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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Waltrip hints he’ll quit driving if he isn’t competitive in 2009

When it comes to racing, the Waltrip name is among the most famous. No one can deny Darrell’s greatness that helped him earn three titles in the early 1980s. And Michael had a great run for a few years at DEI, winning four races and being on the dominant restrictor plate team, after struggling for the early part of his career.

But at the same time, the Waltrip family reminds me of houseguests in a way.
At first, you’re fine with them staying with you. After a little while, it gets annoying. Finally, you can’t wait for the day they leave.

I have rooted for both of the brothers in the past. I was thrilled to see Mikey get his first win in the tragic 2001 Daytona 500, and seeing DW do decent in the #1 DEI car for a short stretch filling in for an injured Steve Park was a pleasant reminder of his past success.

But Darrell held on way too long, tarnishing his legacy in such unfortunate rides as the “Tabasco Fiasco”. He became the modern-day Richard Petty, using endless past champion provisionals just to make races, and even had to “buy” his way into a race once after failing to qualify. I recognize his great achievements of the past, but many fans who just caught the end of his career might think less of him for riding around in the back for so many years before retiring.

Many would say his younger brother Michael is on the same route, and is headed for an neverending career of mediocrity. But there is light at the end of the tunnel for NASCAR fans, who may actually see someone still capable of competing in that #55 car in 2010.

Waltrip said the following this week:
“My goal is to go win some races this year, run up front so that I don’t have to say this is my last year. But if I don’t do those things, if I can’t compete at that level that Reutimann does or NAPA expects, then I probably won’t get to do this again in 2010.”

That’s the type of honesty not often heard in sports, and I’ll believe he’s out of the seat when I see it, but it’s nice to know Mikey doesn’t expect a free pass for life just because he owns the team. He sounds like someone who legitimately is considering hanging it up if it would help his team be more successful. (FYI: Something Kyle Petty should have done years ago).

Waltrip said, “I’m glad that I own my car, because if this is my last year then I’m fine, because that means I got somebody faster or better than me to drive my car in 2010, and that’s how it was supposed to be.”

I wouldn’t pencil in the Waltrip retirement date yet, but if he’s true to his word it’s pretty likely. I don’t see Waltrip winning this year, or even running up front. If that likely outcome comes to pass, perhaps he’ll move on to concentrating on running his team and making his 10,000 commercials.

I have nothing personal against Mikey. He’s probably a great guy. But it’s really time for him to hang up the steering wheel, and now it looks like it might actually happen


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you have no idea how hard it is to build a competitive CUP team from scratch. Waltrip is a helluva lot better than some of the "young punks" in high-end Rides. Casey Mears for example, just to name one. Waltrip in a Hendrick car would have won his share of races, mEARS IS A FLOP and then gets the RCR ride...Waltrip will run up front when his team gets to that level. I doubt Waltrip would crash a Penske Ride every other week as Hornish does either. He is building his race team and driving and showing improvement each season doing so. Get informed !

January 21, 2009 at 2:15 PM 

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