With Darrell Waltrip returning to the Fox Sports booth this weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway, we at the Daily Downforce began thinking about the best driving moments Waltrip has had during his career.
With 84 career wins and three Cup Series championships, there are multiple to pick from. Here are the top five driving moments from Darrell Waltrip’s career.
5. 1987 Goody’s 500 at Martinsville: First win for Hendrick Motorsports
Waltrip made the move from driving for Junior Johnson to driving for Rick Hendrick in 1987. Waltrip struggled to find victory lane in his first season, but he would not be denied when the Cup Series rolled into Martinsville in the fall.
It was a three car battle for the win in the final laps between Waltrip, Terry Labonte and Dale Earnhardt. On the final lap, Waltrip snuck underneath Labonte heading into turn three, but Labonte turned down in front of him. This sent Labonte into Earnhardt, allowing Waltrip to turn underneath the two and take the win.
4. 1985 The Winston: Waltrip wins and blows up
The brand new Winston, NASCAR’s All Star Race was a big deal to Darrell Waltrip. Before the race, Waltrip called it, “One of the most important races we’ll run this year.”
Waltrip went ahead and won the race. After passing Harry Gant with two laps to go, Waltrip took the checkered flag. Then the engine blew up just after the start-finish line.
Immediately afterwards, people theorized that Junior Johnson, Waltrip’s car owner, intentionall blew the motor up. Theories ranged from a detonation button to building an engine just durable enough to win the race. Waltrip to this day says he never knew of anything like this.
3. 1989 Daytona 500: Waltrip’s 1st Daytona 500
Heading into his 17th Daytona 500, Darrell Waltrip had failed to win the prestigious race. He had multiple close calls including being passed for the lead on the last lap in 1984 and finished second in 1979.
Waltrip spent most of the day behind his dominant Hendrick teammate Kenny Schrader. Crew chief Jeff Hammond elected to pull a risky strategy, and stretch the fuel for the final laps.
Waltrip was running all by himself for the final few laps, drafting off of every car he could. Waltrip barely had enough fumes to get him back around and take the checkered flag. Waltrip celebrated his win by imitating the “Ickey Shuffle” popularized by NFL running back Ickey Woods.
2. 1981: Four Straight Wins to Clinch the Championship
Waltrip spent most of the 1981 season trailing Bobby Allison for the Cup Series championship. Waltrip, who was down by more than 200 points at one point during the season finally took the points lead with six races to go. What followed next was incredible.
The next four races at Martinsville, North Wilkesboro, Charlotte, and Rockingham, Waltrip would win four straight poles and four straight races. This would give Waltrip 11 poles on the season and 12 race wins, and his first career Cup Series Championship.
From there, Waltrip became the star of the sport during the 1980s. While driving for Junior Johnson from 1981-1986, Waltrip would win three championships and 43 races.
1. 1981-1984: 7 Straight Bristol Wins
No one had the handle on Bristol that Waltrip had on Bristol. From March of 1981 until April of 1984, Waltrip won seven straight Bristol races. He would lead 200+ laps in six of those seven races as well.
These would be seven of 12 wins Waltrip would have at the track. This included his second to last career win in the Night Race at Bristol in 1992. His 12 wins at the track are the most wins any driver has had at one track during the Modern Era, and seven straight wins is tied for the most in NASCAR history.
Darrell Waltrip not only was great in the TV booth, he was also great on the race track. His return to the booth this weekend will allow fans to reminisce on some of these moments.