Below is the transcript from today's teleconference with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series owner Darrell Waltrip, who will be competing in his final race in the No. 12 Toyota Tundra at Martinsville Speedway this weekend. Waltrip has 16 NASCAR...
Below is the transcript from today's teleconference with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series owner Darrell Waltrip, who will be competing in his final race in the No. 12 Toyota Tundra at Martinsville Speedway this weekend. Waltrip has 16 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts to his credit. His best finish of fifth came at Martinsville Speedway in 1996.
Waltrip and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series return to action this Saturday, Oct. 22 at Martinsville Speedway for the Kroger 200. The race is scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m. ET.
Q: Is this really going to be your last race?
DARRELL WALTRIP: I told you not to ask me that. (Laughing). It's my last race this year (Laughing). I can promise you that. I love doing this. I love getting the opportunity to do it. You can only run your last race so many times. So most likely this will be my last Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville. Let's leave it that way.
Q: What have you been doing to both mentally and physically prepare for your 'One and Done' final appearance as a NASCAR driver in the No. 12 Toyota Tundra at Martinsville Speedway?
DW: We tested up there a couple of days last week, and that all went well. The truck was fast and it drove well. It's an impound race, so I think we had a pretty decent race set-up. One of the things I love about working with the Toyota guys in the Craftsman Truck Series is that we share notes. Jack Sprague was there driving the No. 60 Tundra for the first time. They were pretty good. David Reutimann was there driving the No. 17 NTN Toyota Tundra. He was pretty good. At the end of the day, we could all sit down and compare notes -- what springs, shocks, etc. Harry Reed builds the shocks for all the trucks, and so we know what shock package guys have got. We know what spring package they've got. We look at lap times. It's a coordinated effort, and it makes it so much better for all of us to be able to share like that. So we had two good days of testing. Physically, I have been working out since July -- really, really hard wanting to be sure that I was physically prepared for this race. I'm probably in the best shape I've been in going into one of these for quite some time. Being the last race I'm going to run, I wanted to physically be in good shape. I'm mentally really excited about it. The preparation of the truck is good. It should be a great weekend. The weather's going to be nice. No rain, I don't think. It's going to be a great weekend.
Q: You are running the No. 12 this weekend, so you already know that you are in the field based on points. How will it be for you to be able to focus on your race set-up during practice? And what would it mean for you to go out on a strong run?
DW: I was so disappointed in April in the spring race because I had been up there and tested. I had a brand new truck, and I was well-prepared. I qualified 24th on my speed, but I needed to be a little wee-bit faster to beat some of the other guys who were there. So I didn't get to race because I had no points. That was in the No. 11 -- my truck. At that point in time, I had no idea what was going to happen with the No. 12. We didn't know we were going to make a driver change. We thought when we made the driver change we had somebody lined up to run the rest of the year, but that deal kind of fell apart. We've been using Mike Wallace, who has driven the thing some. Joey Miller did an outstanding job out in Las Vegas for us, and we're going to have Joey in the truck for another race or two I know. So getting in the No. 12 -- it's 22nd in the owner points -- it just takes the pressure off of going up there and saying I've got to qualify in the top five or 10, or whatever it would have been. It gives me an opportunity to relax a little bit. Not racing but just every now and then, that qualifying thing is just really, really difficult. That will make my weekend a whole lot more enjoyable, and knowing that I'm going to get to race makes it a whole lot more fun.
Q: What do you think the issues will be going into Martinsville? What did you make of the issues you saw this past weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway? It was kind of crazy.
DW: Martinsville stays the same. The short tracks -- Bristol, Martinsville -- those are the two basic what I call short tracks, today. Nothing changes much there. The tires have pretty much been the same every time we've been there. I was a little worried when I heard they were up there testing the tires two or three weeks ago with Brian Vickers and Kenny Schrader, but I don't think they made any changes. The thing that has really created this tire deal -- the mess they had Saturday night (at Lowe's Motor Speedway). First of all, they ground the race track. What you have to understand is when they grind the race track, they're just putting little grooves in it. Some other tracks have been ground mainly just to get rid of bumps in the race track. That's what that process was really meant to do. But, also when they grind it, it puts little bitty grooves in the race track, and that's what happened at Charlotte. They ground the whole thing this time and it had those little grooves in there, and it creates incredible amount of grip. Basically instead of grooving the tires, you are grooving the track. There was just so much more grip than the cars and the tires could handle. And the other thing is the way the guys are setting the cars up with the really, really soft front springs and great big sway bars. They're basically making the tire do all the work. They've eliminated the chassis from the equation. They take the cars. They let them set down solid on the front springs, 'coil binding' is what they call it. The only thing that's taking the shock and the only thing that's taking the bumps in the race track, are the tires and they just can't take it with the speeds they were running over there (LMS) Saturday night. With the set-ups they run and the grip they had, they were just ripping the tires right off the cars, and that's a shame. The drivers should not have to be put in that situation.
Q: You are famous or infamous for the "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity". This being your last race, when you take the green flag, are you going to be in the car yelling "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity"?
DW: I always do. (Jeff) Hammond will be there on the pit box. Johnny Allen is actually the crew chief on the No. 12, and he does a really good job with the thing but Hammond is my honorary crew chief. So, he'll be there, and I'm sure we'll have some fun with that. Michael (Waltrip) will be up in the booth doing the race on SPEED. I'm sure they'll give me an opportunity to do that if I'd like. I'm going into this weekend -- and I don't have anything to lose. I'm not running for points. I'm not going to do anything crazy -- don't get me wrong. But I'm going in with the attitude I'm going to put it all on the line, baby. This is one shot I've got. I think I've got the best chance I've had in quite some time. I'm going to go in there and give it 100 percent, and hopefully come out of there with a great finish and maybe a win. Can you imagine if I win that race? Can you imagine what it would be like? Holy cow.
