From 'Doubt' to Daytona Michael Waltrip Took Long, Varied Road to Biggest Stage

By Graham, Mike | Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current), February 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

From 'Doubt' to Daytona Michael Waltrip Took Long, Varied Road to Biggest Stage


Graham, Mike, Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Michael Waltrip has been involved in virtually every aspect of car racing. He's won the Daytona 500 twice (2001, 2003), the only driver trying to make Sunday's field to do so. He's written a best-selling book about it, "In the Blink of an Eye" (2011). He has been the pitch man in national commercials (NAPA, Aaron's) promoting their involvement in the sport. He is part of auto racing broadcast teams for Fox and Showtime and also is a car owner, fielding teams for Martin Truex, Jr., Clint Boyer and Mark Martin.

And to top it off in 2012, Sony Pictures will begin work on a movie about that fateful day in 2001 on which Waltrip ended a streak of 462 starts without a victory - in the Daytona 500 no less - only to lose his friend and car owner, Dale Earnhardt, killed in an unforgettable crash on the last lap.

So it seems a bit strange that the Owensboro, Ky., native and younger brother of three-time NASCAR champion and now Fox racing analyst Darrell Waltrip had a tough time getting started behind the wheel.

"There was never any doubt in my mind about being a race car driver, but there was a whole lot of doubt in the people around me," Waltrip was saying last week on Daytona Media Day. "My mom (Margaret) and dad (Leroy) didn't encourage me to race because they had been through it with my brother Darrell and pretty much said they had had enough.

"And so, I didn't know how I was going to be a race car driver, I just knew I was going to be a race car driver. I had to be persistent and had to be pretty resourceful to try to figure out a way to get the breaks it takes to get into a race car.

"When your first option is (asking) mom and dad and they say 'nuh-uh,' the next option becomes a little more difficult."

Waltrip turned for help to his older brother Bobby, a go-kart racer himself, instead of Darrell. "I won my first race at a little track in Olney, Ill., in a go-kart when I was 12," said Waltrip. "I was in Olney the other day doing an appearance for NAPA and went and found where that track was. That was pretty cool. I raced all up and down in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky on the go-kart circuit. Most of my stock car racing when I turned 18 was at the local track there in Owensboro (Windy Hollow Speedway). …

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