Darrell Waltrip has been a legendary figure in the world of NASCAR with a career spanning not only decades as a driver but also multiple disciplines, from driver, to owner-driver, to owner, and, finally, atop the FOX Broadcast booth. With Daily Downforce’s Joshua Lipowski taking on the best driving moments of his career, we at the Daily Downforce thought it’d be appropriate to look at his post-driving career as a NASCAR broadcaster.
For most of us younger fans, these are the moments we most associate with Darrell Waltrip. He was the voice of NASCAR on FOX for us during our formative years. So, with no further ado, here’s five of DW’s best moments as a broadcaster.
#5 Calling Dale Jr. vs. Busch 1 at Richmond: “He turned him!”
This one hurts me so let’s go ahead and get it out of the way. While Casey Mears took over the 5 car after Kyle Busch left Hendrick Motorsports following the 2007 season, it was really Dale Earnhardt Jr. who was hired on as his replacement. It was his team, his cars, just a renumbered 88. For that reason, there was somewhat of a built-in rivalry between the No. 88 and No. 18 drivers and it all started to boil over at the fist Richmond race of the 2008 season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading and the laps were winding down. But Kyle Busch in his Pedigree No.18 was charging hard. With Jr. slipping up the track, Busch was able to get under him. Then, it happened. Maybe I’m biased but I could totally see Busch’s wheels turn right into Dale Jr. door. This crash would take out Dale Jr. and Busch would end up finishing 2nd. But while the moment hurts for Junior Nation fans, Darrell Waltrip’s calling of the dump is legendary. We still, to this day, hear “Oh, he turned him!” in our sleep at night in that classic Darrell Waltrip drawl.
#4 Trevor Bayne Wins the Daytona 500: “Happy Birthday Trevor Bayne!”
Tandem racing amongst NASCAR fans tends to get a bad wrap. I’ll be the first to admit it: I didn’t like it. It was different and I wasn’t used to it. Being older now and not as concerned with how this new form of drafting affected my favorite driver’s dominance at superspeedways, I can honestly say that there were some pretty good races in the tandem racing era of the early 2010s, specifically in the 2011 season.
One of DWs greatest calls came from the 2011 Daytona 500. As the field ran under caution on their second of alluded 3 green-white-checkers, Darrell Waltrip can be heard naming off some big name veterans such as Mark Martin and Tony Stewart whom have never won the Great American Race.
Last he mentions Trevor Bayne, who is leading the race under caution, in his first attempt to grab the Harley J. Ear Trophy – in only his second total Cup Series start. DW somewhat dismisses Bayne, even describing him as a “sitting duck” on the last lap. But good ole DW could not reign in his excitement as the newly turned 20-year-old Bayne defied all the odds and captured the biggest win of his career.
“Happy Birthday, Trevor Bayne!” DW shouts. Happy Birthday, indeed.
#3 Elliott vs. Larson at Charlotte “They touch, they’re slidin’, they’re bangin’!”
The year was 2016. It was the first year somebody else but Jeff Gordon was driving the No. 24 car in decades. Rookie Chase Elliott, a now future Hall of Famer -but at the time a relatively unproven driver – was closing in on future teammate, Kyle Larson who was driving the No. 42 Target ride of Chip Ganassi Racing.
Coming out of turn four, Chase Elliott got a run on Larson’s outside. Larson moved up and the two made contact, door slamming each other. Larson would become one of many drivers who would make Chase Elliott fans wait to see their driver win his first race. But the call between Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip (a combination Waltrip was apprehensive about heading into the 2016 season) would prove to be legendary.
#2 Craven vs. Kurt Busch at Darlington “No, I’ve never!”
Today, Darlington Raceway is a fan-favorite track. It is the host of the throwback weekend on Mother’s Day weekend and the crown jewel Southern 500 is back on its originally schedule Labor Day weekend. It boggles the mind to think that the historic NASCAR facility could ever be considered for being on the chopping block. But, in 2003, that was the case.
With North Wilkesboro supposedly biting the dust several years earlier, completely cutting the Darlington spring race and well as potentially the Southern 500 was being discussed…and it would take a miracle to save the famed South Carolina track from demolition and land developers.
That miracle would happen in 2003, Mother’s Day weekend. The race itself was really only so-so but the ending would go down in the NASCAR history books as one of the best closing laps battles in the history of the sport. With Kurt Busch leading in his Roush Racing No. 97 ford, Ricky Craven in the No. 32 Tide ride was hot on his heels.
With less than a half of a lap remaining, Craven got a run heading into turn 4. Coming out of that corner, the two were side-by-side, Busch on the outside, Craven on the inside. Craven would move up the track and door slam Busch. Busch would retaliate and the two would drag race to the finish line. After Waltrip declared Craven’s win, Mike Joy asked if he had ever. To which Waltrip replied, “No, I’ve never,” a soundbite NASCAR has used and will continue to use in video packages for years to come.
#1 Calling His Brother’s First Win and his Friend’s Last Race
Heading into 2001 was a nervous time for NASCAR fans. The sport just landed the biggest TV deal in the sport’s history with FOX broadcasting its first Daytona 500. And, as many NASCAR YouTubers have gone on to speculate, the 2001 Daytona 500 could have been the greatest Daytona 500 in history.
It had it all: veteran stars like Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin as well as young guns like Tony Steward and Dale Earnhardt Jr. A new OEM in Dodge was entering the sport with one of NASCAR’s greatest crew chiefs, Ray Evernham as the flagship owner. His driver, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, Bill Elliott, scored the pole.
The race itself was fantastic. There were a lot of daring moves and comers and goes. The FOX Sports team wanted to stress that NASCAR was really an exciting sport and so they had all of this new technology to show viewers what drivers are going through and to help break down the more scientific aspect into laymen’s terms. But perhaps the best thing the FOX Sports broadcast had going for it was its broadcast team: the beloved Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds.
Heading into the last laps following a big crash which involved Tony Stewart flipping upside down, the two DEI cars of DW’s brother Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr found themselves first and second. Dale Sr. in his iconic black No. 3 was third, but with Sterling Marlin and Kenny Schrader nipping at his heels. As the laps wound down, the activity around Dale got dangerous as he attempted to block. In a Shakespearean Tragedy of sorts, Darrell Waltrip was able to call his baby brother’s first win in the Daytona 500.
Everything seemed perfect at first glance. DW was rejoicing and cheering in the broadcast booth. He even did a post-race Victory Lane interview with his little brother. But the feeling did not last long. In the final moments of that Daytona 500, DW can be seen with very conflicting emotions. He’s excited for his little brother but very concerned for his friend, Dale Earnhardt, even tearing up.
He stated in that moment that watching Michael win the Daytona 500 was better than winning it himself. Then he said, “I just hope Dale’s okay. I guess he’s all right, isn’t he?” It would be one of the darkest days in motorsports history. And though it may be DWs most memorable moment in the booth, it’s also a burden he has to bear.
With DW returning to the broadcast booth this weekend at North Wilkesboro, it’ll be interesting what great moments DW has left. What do you think, Daily Downforce readers? What is DW’s best broadcasting moment? Are you excited about hearing him in the booth again? Let us know!