Q: But then you would have to rescind the 'One and Done', right? Maybe you would have to run another race.
DW: I'm just going to let you in on a little something just to file away. I understand that there's a chance that they may have a Busch race at Martinsville next year. Just thought I would throw that out there.
Q: We'll be looking for you. Would it be a 12 or 17 car?
DW: It will be the old 'Aaron's Dream Machine.' See, I've been looking for an opportunity, so it it might just work out. Who knows?
Q: The No. 12 team has gone through some turmoil this season. Will getting behind the wheel and getting a chance to work with those guys give you added insight to what's been going on there? And maybe will that give you an opportunity to find a driver that will fit in well with those guys?
DW: The thing that happened with that team with Robert Huffman -- Robert is a great guy. We were looking forward to working with him. We thought that if we put him in the right circumstances with good people around him that he would get great results. You know, he started off the year really, really well. Not only Robert, but David (Reutimann), as well, they both were not performing up to our expectations. I had a big meeting with the team and I told them 'Guys, there are changes on the horizon if we don't make some progress here and if we don't get things turned around.' David responded. David stepped up, and he went on a series of top-five finishes and had that win at Nashville. But, Robert on the other hand, things just kept getting worse. And we decided we needed somebody to step in that had experience and could tell us what was wrong with the team. Mike Wallace helped us so much in analyzing things that the team was doing good and bad. And then we had Joey Miller, who we're really excited about. We really think that he's somebody we would like to latch onto if we can. Me going to the track last week for a couple of days with this team and working with them. They are good people. I was surprised at how knowledgeable Johnny Allen (No. 12 crew chief) is, and the people that are working on the No. 12.
You've got to remember that we didn't get the No. 12 truck until December of last year. We didn't know going to have a second truck. Toyota called us and said 'We want you all to take Robert, help him and see what you can do with him.' We had to hustle, man. We bought stuff from George deBidart (Innovative Motorsports ), who Robert drove for last year. We had to really throw the No. 12 team together. So we started off behind the eight ball with that team, but I think we've got it turned around now, and I'm looking forward to end of year with them.
Q: With the announcement that NBC will not return with NASCAR in 2007 could you address the television situation. How confident are you with FOX and ESPN's possible return?
DW: I'm happy with our team (FOX), our group of guys -- me, Larry (McReynolds), Mike (Joy), Jeff (Hammond), Chris (Meyers), (Steve) Byrnes, Matt (Yocum), Doc (Dick Berggren). We've got such a great bunch of guys, and I think we do an incredible job. I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about our whole team -- Neil Goldberg, our producer and Artie Kempner, our director. We've just got so many good people. I love what we do. It's a shame for NBC that they're in the situation they're in. By the same token, ESPN has been around and they have done NASCAR racing before. I think they can really do an incredible job. If they come in the second half of the year, I look forward to -- it's not necessarily competition, but I think a rising tide raises all ships, and that could be a rising tide.
Q: This weekend will be the one year anniversary since the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash. Can you talk a little bit about what you have seen in that team and the owner since then?
DW: You don't replace people like that. You don't replace a Randy Dorton or a Johnny Hendrick. Not only are they family, they're friends, but they're very talented people. You never replace them, and you never replace their memories or what they meant to your operation. But, when you have a company the size of Hendrick Motorsports, and you have a leader like Rick Hendrick, who is an incredible businessman, they have depth and they have people that can step in and do whatever job needs to be done. That's why they continue to be successful. When you hit a stumbling block, that's the mark of a great company and great leadership, when you can overcome that and continue on even thought you have a real void and there's heartache. This sport beats all that I've ever seen from recovering and carrying on no matter what the problems are or what the situation is we just dig in, and that's when this sport is at its best. I've said it time and time again, when people are down, when people are hurting that's when the people in this sport are at their best. That's when they rally around each other, get you through it and carry on.
Q: Looks like Mark Martin will be coming back next year to Cup, and Rusty Wallace has opened the door in recent weeks. Do you think we'll see Rusty in a few Cup races next year?
DW: No, I don't think you'll see either one of them in Cup next year. I think that they'll get the drivers they want in those two cars. I think that between Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi and Jack Roush, I think they'll all three do what's best for each one of their own programs. There has been a lot of haggling and bickering going on and probably attorneys involved, but I'm saying at the end of the day, each guy will be where he wants to be.
Q: Do you favor a limit on the number of teams an owner has? How should NASCAR go about imposing it?
DW: The biggest issue to me is how would you impose it? I don't see how you could police it. If I were an owner, if I was Jack Roush, I would say 'Hey those guys own their own cars. They just get their parts and pieces from me. I'm the manufacturer of engines. I'm the manufacturer of cars. Each driver owns his own car.' So that's one way you could do it. It seems like Roush every time you turn around -- I love what he said it was like 'Get Shorty' week. Because of (Matt) Kenseth, they change the structure of the points and changed it to the Chase because he ran away with the championship and everybody complained about it. Now, (Roush has) got five drivers in the Chase, and everybody says we've got to do something about that. Quite honestly, our sport is not a sport where I think that is an issue. Each team is an individual team. The only thing I know that teams do that multi-car teams do, that I'm not a big fan of is slowing down and letting each other lead laps. I wish they wouldn't do that. But other than that, I think you heard Matt Kenseth at Kansas last week say when Kurt (Busch) wanted to lead a lap, he said 'Hey dude, I can't let you do it in the Chase, I might lose by five points.' My experience has been that drivers will pretty much take care of themselves and watch out for their own deals. I don't think you really need NASCAR to tell you how many teams you can have or how to race.
Continued in part 2