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On 10th anniversary of first Daytona win, and mentor Earnhardt's death, Michael Waltrip wins in trucks

DAYTONA BEACH — Michael Waltrip spent all day exchanging stories about Dale Earnhardt. Some brought a smile to his face. Others brought tears.

He capped the 10-year anniversary of Earnhardt's death with more mixed emotions.

Waltrip won the NASCAR truck series opener at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, setting off more highs and lows in Victory Lane.

"This day, it was hard," Waltrip, 47, said. "I've been emotional all day long. … I just was determined to win the race for him.

"So I'm drained. I'm thankful. I didn't come here to celebrate winning the 2001 Daytona 500. I came here to celebrate Dale's life and honor him."

Waltrip passed Elliott Sadler in the final hundred yards of the NextEra Energy Resources 250, a decade to the day after his first Sprint Cup victory at Daytona — a checkered flag he took as Earnhardt, his car owner, was killed in a crash just behind Waltrip.

On Friday, Sadler and Waltrip pulled away after a restart on a two-lap sprint to the checkered flag. Waltrip pushed Sadler most of the way, then veered outside coming out of the final turn and edged Sadler by a few feet.

"If anybody deserves a win in today's race, it's probably Michael Waltrip," Sadler said.

BOWYER FIRST, PATRICK FOURTH: Clint Bowyer earned the pole for today's Nationwide series race minutes after Danica Patrick was knocked off the top spot. Patrick, running a partial NASCAR schedule around her full-time IndyCar slate, starts fourth in the DRIVE4COPD 300. Bowyer's lap of 180.821 mph beat Landon Cassill, moments after Cassill bumped Patrick. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Patrick's car owner, starts third.

RINGING ENDORSEMENTS: Brian Keselowski, who raced his way into Sunday's Daytona 500 thanks to a push from his brother Brad in Thursday's 150-mile Duel, said his phone hasn't stopped ringing since. Ray Evernham offered to pick up his tire bill for the weekend and Penske Racing, which fields cars for Brad Keselowski, offered a stronger engine for the underfunded No. 92 Dodge. "Honestly, I couldn't answer all the calls," Brian Keselowski said. "It's just been insane."

MILITARY SPENDING: The House voted to let the Pentagon keep using tax dollars to sponsor NASCAR teams. By 281-148, lawmakers rejected an effort by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., to end the practice. Her aides said the Army is spending $7 million on sponsorship this year, and the Air Force and National Guard are spending additional money in an effort to boost recruiting.

On 10th anniversary of first Daytona win, and mentor Earnhardt's death, Michael Waltrip wins in trucks 02/18/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 19, 2011 12:11am]

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