With a bestselling book, an upcoming movie, truck broadcasts, Showtime appearances, national commercials and a new role in Fox's pre-race show, the 2012 season might be the year to crown Michael Waltrip the "King of all NASCAR Media."
But his off-track success will be just part of Waltrip's 2012 story.
The two-time Daytona 500 champion plans to race the No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota in six NASCAR Sprint Cup races plus the Bud Shootout. For the next two seasons he'll share driving duties with future hall of famer Mark Martin who will drive the Michael Waltrip Racing entry in 25 races.
"We certainly aren't going to lack for experience in the ole' Aaron's Dream Machine for the next two seasons. This isn't our first rodeo… or even our 1,500th," said Waltrip.
He and Martin, with nearly 1,600 combined Sprint Cup starts, are the only drivers to have won races in four different decades in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series.
"Aaron's really has an odd couple driving its car the next two years," Waltrip said. "You couldn't get much different than Mark and I. I'm tall and he's…not so tall. I like to talk and he'd rather not. He gets up early and well….I could go on and on. But, there's one thing we share and that's the love of driving in NASCAR. There's nothing we'd rather do than race."
The 2012 season marks the third year Waltrip will not race full time but continue a whirlwind schedule encompassing everything from sports car racing to sponsor work to television commentary.
This season Waltrip joins the Fox NASCAR SUNDAY pre-race team taking a seat in the Hollywood Hotel alongside big brother Darrell and host Chris Myers. In addition to his pre-race work, Waltrip will also contribute analysis and updates in-race during Fox coverage
In January 2012 Waltrip welcomes the release of the paperback version of his first book "In the Blink of an Eye." The book marks the 10th anniversary of his 2001 Daytona 500 victory. After hitting the shelves in January 2011, it soared to fourth and spent 11 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list
"DALE, DAYTONA AND THE DAY THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING," is the book's subtitle, describing Waltrip's minute-by-minute account of the day that saw him break a 0 for 462 slump and climb to the pinnacle of his racing career, only to learn moments later of the tragic loss of his car owner and friend Dale Earnhardt. Waltrip's struggle to come to grips with the aftermath and build a successful career and race team also highlight the manuscript.
Sony Pictures plans to begin work on bringing the story to the big screen in 2012. Needless to say, a major studio movie on the life of a NASCAR driver will make headlines this season.
Waltrip continues his television work in 2012 as host of Showtime's weekly "Inside NASCAR" program and remains a popular television personality on SPEED-TV as an analyst for its NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Aaron's and NAPA AUTO PARTS feature Waltrip in its commercials airing during race programming and in prime time.
Despite his full schedule with the book, comedy tour and television work, Waltrip's priority remains guiding Michael Waltrip Racing in its sixth full year of NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. Overseeing Martin Truex Jr.'s No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota, Clint Bowyer's No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota and the No. 55 Aaron's Toyota occupies much of his thoughts.
At heart, Waltrip isn't an author, movie maker, or television personality. He's a racer. The 2011 season saw Waltrip use a dramatic last lap pass to win the truck race 10 years to the day he won his first Daytona 500. He raced in the 2011 Daytona 500 and finished ninth at Talladega in the fall.
In June, Waltrip joined MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman behind the wheel of a Ferrari in the world's most prestigious sports car race – the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Waltrip was a hit in France, drawing the interest of the international motorsports media at one of the world's largest sporting events. In 2012, the duo expects to compete in the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 in Daytona and probably a few more races around the globe.
Waltrip's down-to-earth humor and personality continue to keep Waltrip at the forefront of popularity. He boasts a growing Twitter following of 75,000, and he's a hit at sponsor appearances across the country for the Aaron's, NAPA AUTO PARTS, AAA, Toyota, and 5-hour ENERGY.
Even when he's not working or racing, there won't be much rest for Waltrip in 2012. In addition to keeping up with his 14-year-old daughter Macy, his oldest daughter Caitlin gave birth to first grandson Bryson Michael last year.
Waltrip's path to success began as a little boy when he decided to follow his dream to become a champion race car driver like his older brother Darrell. The younger Waltrip began his career racing go-karts in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee. His stock car racing career took off in 1981, when he won the Mini-Modified division track championship at Kentucky Motor Speedway.
In 1983, Waltrip won the NASCAR Dash Series championship. Soon after, he moved to North Carolina, where he lived with NASCAR racing legend Richard Petty and his wife Lynda. Waltrip credits Richard not only with giving him his first job in racing, but also with providing the advice and guidance that prepared him for his future as a successful driver and car owner.
In 1985, Waltrip started five NASCAR Sprint Cup races for Richard (Dick) Bahre, making his debut at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May. The following year, Waltrip completed his first full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finishing 19th in the point standings driving for Bahre. Waltrip drove for Chuck Rider from 1987 to 1995 and the Wood Brothers from 1996 to 1998. During his tenure at the Wood Brothers, Waltrip scored a dramatic win in the 1996 NASCAR All-Star race.
Waltrip drove for Jim Smith from 1999 to 2000 in the Sprint Cup Series. In 2001, Waltrip moved to Dale Earnhardt, Inc. to drive the NAPA AUTO PARTS race car winning four times in five seasons including Daytona 500 victories in 2001 and 2003. In 2006, Waltrip-Jasper Racing, a new team affiliated with Bill Davis Racing, fielded Waltrip's No. 55 NAPA machine.
Waltrip not only competed for the 2007 championship in the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, but he also expanded his role as a full-time car owner for three Sprint Cup teams and a NASCAR Nationwide Series team. He opened the doors of his one-of-a-kind race shop and fan experience in a former movie theater in Cornelius, N.C. Waltrip and his teammates, former champion Dale Jarrett and rookie David Reutimann, led Toyota's efforts during the manufacturer's first year in Sprint Cup competition. Waltrip captured MWR's first pole at Talladega that season.
The 2008 season saw Waltrip qualify his No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry on the front row of the 50th running of the Daytona 500. On Oct. 26 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, he achieved an impressive milestone when he made his 1,000th NASCAR start. Waltrip, Mark Martin and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Richard Petty are the only drivers to have accomplished the feat.
In 2009, Waltrip celebrated his 25th season in NASCAR's premiere division and ninth season with sponsor NAPA AUTO PARTS. In May, Waltrip announced MWR's sponsorship extension with NAPA and named Martin Truex Jr. as his successor to drive the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. The season saw Waltrip's organization earn its first Sprint Cup victory with Reutimann's win at the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Waltrip's first year of semi-retirement in 2010 found him busier than ever with racing trips around the world, highlighted by his burnout in a stock car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England. He devoted time to writing his book, working in television, racing and spending time at the shop working with MWR's teams and sponsors plus overseeing MWR's burgeoning race operations that included Reutimann's win at Chicagoland Speedway in July.