Michael Waltrip is a common name to see when scanning the entry list for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races held at Talladega Superspeedway.
The two-time Daytona 500 champion loves racing on the series larger, and faster, venues! The fall race at Talladega is no different as the veteran driver will pilot the No. 66 MyAFibStory.com Toyota.
Waltrip is known for having SEC football teams such as Auburn or the Crimson Tide of Alabama splashed across his hood for races at ‘Dega. That’s been a normal site for Waltrip since he retired as a full time driver. So why the change from college football fun to something serious such as arterial fibrillation? It's a personal message and quest for Waltrip.
Toughest time of Waltrip's life
According to Waltrip his hardest hit in life came when his sister called to tell him their mother, Margaret Waltrip, had suffered a major stoke due to arterial fibrillation which is better known as AFib. Twenty-five years later his mother’s stroke has open up an avenue in which Waltrip can help spread the word about AFib.
“My mom unfortunately suffered a stroke 25 years ago due to AFib (Atrial fibrillation),” Waltrip said. “Michael Waltrip Racing and I have partnered with Janssen Pharmaceuticals to raise awareness of AFib -- 2.7 million people live with AFib. Mom was one of those that had a stroke as a result of her AFib. So, life for mom today is very challenging.”
The stroke left Waltrip’s mother, Margaret, partially paralyzed. Over time her mobility continued to deteriorate until she was confined to a wheelchair. According to Waltrip his mother now requires 24-hour care.
Michael's sister Connie Waltrip Brinkley, who lives next door, heads things up but does so with the help of a “well-choreographed dance” done by a combination of hired caregivers.
A purpose for Racing
Every professional racecar driver has a purpose for racing and it’s often called winning and getting a paycheck. That’s obvious. But for a part time driver and team owner - somebody like Michael Waltrip - a special reason may lie behind the decision to get back behind the wheel. MyAFibStory seems to fit right in with Waltrip’s love of racing at Talladega.
Michael will pilot the No. 66 MyAFibStory.com Toyota in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway. His goal is more than just on-track success. Waltrip says he wants to bring awareness to AFib, the risks, and the treatment options.
"She’s stuck in a wheelchair and isn’t able to get up and enjoy the things in life that she would like to," Waltrip said. "I went to my mom and said, ‘They’re going to make a video about you, Mom.’ At first, as any 87-year-old probably would be, it didn’t seem like the best idea to her. But, the more we talked about it, she said, ‘Son, if I could help one person not be in a wheelchair because of my story, then it’s worth doing.’”
Waltrip is encouraging fans to visit MyAFibStory.com to upload photos of themselves supporting AFib awareness. Many of those fan photos appear on the No. 66 car this weekend.
Waltrip at Talladega
Waltrip has raced at Talladega Superspeedway an amazing 56 times heading into this weekend’s Geico 500. He’s won a race and sat on the pole at the famed speedway but his true numbers come in the form of top-tens and top-twenty's!
Since 1986, the year of his first race at Talladega, Waltrip has finished in the top-ten 16 times and in the top-twenty 28 times. His average finish at the track is 19.9 according to NASCAR stats. He’s raced under seven different owners, including his own team, one of which was the Legendary Wood Brothers. His single win at the track was for Dale