A day after it was announced that Darrell Waltrip would end his broadcasting career this year, the three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion sat down and spoke with the media about his legendary career behind the wheel and in the television booth.
“Some people have thought that this was a spur-of-the-moment decision, something that I decided to do over the last two or three weeks,” Waltrip said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he won 12 times. “That is so far from the truth. …
“Anybody that’s done what I’ve done, whether it’s a driving career or a TV career, you can always look back and say ‘maybe should have done something different, maybe I should have thought about this or maybe I should have thought about that.’
“This is my home. For 60 years of my 72 I was holding on to something. I was holding on to a steering wheel for 30 years; I let go of that wheel and I grabbed on to a microphone. And I held on to a microphone for another 19 years. I’ve always been holding on to something.”
Waltrip, along with Mike Joy and former series crew chief Larry McReynolds, made up the original booth talent for FOX Sports when the network began NASCAR coverage in 2001. The move to television came after a driving career that saw Waltrip win series championships in 1981-82 and ’85 as well as 84 races.
In 2016, three-time series champion Jeff Gordon joined Waltrip and Joy in the booth.
As a racer in the early 1970s, Waltrip rocked the established stars of the day almost from the moment he arrived on the scene. By the end of the decade, he was winning multiple races and contending for championships. He was both loved and loathed as a competitor by fans and fellow drivers alike.
His career as a broadcaster was equally notable as he quickly helped merge two very different eras of the sport, identifying seamlessly with the older established followers while teaching a younger audience the ins and outs of NASCAR.
Mike Helton, vice chairman of NASCAR, noted that Waltrip has made “a remarkable impact on a lot of people personally but on our industry in general.
“I count my blessings as I get older about those that I have been able to share my career with, but you’re right there among the top,” Helton told Waltrip. “You’re a remarkable person.”
Waltrip will remain in the booth for the remainder of the FOX portion of the 2019 racing season, which concludes June 23 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
A replacement has not been named.
“They say you get what you give,” Waltrip said. “Well, I gave a lot. But I got a whole lot more in return.”