FORD MOTORSPORT NOTES & QUOTES Monday, November 16, 1998 1998 NASCAR THUNDER SPECIAL MOTEGI COCA-COLA 500 ADVANCE DARRELL WALTRIP WILL BE RETURNING TO THE FORD CAMP...
FORD MOTORSPORT NOTES & QUOTES Monday, November 16, 1998
1998 NASCAR THUNDER SPECIAL MOTEGI COCA-COLA 500 ADVANCE DARRELL WALTRIP WILL BE RETURNING TO THE FORD CAMP FOR ONE RACE AS HE GETS BEHIND THE WHEEL OF THE NO. 88 QUALITY CARE SERVICE/FORD CREDIT TAURUS FOR THIS WEEKEND'S NASCAR WINSTON CUP EXHIBITION RACE IN MOTEGI, JAPAN. WALTRIP, A THREE-TIME NASCAR WINSTON CUP CHAMPION, RANKS THIRD ON NASCAR'S ALL-TIME WINSTON CUP VICTORY LIST WITH 84.
DARRELL WALTRIP -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- AS THIS RACE GETS CLOSER DO YOU FIND YOURSELF GETTING MORE EXCITED? "I don't mind going halfway around the world to try to win a race, I tell you that. I would be more than glad to do that. I feel like getting a chance to drive the 88 car will be a big plus for me. It's coming at a great time. I need a little platform here to kind of sell from over the winter as far as looking for a deal for next year, so I couldn't be happier. Golly, anybody would go to Japan to drive that car."
DO YOU FEEL AS THOUGH YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO PROVE IN THIS RACE? "Sure. I started the year and didn't know how to drive, remembered how to drive in the middle of the year and forgot how again. In racing, you're only as good as your last race. When things don't go well, very seldom do you hear them talk about the car or the crew, it's mainly about the driver. It's just like a football team. When they're not playing well, it's usually the quarterback's fault. I realize that and I've carried that burden around most of my career. You can be riding high in April and shot down in May, that's just the way it is. I'm 51 and people have hounded me for the last two years, and I mean that literally, hounded me to get out of the car and go do TV and go do other things. But that's like me calling the president of a corporation and saying, 'Hey, you need to retire. You've been there too long. Let somebody else run the company for awhile.' I just don't feel that way. I still feel good. I still want to race. I still want to win. My pride is the same as anybody else's pride. I want to win races and then quit, not lose races and then quit. All the pressure, all the motivation, all the things that I feel are self-imposed. Most of the people that want me to stop driving or want me to go do other things, want that not for Darrell Waltrip, but for their sake."
THIS IS A RACE WHERE EARNHARDT, SR. AND EARNHARDT, JR. ARE GETTING A LOT OF ATTENTION, BUT THIS IS A CHANCE FOR YOU TO KIND OF STEAL SOME OF THAT THUNDER ISN'T IT? "Oh yeah. I feel pretty confident. I don't have a crystal ball and I've been racing long enough to know you don't make any bold predictions, but, nonetheless, I feel pretty confident that we'll have a lot of fun and that our presence will be felt."
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU GOT THE CALL TO DRIVE THE CAR? "Well, it's funny because I was sitting watching Dallas play on Monday Night Football and Todd (Parrott) called. We talked for a minute, but I was wondering what he was doing calling me, and then he said, 'How would you like to drive our car?' Well, I got all excited. I said, 'Man that's great. I don't have anything to do and I was wondering what I was gonna do next year.' I knew he wasn't talking about next year, but I was just messing with him anyway. He said, 'Oh no, no, no, no, I mean just for Japan.' I said, 'Oh shucks, well I guess I can do that.' It was a big thrill. It just made me feel good. Every now and then I get kind of down. I've been up and down this year a lot and I was kind of getting down a little bit here at the end of the year, and that just kind of picked me back up and gave me a little something to look forward to."
TODD IS PRETTY FIRED UP ABOUT THIS AND LOOKING FORWARD TO IT. "I know it. Everytime he calls, if I'm not here he leaves a message and I think, 'Oh God, he called me to tell me we're not going.' He called me the other day and wanted to know if my helmet got painted. I told him it did, but I said, 'Would you quit calling me.' He said, 'Why, am I bothering you?' And I said, 'No, everytime you call I get all nervous thinking you're calling to say we're not gonna go.' He thought that was funny."
