D. Waltrip back on track in NASCAR truck series

Ex-Winston Cup champ races tomorrow in W.Va.

Auto Racing

April 12, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Former Winston Cup champion-turned-television commentator Darrell Waltrip always could spin a good yarn.

So when he recently decided to get back on a track and actually race, he didn't mention anything about the longing he feels for competition when he comes to the track each week for a telecast. He told wife Stevie, NASCAR chairman Bill France and Fox executives it was for the good of his broadcasting career.

"I don't ever want to get to the point to where people say I'm stale or don't know what I'm talking about," he said.

So, tomorrow, Waltrip, 55, will drive in the Craftsman Truck Series' Advance Auto Parts 250 at Martinsville, Va.

He has everyone's approval to do it, but he didn't get it easily.

He had to promise his wife he'd race on a short track with every piece of safety equipment available.

"The redhead," he said, referring to Stevie, "wouldn't like it if I tried any shortcuts."

He had to answer France, who asked, "What are you thinking? You've got this great job on Fox and FX. Why do you want to get out there and take a chance?"

Once he'd answered those questions, he had to see Kevin Triplet, NASCAR's managing director, to obtain a license.

"People ask if we require the same things from all applicants, and we do," said Triplet. "To get his license, I told Darrell he had to get a physical, pass an eye exam and give me a resume. If you require an 11-time winner at Martinsville, an 84-race career winner and a three-time Winston Cup champion to go through all that, it's pretty good proof of what we require."

Waltrip laughed. He didn't have a resume.

"I gave him a press kit," Waltrip said. "But I passed the physical and proved I have 20-20 vision."

Triplet warned him he could still be called to the NASCAR trailer for a reprimand if he gets out of line.

"It is my hope," Waltrip said. "I want to be called to the big, red truck so I can go on television the next day and tell everyone, `I was just in the big, red truck!' "

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