Darrell Waltrip retirement report

FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Brickyard 400 Advance August 5, 1999 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Darrell Waltrip, driver of the No. 66 K-Mart Taurus, announced his retirement as a NASCAR Winston Cup driver following the Victory Tour 2000 next...

FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Brickyard 400 Advance August 5, 1999 Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Darrell Waltrip, driver of the No. 66 K-Mart Taurus, announced his retirement as a NASCAR Winston Cup driver following the Victory Tour 2000 next season. Several people spoke before an open question and answer session.

Mike Helton, Chief Operating Officer, NASCAR: "The three Championships and 84 NASCAR Winston Cup wins certainly tells you that Darrell Waltrip is truly a class competitor and always has been, and we'll never forget those statistics. To the point that, when we celebrated our 50th anniversary, and as we go into the next 50 years it's very easy to answer the question how NASCAR has become so successful when you have a champion like Darrell Waltrip involved. He exemplifies what has made the NASCAR Winston Cup series so popular across the country. Besides being a pretty colorful guy, he's also a great driver and a great champion. He and his whole family represent the sport as well as anybody could ask for it to happen. In addition to being a competitor above and beyond average, he and Stevie have always been at the grass roots of what makes NASCAR strong, and that is the humane side, and that is the humane side and the family orientated part of our business that we put a lot of value in.

"I remember several years ago after Darrell won a Bristol race, in Junior Johnson's Mountain Dew Chevrolet and he comes to the press box in Bristol, and he says, "Guys, before I answer any questions, I want to tell you tonight that whatever I won Stevie and I want to donate to the missing children's fund that was going on in Atlanta, and a pretty hot topic at that time. And that was when I realized that Darrell was an honest to goodness, god fearing, hard driving, but sincere individual. And that's never changed since then, and to Darrell and Stevie, NASCAR thanks them for being that way, and being an asset to the sport.

"On behalf of NASCAR, we're excited that K-Mart has become a close relationship with us. We're excited that they have chosen Darrell Waltrip as the driver with the Travis Carter team this year and next year. I couldn't imagine a better combination. I kid Darrell about the commercials, 'Oh no, another DW story', but he's a pretty neat storyteller. The resurgence of K-Mart in the retail industry is unprecedented, and it's well documented. I think it's a marriage made in heaven. We're excited to have K-Mart as part of the NASCAR family. We've always been excited, I think everybody in NASCAR including the France family has always been excited about Darrell Waltrip and Stevie being a part of our organization, and expect them to be forever and ever.

"Just to wrap up, NASCAR is delighted that we have a strong relationship with K-Mart, and we're delighted that Darrell Waltrip has chosen NASCAR to make his career in, and has been such a vital part both on the race track and off. Thank you."

GARY RUFFING, K-Mart Vice President, Merchandise Presentation: "Today we're here to make an important announcement about Darrell Waltrip. We think it's going to down in NASCAR Winston Cup history. Last year K-Mart joined Gatorade, Mountain Dew and Tide as a company that has invested its image and products in NASCAR racing legend Darrell Waltrip. Ladies and gentlemen this was a strategic marketing move, not just enthusiasm for the raw excitement and power but a partnership with the sports winningest active driver Darrell Waltrip and what he has achieved with his great wins. This includes three Winston Cup championships and who will ever forget the Daytona of 1989 when he brought home the victory.

"Today he is old DW, a fond nickname that perhaps is his really greatest victory. Let's not forget that people said he would never do it, but he has. He has captured the hearts of fans along with the crown for the most wins in the modern era of racing. He is also credited with a gift of gab. That gift helped bring racing from the back room to the boardroom changing the way sponsors tied their products and services to NASCAR drivers. His accomplishments are legendary, as he has excelled in going down that long road of NASCAR racing. In fact we borrowed that theme, the long and winding road from the Beetles and combined it with Route 66, the namesake road for K-Mart's exclusive Route 66 apparel line, and in doing so developed the message that described the famed career of our Route 66 K-Mart driver.

"On behalf of K-Mart, I think the first day Darrell came to the office we took him up to the fourth floor to meet the chairman. And from that moment on Darrell Waltrip was a member of the K-Mart family. So here to tell you what comes next, here is our Route 66 K-Mart driver of the Victory Tour 2000 Mr. Darrell Waltrip.

DARRELL, WALTRIP: "You know it's pretty tough. The good thing is, this isn't happening today. And that's a good thing. We wanted to come together today with you guys and let you know what our plans are for next year. We felt that it was important to kind of get it out on the table and let everybody know where we're going to go and what we're gonna do. We've got some great stuff planned for next year. I've told Mike Helton and I've told all the people at NASCAR, I don't want to bore you all to death with the Darrell Waltrip Victory Tour. This is not something that I want every week to be holding a press conference telling you about what we're going to do and what we've done. We have some strategic locations next year that we're gonna do a huge, and they are huge when you see these things next year in the K-Mart stores, big K-Mart stores that we're going to. There will be 10 or 12 locations during the year where we're going to go set up at a K-Mart and have these huge multi-media, computerized, computer generated, interactive things for the fans to do next year. Stuff for the kids, stuff for moms and dads. There will be a lot of stuff going on next year that I think is going to set the standard, and folks I'm the first or the second I guess. You've got to think of Richard Petty's deal. I'm the next one, and there are a few that's gonna follow. What we want to do is set a standard. We want to be the prototype for what other drivers will do in the future as far as their retirements go. I'm very fortunate to be involved in a sport where everybody gets to participate. We're gonna do things that will be good for the media.

