In the Rearview Mirror: The stars aligned for Darrell Waltrip

The infamous "Ickey Shuffle" that Darrell Waltrip performed in
victory lane after the Daytona 500 has been one of the most unique we have ever seen.
Credit: NASCAR Media

Timing is everything in life and especially in racing, but I am not speaking about seconds in this case, rather years. Darrell Waltrip joined NASCAR in the Richard Petty, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough era but he had a distinct advantage – youth! Being 10-15 years younger than these drivers, Waltrip said “You know, time was on my side. I guarantee I can wear ‘em out.” And wear them out he did.

From his start in 1972, Waltrip was seemingly unstoppable. His career would span almost three decades - 29 years, 809 races, and 84 wins and in that time the man known simply as “DW” captured 3 Winston Cup championships.

Many race fans of today’s generation simply know Waltrip for his present role, the lead analyst for FOX Sports during their time covering the NASCAR Sprint Cup races. “DW” on Fox is a blast and for myself, a newer race fan, I love getting to know this side of Waltrip first. If you would have told me he was known as “Jaws” I would not have taken an instant liking to him.

Why was ole DW called “Jaws” anyway? Well, Cale Yarborough and Waltrip often battled it out week after week, for wins and all the glory. In a particular on-track incident at Darlington during the 1977 Southern 500, Yarborough and Waltrip were battling towards the end of the race, resulting in a wreck. In a post-race interview Yarborough referred to Waltrip as “Jaws” and the term stuck because of his somewhat aggressive driving style and because he also was a known talker.

With all Waltrip’s success, one race victory eluded him – the Daytona 500. 17 years into his career, numerous attempts and heart breaking close calls, it took a bold pit strategy by crew chief Jeff Hammond to get the No. 17 into victory lane. Hammond stretched fuel mileage, putting Waltrip in the position to pull back on the throttle and draft as much as possible to save fuel. In the closing laps Waltrip came over the radio multi times reporting he was out of fuel – but he made it to the checkered flag and to his first victory at Daytona. Darrell Waltrip, driving the No. 17 car won the Daytona 500 on the 17th of February in the 17th year of his career – numerology was on his side perhaps? This video from victory lane shows the emotion pouring from Waltrip as he climbs from the car:

I won the Daytona 500, I won the Daytona 500!!!

What came next was perhaps the greatest victory lane celebration of that decade, in my humble opinion. Waltrip shuffled to the right, shuffled to the left and spiked his helmet in his rendition of “the Ickey Shuffle.”

In this video celebrating the 20th anniversary of Waltrip's Daytona 500 win, the current stars on NASCAR paid tribute to “DW” and remembered where they were in 1989. Check out the sweet dance moves!

A 20th Anniversary tribute to “DW”

Parlaying his success on track, Waltrip decided in 1991 to form his own race team, Darrell Waltrip Motorsports. Waltrip later had numerous stints as an owner in the Truck Series, most notable launching the career of David Reutimann.

Outside of the track, “DW” is famous with his young fans for being a character in the hit animated movie “Cars.” The character of “Darrell Cartrip” even got to say “DW’s” catchphrase “boogity, boogity, boogity, let’s go racing” 6 simple words that are now synoumous with Waltrip. Waltrip is also an author, penning several books including his auto-biography DW: A Lifetime Going Around in Circles. Waltrip’s next book, Sunday's Will Never Be the Same, is scheduled to be released on February 7. The book, subtitled Racing, Tragedy, and Redemption--My Life in America's Fastest Sport opens with a reflection on “the race,” the race that Michael Waltrip won, the Daytona 500. But sadly, the race that changed NASCAR forever, that same race is when we lost Dale Earnhardt Sr. but this is not a book of sadness, it is a book of memories for Waltrip. It comes out just before the race season, so I am sure we will hear about it plenty on NASCAR on FOX. Remember, it’s all about that timing.
Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

In his own words; “When I look back at my life on and off the track, the same thought keeps coming back to me: Timing. It defined what I did as a race car driver but I’ve also been blessed with great timing all my life,” Waltrip said in the forward to his autobiography. “So many things outside of my control fell into place at just the right moment. Some say it was luck but I’ve always been told luck is when your hard work and effort successfully collide. So in the end, you make your own luck.”

Now, the stars align one more time, the stars of NASCAR will welcome Waltrip and fittingly Cale Yarborough into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in just one more week. An honor that is very deserving for Waltrip and his continuing contributions to the sport of NASCAR.

312195_652770032120_65903055_33524918_1553921819_nAmanda Ebersole offers Skirts and Scuffs readers a look back at NASCAR history In the Rearview Mirror. The great sport we enjoy today has glorious roots and is full of wonderful history, so join Amanda each Wednesday as she reminisces. What is your favorite memory of the golden days of NASCAR? Feel free to contact Amanda via Twitter or e-mail.
In the Rearview Mirror: The stars aligned for Darrell Waltrip In the Rearview Mirror: The stars aligned for Darrell Waltrip Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, January 11, 2012 Rating: 5