NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip started his racing career in go karts at the age of 12. He soon started racing cars near his home of Owensboro, Kentucky including the Kentucky Motor Speedway asphalt track and the Ellis Raceway dirt track. Some success moved him to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway where he made his short track racing mark and grew a following while driving for P.B. Crowell. Waltrip won track titles at Nashville in 1970 & 1973 and won some elite short track events including the 1976 Snowball Derby at Five Flags (FL) Speedway.
“Ol’ DW” was a frequent competitor of Rex Robbin’s American Speed Association (ASA) during it’s forming years despite working towards building his career in the higher ranks of the sport.
Darrell Waltrip’s auto racing career was in cruise control through the late 70’s and 80’s as he was racking up victories and winning championships in the NASCAR Cup Series. However, Waltrip was sure to stay attached to his roots and competed frequently at the local short tracks.
Waltrip understood the promotional side of auto racing. He realized that appearing at short track events with his star power was effective in building a greater audience in the sport. Waltrip would occasionally compete at ASA events with other NASCAR heroes. The brash and loud Waltrip would often use his character to build rivalries against racers like Bobby Allison who was more quiet and reserved. He recognized the opportunity to create a more dramatic show for the fans and increase hype for events.
Darrell Waltrip has left an immense imprint on the sport of auto racing with three NASCAR Cup Series titles, 84 series wins including the 1989 Daytona 500, and victories in many other series including ASA, ARCA, and USAC. Waltrip celebrates his 70th birthday this week and is still heavily involved in the sport as a television analyst and broadcaster.
Darrell Waltrip (11) and Bobby Allison (22) racing at Dover Downs Speedway in 1983. (Howie Hodge photo)
Darrell Waltrip’s ASA rid (year unknown). (Photo from ASA 1973-2004 American Speed Association)