made contact to the rear of Kenseth's car, which spun the second-place machine around, dropping him to the rear of the lead lap.
A short-lived green saw three cars bring out the caution on the front stretch.
Waltrip gave a bump to Hornaday in the middle of turns three and four on lap 216 to grab the lead, and two circuits later, points contender David Green was collected by Matt Kenseth after both guys spun down the front stretch.
"At Bristol you try your best to pass the guy when you get the opportunity," said Waltrip. "I got a fender down inside his rear wheel and then he tried to cut me off going into turn three, and we got stoved up a little, then we were gone."
The restart on lap 223, it didn't take but two laps for the action to take place again with Ashton Lewis getting into the side of Tim Fedewa, who was running seventh at the time.
The last restart was on lap 230, which saw Hornaday and Raines try to chase down the leader, but they had no success containing the Aaron's Dream Machine.
"We had an awesome car all night, and our strategy was right up there with the race car," said Hornaday. "Michael gave me a little love tap to get by me there, and then let me settled down and get back with it."
Ted Musgrave was able to muscle his way to third after getting past Raines, who dropped back to eighth in the closing laps.
"It was a good car, a car capable of winning the race," said Musgrave. "I got held up a little bit by the 33 car, and if he we could have got past him earlier then we might of had a chance to catch Michael."
There was excitement in the final lap when Mike Wallace blew a motor on the backstretch, and the cars of Scott Riggs and Jeff Fuller spun while crossing the finish line. Shane Hmeil wound up fourth while Harvick climbed back into a fifth place finish.
"If we didn't have to come from the back twice tonight, we might could have won this race," said Hmeil. "Who knows? It just feels good beating Kevin Harvick at Bristol. That's doing a lot."
Johnson City driver Brad Teague posted his first top 20 of the season, with a 20th-place finish in the sponsored Ramey Ford.
Scott Riggs maintains the points lead by stretching his advantage to 28 points over Green.
After falling a lap down early in the going, Green salvaged a 17th-place finish, as Riggs wound up ninth after battling back from missing his pit stall, which sent him to the rear of the field.
"The car was bad really all weekend," said Riggs. "We just kept on working on it trying to make it better and never gave up, striving hard digging and clawing for every inch."
Hornaday leaves Bristol in third place 69 points out of first, while Keller lurks fourth and Vickers fifth, as 135 points separates the first five.
"I felt like after Happy Hour that we were pretty good," said Keller. "We ran a little different set-up. We knew that going in, but I don't know if we got enough laps in or what."
Waltrip won this same event 10 years ago, where he commemorated the memory of Alan Kulwicki with a polish victory lap.
"I can remember winning this race 10 years ago, where I got to run a Polish victory lap for Alan Kulwicki, so it was neat to come back here ten years later and do the same thing," said Waltrip.