If it wasn't for videotape, Darrell Waltrip's two daughters might find it hard to believe he's won a race.
"ESPN has done a real good job giving me some credibility with my family," said Waltrip, who is retiring after next season. "That's about all I've got right now."
Waltrip, always one of racing's great characters, insists he still can be a great driver at age 52. Before he walks away from the fumes, throaty exhaust and competition for good, he thinks he can find his way to victory lane again.
It's been a long time. Waltrip hasn't won a race since 1992, the year his second daughter was born.
"She'd really like to see her daddy win a race," Waltrip said. "There are some fun things you get to do when you win a race."
Who could forget Waltrip, the good ol' boy from Kentucky, doing the "Icky Shuffle" in victory lane in 1989 and wailing like a child, "I won the Daytona 500! I won the Daytona 500!"
Since then, Waltrip hasn't had nearly enough fun.
He has won three Winston Cup championships and leads active drivers with 84 career victories, tied for third with Bobby Allison. But Waltrip has been running on fumes of late; he hasn't won a race since Darlington in September 1992.
Waltrip, who ran out of former champion's provisionals two weeks ago at Pocono, unveiled a new car he'll use for the rest of the season--and next year, in what he's calling "Victory Tour 2000." He made the bold prediction that he'll qualify consistently in the top 25 from now on.
"There should be no excuse for me and this car to miss races," Waltrip said.
True to his word, Waltrip didn't miss yesterday's Brickyard 400. Still, his "victory" tour got off to a dreadful start. Waltrip didn't even make it to the halfway point of NASCAR's second-biggest money race because of engine trouble.
In short, his No. 66 Kmart car just stopped running.
"It was something in the ignition or timing or something," said Waltrip, the three-time Winston Cup champion who started 35th. "It just cut off, and we're trying to figure out why it won't run."
Waltrip's trouble on lap 68 of 160 followed a mishap Thursday during first-round qualifying. Waltrip's car stalled just as he was about to make his qualifying run. Embarrassingly enough, the crew found that someone forgot to fasten one of the cables to the battery.
"I wish this was the battery deal again," Waltrip said. "But I think this is something more serious."
'I Am the Show'
Nothing would please Waltrip more than to make his victory tour live up its name.
"It would be kind of a fake tour, kind of a farce if we call it a victory tour and we don't produce a victory," Waltrip said Thursday. "Winning a race now would be just as special as winning that first one in 1975."
Admitting that the end was near left Waltrip momentarily speechless--probably for the first time in his career. He came in with a such a bang that it would seem only fitting if he had one more trick to pull off.
"I came into this sport in 1972, and I've been a headliner ever since," Waltrip said. "When I'd go to town, people would say, 'Are you here with the show?' And I'd say, 'No, I am the show.' "
It was a glimpse of the arrogance that earned Waltrip the nickname "Jaws" in the early days, when he was viewed as racing's outlaw. It's been quite a turnabout, because he will go out as the beloved "old DW."
"I guess in every sport your legs give out, your arm gives out, something gives out," Waltrip said. "I think every athlete that's been successful like I have, one thing never gives out. Your heart never gives out."
CAPTION: Darrell Waltrip, 52, who hasn't won a race since 1992, is optimistic as he embarks on the grand finale season that he has dubbed "Victory Tour 2000."