Perusing the shelves at my local library for a book on NASCAR worth reading is actually more difficult than it sounds. I wasn't in the mood for another history of the sport. I've read three or four of those in the last few weeks and wasn't sure if I could handle another. (Reviews of those coming in the next few weeks) Finally after flipping through several I came across DW: A Lifetime Going Round in Circles. It seemed like the obvious follow up review to Jeff Hammond's Real Men Work in the Pits considering how many years Hammond and Waltrip spent together.
Between Cale Yarborough and Dale Earnhardt in the record books is a man who many of us are familiar with these days because of his job with NASCAR on Fox and Speed TV. We know his catchphrase and wait each Sunday with anticipation for him to say those three little words. When we hear them the green flag flies and for the next few hours we have the joy of listening to his insight and comments on the race and how things have changed over the years.
From his start in Owensboro, Kentucky to his current job as a commentator Darrell Waltrip has never been softspoken. He's never been the guy who stood on the sidelines and let everyone else take the credit for the win. He's never been afraid to tell the media or NASCAR what he thinks. At times that's gotten him in trouble and at times it's lead to improvements in the system. Whether or not you like him as a racer or as a commentator you have to admit that if it weren't for drivers like Waltrip the sport wouldn't be what it is today.
In his book DW: A Lifetime Going Round in Circles Waltrip discusses racing, achievements, failures, personal loss, and his faith. It's not your typical biography of a driver that details each and every race. The book is more about the journey from start to finish and the things that shaped him into the man he is today. Sure you read about those big wins and Championships. The rivalries are in there as well but after reading this book I look at DW in a different light than I did before.
In the book he discusses how there are two Darrell's. One was the cocky self assured guy who partied with the guys while the other was a husband, father, and Christian man just wanting to make his dreams come true. While there is no visual dividing line between the two parts of Walrtip you can see a change in the writing as the story progresses. The beginning of the book is filled with grit and determination as it profiles his years with Junior Johnson and his three Championship seasons. It deals with the struggles he and his wife had in the early years along with the hatred many fans had for him because he spoke out against some of the greats.
About the time Waltrip joined Hendrick and began driving the "Tide Ride" the book changes. Waltrip begins to focus more on his faith, his family, and the strained relationship he had with his siblings, especially Michael. He discusses the founding of Motor Racing Outreach and his desire to become a better man. A man that his family would be proud of and a man who would later become the winner of the Most Popular Driver award.
The story also goes into a side of DW we aren't used to seeing. Still behind it all the determination is there. It was that drive that led Waltrip to leave Hendrick to start his own team and that drive that later made him realize he wasn't cut out to be an owner. Determination led him to climb behind the wheel of a car with a severely broken leg so that he would be the driver of record for the race. A move that DW later called the dumbest thing he has ever done. The determination to go out on top led Walrip to swallow his pride and accept the offer to drive for Dale Earnhardt while Steve Park was recovering from injuries.
DW: A Lifetime Going Round in Circles wasn't what I expected. It's not all racing all the time. It gives a nice comprehesive look into the Waltrip years but there's more to the story. If you want a more detailed history of Darrell's races then grab Hammond's book. If you want to know about the man behind the name "Jaws" and the road from Owensboro to the broadcast booth then pick up this one.