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Waltrip Gets His Bearings at Sebring

Hoping for first start at the 12 Hours next month

Michael Waltrip drove the TRG Porsche 911 GT3 at Sebring. Photo by Dan Boyd/American Le Mans SeriesThere definitely is a “cool” factor of racing at Sebring International Raceway. The latest to be bitten by the bug is Michael Waltrip, who drove his first laps around America’s toughest road course Thursday morning. The two-time Daytona 500 winner is eyeing his first start in America’s greatest sports car race following the second day of the annual Sebring Winter Test for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.

“There’s a lot more turns than I thought!” Waltrip said. “I haven’t really had a chance to experience it yet because I’m constantly trying to figure out where I am. I’ve gone really slow. I’m still learning the turns. I can’t imagine how fun it’s going to be when I know the turns and I’m able to commit to them and get on the gas and go.”

He drove a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for TRG during the test although its widely believed he will drive a Ferrari F458 Italia in the 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida next month. Waltrip drove a Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last summer and at the Spa 24 Hours in 2010. But he says Sebring is its own animal – “a beast,” as he described it.

Michael Waltrip Photo by Dan Boyd/American Le Mans Series“I always remember the race ending in the dark, with the checkered flag flying and all the celebration at night. I thought that was really cool… that and seeing the prototypes bouncing all around here,” he said. “In NASCAR the tracks are really smooth and that’s not the coolest. The cool ones are the ones with some character and bumps. Sebring represents all that.

“Spencer (Pumpelly) has helped me and Rui (Aguas) has helped,” he added. “I’ve been studying this map for a week, but that doesn’t do (expletive). It’s not three-dimensional. I need to come up with a better way to prepare for these tracks I’ve never been to before like Le Mans and Spa. That’s what’s cool about these tracks. They’re all their own animal. Sebring is definitely different than all those because there’s no elevation change and there’s way more bumps. I’m enjoying myself.”

The 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón begins with the 60th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on Saturday on March 17. The race, set for 10:30 a.m. ET and will be broadcast March 18 on ABC and shown live on ESPN3 or ALMS.com. Visit www.ALMS.com for information on tickets and area accommodations.

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