The next Class of 2012 Hall of Fame inductee we are profiling is Darrell Waltrip.
Darrell Lee Waltrip was born February 5th, 1947 in Owensboro, Kentucky and started racing at the age of 12 behind the wheel of go-karts. His family would later build a 36 Chevrolet Coupe that he would race in local dirt track races. Even has a child, he was brash and outspoken but he dominated. Waltrip made his NASCAR debut at the age of 25 in the 1972 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, and would finish 38th after an engine failure. His first win in the top series would come in the 1975 Music City USA in Nashville.
During the early years of Waltrip’s career, his wife, Stevie Waltrip, was the first NASCAR wife to attend the races and sit in the pit box, something almost all the NASCAR wives now do. Stevie learned to calculate gas mileage, a hugely important function in the sport, and would monitor the race listening to race communications between the crew chief and Waltrip.
From 1972-2000, Darrell Waltrip would win a total of 84 races, was a three time NASCAR Champion(1981,1982, and 1985), five time winner of the Coca-Cola 600(1978,1979, 1985, 1988, 1989) and he started on the pole for 59 Cup Series races. He is a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Waltrip is recognized by many in the sport as NASCAR’s first “total package driver.” He was media savvy, articulate, attractive, and possessed the driving skills that would take him to the pinnacle of the sport. Today’s NASCAR driver fits the mold that Waltrip first ushered in to the sport in the 1970s.
After his retirement from the sport, Waltrip became an analyst and broadcast for Fox Sports. His opinions, views, and comments carry considerable weight with drivers, team owners, fans, and high ups in NASCAR. He definitely isn’t shy about expressing his views.
Waltrip may be remembered most for his 1989 Daytona 500. His post race interview with CBS pit reporter, Mike Joy, became famous with Waltrip shouting “I won the Daytona 500! I won the Daytona 500! Wait, this is the Daytona 500 ain’t it?…Thank God!” and would go on to do the “Ickey Shuffle” dance in Victory Lane.
Come back tomorrow as we profile crew chief, Dale Inman.