Another Darrell Waltrip retirement report

D. WALTRIP ANNOUNCES 'VICTORY' PLANS FOR FINAL SEASON INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 5, 1999 -- Darrell Waltrip - Ol' DW - danced on top of his car when he finally won the Daytona 500. He was known as "Jaws" in his early days of NASCAR racing. And...


INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 5, 1999 -- Darrell Waltrip - Ol' DW - danced on top of his car when he finally won the Daytona 500. He was known as "Jaws" in his early days of NASCAR racing. And in the 1980s when he was winning three Winston Cup championships, he was a racing writer's dream when he stepped to the microphone. On Thursday, Waltrip stepped to the mike in a tent in the infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was there to announce he was going to drive through the year 2000 and then retire. For once in his life, he struggled to get the words out. He started out strong talking about the plans he, car owner Travis Carter and sponsor Big Kmart have for next year. But then he had to say he would end his 40-year racing career when he shuts the engine off at the 2000 season finale. "On the racing side, I'm leaving the sport, hanging up my helmet, and that's hard to talk about," he said. He paused and was overcome with emotion. He beckoned to his wife, Stevie, and she joined him at the mike to provide moral support. "I can't talk about it," he said after he regained his composure. Then he talked about it for 45 minutes. "I've done this for 40 years," said Waltrip, a native of Owensboro, Ky. "We've gotten up every morning, put on our racing gear and gone to the track," he said. "I've done this for 40 years and she for 30 (their wedding anniversary is Aug. 15). It means a lot. When I tell you next year is my last one, it's not easy. I always thought you've got next week. "I'm running out of next weeks. In sports, your legs and arms give out. One thing that never gives out is my heart. It's the things that carry it around that have given out." With those words spoken, Waltrip warmed to his audience. He announced he was running a special Ford - Victory Tour 2000 car -- in Saturday's Brickyard 400. The machine unveiled a few minutes later had a colorful paint job with flames dancing along the lower part of the chassis. "I believe Travis, Carl Haas (co-owner) and Kmart are going to provide me with some victories," he said. "It would be kind of a fake tour if I don't get a victory. That's my goal." By then, daughters Jessica (11) and Sarah (6) were at his side, too. Waltrip told how the older daughter was born on the weekend he won at Bristol in 1987, but he hadn't yet won since his younger daughter came along in 1992. "Winning a race now would be almost as good as winning my first one in 1975," he said. "I'm going to drive 18 more months and have a good time." Darrell and Stevie already were married for three years when he made his NASCAR debut in 1972. The Brickyard will be his 772nd Winston Cup race. He's won 59 poles, and his 84 victories are the most in the modern era of NASCAR Winston Cup racing. His career earnings total $17,852,923. "It's a big change," Stevie said. "As Darrell said, it hasn't happened yet. Maybe this will give me some more time to get used to it, to acclimate myself that we aren't going to be involved." Waltrip's plan for 2000 is to make family-friendly appearances at about 10 or 12 Kmart stores around the country instead of holding race-by-race media farewell conferences. "I don't want to bore you with the victory tour," he told the media. Mike Helton, NASCAR executive vice president and chief operating officer, said Waltrip exemplifies why the series has become so successful. "Besides being so colorful," he said, "he's been a great winner and great champion." During his career, Waltrip, who now lives in Franklin, Tenn., has seen NASCAR grow from a regional racing series in the South to national series that draws sellout crowds everywhere. Waltrip's career began just a couple hundred miles south of the Speedway, and he often raced in the state while wondering if he would ever make it to the historic track in Indianapolis. That happened in 1994 when he qualified 27th and charged to sixth in the inaugural Brickyard. He has finished 17th, 40th, 14th and 13th in the next four. "As a kid growing up not too far from here, coming up here at 16 years old and seeing those big green fences, I was dying to get in here," he said. "I'd never seen an Indy car race here and only been in Gasoline Alley a couple of times. John Cooper (former Speedway president) drove me around once in a van. "Les Richter (NASCAR vice president) called me and asked me if I'd like to drive at Indy. I said I'm too old, man, for that, I missed my chance. He just started laughing and said, 'No, I mean in a stock car.' "That was about the most exciting news I'd ever heard. So me standing in his place today, making this announcement and having this press conference to me is pretty indicative of how our sport has changed. Who would ever have thought our sport would be in Indianapolis for a race and draw the kind of crowd we're going to draw here Saturday? "That's a long way from the Darlingtons and 30,000 people and the Dovers where they couldn't even fill up the front grandstands let alone the stands all the way around the race track. We could race at this racetrack every weekend, and there would be 150,000, 200,000 people show up. That's how our sport has changed." Waltrip said that he didn't have a lot of options, and that's why he chose to drive another year. He admitted that he was ready to quit at the end of last season because of his poor results and the media reports that he should retire. Then Carter and the Kmart program was put together, and he said this rejuvenated him. Going into the television booth is a possibility for the future. So is politics. How about governor, he was asked. "Which state?" he said. Well, Jesse Ventura did it in Minnesota. Why not Darrell Waltrip in Tennessee?

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Darrell Waltrip , Carl Haas , Mike Helton , John Cooper