By Ken Plotkin - motorsport.com Indianapolis, IN, August 3, 2000 - Darrell Waltrip, in his final year of Winston Cup competition, had a moment of glory when he set a track record of 180.923 mph and sat at the top of the order. For a while.
By Ken Plotkin - motorsport.com
Indianapolis, IN, August 3, 2000 - Darrell Waltrip, in his final year of Winston Cup competition, had a moment of glory when he set a track record of 180.923 mph and sat at the top of the order. For a while. Twenty four minutes later, Ricky Rudd bettered the record to 181.068 mph, claiming the pole and pushing Waltrip to the outside of the front row. While the pole (his last was in Atlanta in 1995) would have been nice, he was satisfied with what he had done.
"I don't have to win; I don't have to be on the pole," Waltrip said. "As long as you can leave here this weekend and say 'Old DW was up there,' that's all that matters to me."
Waltrip goes back a long way in racing. His roots are in the bullrings like Huntsville, Alabama, with a whopping $300 to win, where he'd run thirty years ago. "Yeah - I used to find my way out of there every Thursday night," he recalled with a laugh. Thinking about those days, though, he remembered something that's missing today. Fun.
"I was up in Owensboro Sunday night. Whitesville. Where I started. Quarter mile track, similar to Huntsville. You know, I had more fun there at that little race track for probably an hour than I've had in four or five years. It was real grass roots racing. I drove car number 100 that I drove 35 years ago. It had street tires on it. It was a limited stock car - late model stock car. And we had a ball. It was real racing. That's what racing's supposed to be about. We were bumping into each other and having a good time. Man, it's hard to have a good time in this sport today. And that's what I miss the most.
"With that said, I love what this sport has done for me and all my buddies. The living that we've been able to produce, and the success we've had. All I cared about in Huntsville, Alabama in 1969 or 71 or whatever it was that feature event that night. That's all I cared about. Had no idea that some day I'd be standing here, doing what I'm doing today. You couldn't have told me that. You'd have never made me believe that. I had to get down the road to Birmingham. I didn't have time to think about that."
Now that he's done that - three Winston Cup championships and 84 wins (including the Daytona 500) - he sees two things that have spoiled his fun. People who don't remember (or give him credit for) what he's done. And provisionals.
"When you have to listen to some people write week in and week out 'you ought not be out there' and 'you're a hazard' and 'you're too old' and those types of things. And it hurts. People who write that are very shallow. They don't do their homework very well. They don't look at the big picture. So all this does for those people is creates a shadow of a doubt. And that's all I wanted to do.
"The thing that has killed my career over the last three years is provisionals. If they never had provisonals, Darrell Waltrip would be in great shape. I would have been in most all the races on my time alone, and I would not have had to take the heat I've had to take. But NASCAR created that situation trying to be helpful. But it's outlived itself. It's like a lot of other rules we have. They should do away with provisionals, start the fastest 43 cars, and let the best men race."
Ol' DW took care of some of that today. His speed shows he can still run a fast lap with the best. And he's in the race, with no second day qualifying to worry about and no need to dip into his supply of provisionals. All that's left is to show everyone what he's got on Saturday.
And maybe he can have another hour of fun to match the fun he had at Owensboro.