"We're gonna do things that will be fun for the fans, just a lotta, lotta things where you're going to say, "Man, where did they come up with that idea from?" The K-Mart folks are committed to NASCAR Winston Cup racing. They love this sport. If you go into any of the big K-Mart stores today, you'll see more NASCAR memorabilia there than anywhere you go. There's more die casts, more drivers' apparel. There's more stuff in the K-Mart stores today than there is in any of the other retail stores out there. That is their commitment to this sport. They love it, and they're glad to be a part of it. They're sponsoring races. As Mike said, as I sat down and said how am I going to do this if somebody had said, we can hook you up with K-Mart. That would be a great relationship. I would have said yeah it would, but that's too good to be true. I've done things through my career where I've thought, this is too good to be true, and most of the time it was. But in fact this is one of those deals that is almost too good to be true. To be leaving a sport that has meant so much to me and my family. The business side I can talk about. The racing side, leaving this sport, hanging up my helmet. That's hard to talk about." (Deep breath) "As a matter of fact, I can't talk about it. It's just that hard.

"I've done this for 40 years. You may say, whoa, wait a minute. But every since I was 12 years old, I've gotten up (motioned for Stevie to join him). We've gotten up, and we've put on our racing gear. (choked with emotion) I can do this. We put on our racing gear and we go the track. I've done that for 40 years, and she's done that for 30 years. So we've done this for a long time. It means a lot to us. So when I tell you that next year is my last year, it's not an easy thing to do. I've always thought about the future. What am I going to do next year? What am I going to do the year after that? Well, if I don't win today, I'll get them next week. Well, you know I'm running out of next weeks. And I guess that's the bottom line. I guess every time, every sport, your legs give out, your arm gives out, something gives out. Certainly I think every athlete that's been successful like I have, one thing that never gives out, their heart never gives out. But all the parts that carry that heart around, I guess they just kind of give out on you and you have to do something else.

"I am so fortunate. I came in this sport in 1972, and I've been a headliner ever since. I always like to say that when I'd go to town people'd say are you here with the show, and I'd say, no I am the show. That's kind of been my career in a nutshell, and it's hard to be just with the show like I have been the last two or three years. I've done that to myself. It's no one's fault. It's not a diminishing of my talent or my desire. It's just the situations I've put myself in the past two or three years that have kept me from continuing to be able to do what I've done my whole career, and that's win races.

"I believe, I believe, I don't know if anyone else does or not, but I believe that Travis Carter, Carl Haas and K-Mart can provide me over the next 18 months an opportunity to win a few more races. I know that Travis is committed to do whatever it takes to get me a car that I should be able to win in. That's our goal. That's why this is called the victory tour. It would be kind of a fake tour, it would be kind of a farce if we said it was a victory tour, and we didn't produce a victory. So our whole goal for the next 18 months is to win a race, more than one, but a least one and make the victory tour memorable for my fans and all you folks who have been so kind to us through the years, but also memorable to me. I have expressed this to many of you, winning a race now would be almost, well it would be as big as winning that first one in 1975. And that's hard to figure out, but I think all of you will see as time goes by, and you end up where I am, your career goes full circle. You always start out wondering if you will ever win, and you always end up wondering if you will ever win again. And that's kind of hard to believe when all you've ever done is won or been a success, but that's kind of how it ends up.

"So we've got some really fun things planned for next year. I wanted to get this thing out in the open and let you know what our plans are so maybe people will quit asking me how much longer I'm going to drive. Well, I'm going to drive 18 more months. And we're going to have some fun folks. I promise you that. DW ain't told all the stories he knows. There's going to be some more DW stories, there's going to be some more commercials, and we're just going to have a real good time.

"My family is here. Come on up here girls. Jessica Lee here was born in 1987, and she saw her daddy win the Daytona 500 and a few other races. Now Sarah, she was born when I won at Bristol in '92, but they were still in the hospital. I left the hospital and went up to Bristol and won that race. So she'd really like to see her daddy win a race. Speedvision and ESPN have done a great job of giving me some credibility with my family, but that's about all I've got right now. So I'd really like to win a race for these girls. It would mean a lot to them. I'd like for them to realize that I haven't done this all my life for no reason. There are some fun things you get to do when you win a race, and they're excited to look forward to the day that happens.

"So it's going to be a fun year. I've got to be careful of where I go, what I do and what I say. I don't want to stand in front of you guys and be a big marshmallow, but folks this is not easy. Just trust me. It's not easy. I'm so thankful for Mike Helton and NASCAR. They make it as easy as they possibly can. They try to work with the sponsors, the drivers and the teams in situtations like this because Mike knows it's not easy. It's good to have support from that side of the fence, to have a great sponsor, to have a wonderful family. I guess I'm fortunate in a lot of ways. Not only have I had a great racing career, but I can think about what my future holds, and it looks pretty bright.

"So with that, I'll tell you we've got a car we want to show you. We will be running some special cars, as you know. We're going to run a special car here this weekend. It will be the Victory Tour 200 car. It will be the car we will run a lot next year. There will be some other cars that we'll run as we go along. That's just part of the deal you know. Like I said, you're going to enjoy next year. We'll make it easy for you. We're going to have some fun, and we want you to go along for the ride, the final ride but we want you to all be there with us. There are a lot of my friends out here that have been with me ever since I started, and then there are some that I don't recognize. I don't know whether that's because I've hit the wall or whether you just showed up all at once. But none the less, that's part of the problem. There are a lot of people around these days that I don't recognize.

"Anyway, it's fun to be here and fun to be a part of all this, and that's what I want to make sure we do is have a good time with it. And (Steve) Waid I can tell you, I'm not going to back out. This is for real. I'm not going to change my mind. This is for real. When I put the chrome helmet on the shelf that's it, that's the end of the deal."

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Darrell Waltrip , Richard Petty , Carl Haas , Mike Helton