YOU WORKED WITH BUDDY PARROTT EARLIER IN YOUR CAREER AND NOW TODD IS GOING TO BE YOUR CREW CHIEF IN JAPAN. DO YOU HAVE ANY STORIES ABOUT TODD AS A KID HANGING AROUND THE SHOP? "That was so long ago and those kids were literally kids then. Buddy was always trying to get them involved in racing and wanted them to work on the cars. They were always hanging around the shop and stuff, but I never had a clue he would end up being a crew chief and certainly being as exceptional as he is. He does a whale of a job."
TO WIN IN JAPAN, WHAT WOULD THAT MEAN TO YOU? "To win in Africa. To win in China. To win anywhere. Like I said, it would just be a great Christmas present and it would give me something to kind of help me put a deal together for next year, so it could be a lifesaver for me. I'll go over there and eat sushi with the best of them."
HOW WILL IT FEEL TO BE BACK IN A FORD? "I saw Edsel (Ford) over the weekend in Atlanta and he told me he was making me up an honorary certificate to give me a one week membership in the Ford family. I said, 'Is there any way I could get that extended?' And he said, 'You just call me.'"
TODD PARROTT, Crew Chief -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- YOU'RE PRETTY EXCITED ABOUT THIS AREN'T YOU? "I'm excited about going. When Dale was down and said he was gonna have to have an operation, we didn't really have anything to look forward to. To have to go that far overseas and not have a driver that you knew could get the job done and win the race, you get kind of down. And then when something like this comes up you get excited about it."
WHAT WAS DARRELL'S REACTION WHEN YOU ASKED HIM? "Me and Debbie were at a Japanese restaurant eating dinner and we were talking about who would be a good driver for Japan. I said, 'I wonder if DW is going?' Michael (Waltrip) had just done a great job for us at Phoenix and I knew what Darrell did in the -1- car earlier in the year, so I got to thinking that DW would be good. I called Dale on the way home from the restaurant on my car phone and said, 'Who would you like to have drive your car?' He said he didn't really know and that's when I threw Darrell's name at him. He said, 'Oh man, that would be great.' Dale respects DW and knows what it's like to grow up and have a talent but not have anything to showcase it in, so he was really behind it. When I called Darrell he was saying, 'What do I gotta do? What do I need? I've never been. What's it like?' I told him to hold on a minute because I still had to talk to Robert (Yates), who was out in Las Vegas at the SEMA show, and that I just wanted to make sure he would want to do it. He said, 'Yes, I want to do it. I'll drive the truck over there if I have to.' When I asked Robert the next day he said it was fine with him and it was fine with everyone else, so we're excited about it. I look at it as though this is a job where we control our destiny of the sport and where it's going with the fans. If I was a race fan I'd want to see somebody that could talk, get along with people and does a good job. Darrell Waltrip can do all those things."
YOU KNOW DARRELL PROBABLY AS WELL AS ANYONE HAVING SPENT SO MUCH TIME AROUND HIM AS A KID RIGHT? "Oh yeah. When I was growing up he was the man. When I was a kid I was always there. Obviously, my dad was there a lot of hours. My mom would drop us off at the race shop and I'd hang out. Darrell would spend time there, I'd go to lunch with him. I was around him a lot, so I know how he is and I'm really excited to have a chance to work with him being my dad's worked with him and had a lot of success. I'm really hoping that we can go over there and put forth a solid effort and win the race."
IS IT HARD TO BELIEVE YOU'VE GONE FROM BEING A KID TO BEING DARRELL'S CREW CHIEF FOR ONE RACE? "Yeah. I guess if you had a hero growing up in the sport, a driver that you looked up to, it would be Darrell and Richard Petty. I graduated from high school and I worked as the tire specialist for Richard Petty when he won his 199th and 200th races back in '84. Those were the last two races he won and now to get a chance to work with Darrell Waltrip, I feel very fortunate and very lucky."
I KNOW YOU WANT TO WIN THIS RACE, BUT IS IT ALSO A CHANCE TO HAVE FUN? "Oh yeah, we can have fun because there's no pressure and no points. We have a point to prove because we know we've prepared a good race car to go over there to win this race, and I know we've got a race car driver that's gonna be mentally prepared to do whatever it takes to win this race. He knows that he can drive and since Atlanta he's had two weeks to do nothing but concentrate and focus on this race car.
It wouldn't surprise me if we sit on the pole and win the race. It wouldn't surprise me one bit because I know we're taking a race car capable of doing it. The car we're taking finished seventh at Rockingham. It should have sat on the pole, but we blew up qualifying. It sat on the pole at Las Vegas, ran well, and then lost a motor. It won Darlington and finished second at Pocono back in June and it hasn't run since then."