Michael Waltrip has guaranteed himself a starting place in this year's Daytona 500 by forming an alliance with Doug Bawel, the former owner of Penkse Racing's now defunct number 77 car.
Waltrip, who signed for Bill Davis Racing this season after leaving DEI, has combined with Bawel to form Waltrip-Jasper Racing Company, to field the number 55 NAPA Auto Parts Dodge in the 2006 Nextel Cup Series.
Travis Kvapil finished 34th in the cup standings last season, and because the top 35 in owner points from 2005 get a guaranteed starting spot for the first five races of the season, the move ensures that double Daytona 500 winner Waltrip will be able to have a shot at a third crown.
Bawel will serve on the board of directors and will be active in business management and sanctioning body relationships for the new company.
As Waltrip had signed for Bill Davis Racing after leaving DEI last season, Waltrip-Jasper racing has understandably contracted BDR to supply the car, engines and the majority of personnel for the effort.
"I have been in the sport as a driver for 22 years and the logical progression for me was ownership at the highest level," Waltrip said.
"This is such a big step, that I wanted to partner with someone who has intimate knowledge about ownership at this level.
"Doug Bawel and I have been friends for a number of years and I have always respected the way he handled himself in the garage and with NASCAR."
Waltrip's long-time confidant, Bobby Kennedy will serve as the competition director and Larry Carter, a veteran crew chief, has also been contracted.
Ty Norris, former executive vice president of DEI, will serve as the general manager overseeing the operation.