Waltrip's Martinsville memories

Martinsville, VA (September 7, 2000)---Darrell Waltrip swept both NASCAR Winston Cup races at Martinsville Speedway in 1989. He has not won on the .526-mile track since, but still is second on the track’s all-time victory list. ...

Waltrip's Martinsville memories

Martinsville, VA (September 7, 2000)---Darrell Waltrip swept both NASCAR Winston Cup races at Martinsville Speedway in 1989. He has not won on the .526-mile track since, but still is second on the track’s all-time victory list. With 11 career Martinsville wins, he stands only behind Richard Petty with 15 and well ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Cale Yarborough and Fred Lorenzen who have six each. Waltrip will make his final start at Martinsville in the NAPA AutoCare 500 on Sunday, October 1. At 53, he will retire from driving at the end of the season and become a racing analyst for Fox Television. Waltrip’s record is outstanding. He has 84 Winston Cup wins, tying him for third on the all-time NASCAR winners list with Bobby Allison. Waltrip has three NASCAR Winston Cup Championships (1981, 1982, 1985) and 59 Winston Cup poles including eight at Martinsville. Waltrip likes nothing better than a short track. “Oh, I love Martinsville. It’s one of those race tracks where you gotta realize something. These little race tracks, I mean, to me, that’s a test of skill. That tells you how good you are. It’s reflexes. It’s reaction. It’s response. It’s anticipation. The big race tracks, they have long straightaways and you have time to get ready for the corner. At a little race track, you’re always on the edge of your seat. You’ve got cars in front of you, cars to the side of you, cars behind you,” Waltrip said. “To me, that’s the mark of a great driver. How many short track races have you won? At little racetracks, it’s all driver. That’s you and your machine against the other guy. The driver can make a huge difference there,” he said. Waltrip won his first Martinsville Speedway Winston Cup race in the 1976 Virginia 500, but his most memorable win is the 1987 Goody’s 500. Waltrip was a lap down and appeared to be out of the hunt when leader Dale Earnhardt pitted with 21 laps to go allowing Waltrip to get back on the lead lap. Then a caution, with seven laps to go, allowed Waltrip to fall in behind leader Earnhardt and second place Terry Labonte when the race restarted with just three laps to go. “We came around and got the white flag and Terry was all over the back of Dale. He goes into the first corner and he starts around Dale on the outside. Dale saw him and he pushed him up into the fence. Dale wiggled and Terry scraped the fence, but he got back in behind Earnhardt,” Waltrip said. “Well, I could see the steam coming out of that car. It was ice melting. I said ‘You know, I’ll bet old Terry’s hot about that.’” Because Earnhardt and Labonte were bumping and banging down the backstretch, Waltrip caught up going into the third turn. “So, we’re going down the back and when we get down to the third turn Terry’s going to take Dale out or he’s at least going to lay on him. When he started to dive in, I had made a run on him and I clipped him. I didn’t bump him, I clipped him. When I did, it wobbled him. He couldn’t get on the brake and he hit Earnhardt. Well, they just did a pirouette and they both slid backwards right up to the outside fence. Guess where I was? Looking at the checkered flag. I never will forget that. That was like Christmas. I didn’t expect to win that race, I shouldn’t have won that race, but there I was.” The action gets underway later this month at Martinsville Speedway with the Taco Bell 300 NASCAR Late Model Stock car race on Sunday, September 24. The following weekend, qualifying for the NAPA AutoCare 500 Winston Cup race is 3 p.m. on Friday, September 29. Sharing the weekend with the NAPA AutoCare 500 will be the Goody’s Body Pain 200 NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour race on Saturday, September 30. The NAPA AutoCare 500 gets underway at 1 p.m. on Sunday, October 1. Tickets for the Taco Bell 300 and Goody’s Body Pain 200 are unreserved while great reserved seats are available for the NAPA AutoCare 500 for $40-$65. They may be ordered by calling toll free 877-722-3849 or 540-956-3151 or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

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