Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Darrell Waltrip

Posted on October 11, 2009 by Dean Hybl

Darrell Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip

In recognition of NASCAR’s current battle for the Sprint Cup Championship, we recognize as the Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Week a popular driver who won the championship three times during his career.

Though now recognized by a generation of NASCAR fans for his colorful commentary, Darrell Waltrip was one of NASCAR’s more colorful and outspoken stars during his nearly 30 year career. Nicknamed “Jaws” by Cale Yarborough, Waltrip was notorious for his trash talking and flamboyant personality.

He joined the Winston Cup Series in 1972, but didn’t earn his first victory until 1975 when he won at Nashville and Richmond. His seventh place finish in points during 1975 started a string of 15 straight years where Waltrip finished in the top 10 in points and won at least one race.

In 1981, Waltrip won 12 out of 31 races to claim his first Winston Cup title. The following year he duplicated both his victory total of 12 and his Cup Championship.

He nearly made it three titles in a row, but finished 47 points behind Bobby Allison in 1983 despite finishing in the top five in 22 out of 30 races.

After placing fifth in the standings in 1984, Waltrip regained the Winston Cup title in 1985 while registering more than a million dollars in winnings for the first time in his career.

In 1986 Waltrip finished second in the standings for the third time in his career. He registered six victories and finished fourth in points in 1989.

A polarizing figure for much of his career, Waltrip started to gain in popularity later in his career and in 1989 and 1990 was selected as the Most Popular Driver in NASCAR.

In 1990, he crashed during practice for the Pepsi 400 and suffered a broken leg and a concussion. He missed six races and finished 20th in points. It marked the first year since 1974 that Waltrip didn’t win a race.

Waltrip rebounded in 1991 to win twice and finish eighth in the Winston Cup Standings. The following year he claimed three victories, finished in the top five 10 times and placed ninth in the points standings.

After having won earlier in the 1992 season at Pocono, Waltrip claimed consecutive victories late in the season at Bristol and Darlington. They would prove to be the final two wins of his career.

Following a 13th place finishing in the standings in 1993, Waltrip put together a string of 40 straight races without a DNF and placed ninth in the Cup standings for 1994.

Despite racing for six more years, Waltrip recorded only six more top 5 and 16 top 10 finishes in Winston Cup races. He retired following the 2000 season.

Waltrip finished his career with 84 Winston Cup victories, which is tied with Bobby Allison for third all-time behind only Richard Petty and David Pearson.

Since 2001, Waltrip has served as the lead analyst for NASCAR races on Fox. He also has made appearances on television and in movies. He played the race analyst Darrell Cartrip in the 2006 movie Cars.

If you had a favorite athlete growing up that you would like to see featured as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week, send me a nomination by e-mail.

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