Throwback Thursday: Darrell Waltrip is known in the NASCAR world for being an analyst for NASCAR on FOX during the early part of the racing season. Waltrip wasn’t always just an analyst though, he never will be. He’s a racer, and a good one at that. Darrell Waltrip started his career in his home town of Owensboro Kentucky at the young age of twelve. Waltrip would begin racing stock cars shortly after on his local dirt track, wrecking his car in his first start. After this race, Waltrip decided to stick to asphalt racing for a while. He would race at multiple asphalt and dirt tracks before moving to Tennessee where he continued to race, and win. During his early racing days he would appear on local television stations to promote the races, often trash talking his fellow competitors. This didn’t make him very popular among drivers, but it sold a lot of tickets.
During this same time, Waltrip made it to Winston Cup, making his first start in May of 1972 at Talladega. He finished 38th due to an engine failure 69 laps in. He would start four more races that season in that same car. In fact, Waltrip still owns the car today. He won his first career race in May of 1975 as an owner/driver at Nashville, his home track. He would win one more race that season, finishing 8th in the final standings.
Darrell would drive for multiple teams throughout his career including The DiGard Racing Team, Junior Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports. Waltrip also won three Championships for Junior Johnson’s team in 1981,82′ and 85′ and one Daytona 500 for Hendrick Motorsports in 1989.
Despite winning six races in 1989, Waltrip went winless in 1990 for the the first time since 1974. Waltrip left Hendrick at the end of the season, once again becoming an owner driver in 1991. Waltrip’s return to owner/driver status was a success, going to Victory Lane twice. Once at North Wilksboro and once again at Pocono. He also finished 8th in the final standings.
Waltrip entered 1992 again in his own car hoping to repeat his 1991 success. Up and down success came throughout the first half of the season, finally winning his first of the season at Pocono. Later that season, Waltrip grabbed his record 12th win at Bristol Motor Speedway. After Bristol, the Winston Cup Series went to Darlington and the Southern 500. Waltrip had won four races at the legendary track, but never it’s biggest race. The Southern 500.
Waltrip qualified his Western Auto Chevy 5th on the grid. Ernie Irvin, Sterling Marlin and Davey Allison led the early stages of the race. It looked as though Waltrip would have another good run in the Southern 500, but again not get the win. Waltrip was finally put into the lead with 6 to go. Then, the rain came. The drivers and crews waited through 19 laps of caution before the race was finally restarted for a 2 lap shootout. Waltrip was able to hold off the field leading just the final 6 laps. The win proved to be the 84th and final of Waltrip’s career.
Darrell Waltrip retired from NASCAR racing after the year 2000 to start with NASCAR on FOX in 2001. Although he retired from Cup racing, he made several more NASCAR starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The most recent of which coming in 2007 at Martinsville.
Darrell Waltrip is undoubtably a NASCAR legend and will continue to be apart of our sport for many years to come along with his younger brother Michael. Darrell was inducted into the NASCAR Hall Of Fame in 2012, putting him among the best ever to be apart of NASCAR, somewhere he truly belongs.