Waltrip faces hit-and-run, reckless driving charge

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The race-car driver said he fell asleep at the wheel early Saturday.

SHERRILL'S FORD, N.C. -- Michael Waltrip has been charged with reckless driving and hit-and-run after hitting a telephone pole and rolling his car about a mile away from his home over the weekend.

Waltrip, who suffered scratches to his face and cuts on his finger, said he fell asleep at the wheel when he wrecked early Saturday morning.

"I am really embarrassed about the accident, but I feel fortunate that I wasn't hurt," the two-time Daytona 500 winner said Tuesday.

"For 25 years I have had a great driving record. I consider myself to be a courteous and safe driver on public roads. I never expected to fall asleep behind the wheel of a car."

Police said the accident happened shortly before 2 a.m. when Waltrip lost control of his car while driving around a curve, overcorrected and his car rolled and hit a utility pole, said Sgt. Brian Sharpe of the State Highway Patrol in Catawba County.

The vehicle, which was on its side, was abandoned and there was blood in it when police arrived. Witnesses reported seeing the driver crawl from the car and leave.

"He left the scene," Sharpe said. "We got the plate number, realized it was him and tried to locate him."

An attempt to locate him that morning was unsuccessful, but police reached him the next day. Waltrip was not arrested, but has been charged with careless and reckless driving, as well as hit and run.

Waltrip is having a horrendous first season as a car owner/driver.

He was caught cheating during Daytona 500 preparations when NASCAR found a fuel additive in his engine, and was docked 100 driver points. His crew chief was fined a record $100,000 and suspended indefinitely, as was his competition director.

Meanwhile, he has failed to qualify for the five races since the 500.

Dale Jarrett, who drives one of Waltrip's cars, has needed a provisional to make five of the six races this year and is currently 37th in the points. David Reutimann, his other driver, has failed to make two races and is 43rd in points.

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