Owensboro native and NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip announced his retirement from broadcasting at the conclusion of FOX network’s 2019 NASCAR season.
Since stepping out of the car from a stellar racing career, the three-time series champion and Daytona 500 winner joined Fox Sports as a NASCAR analyst for the 2001 Daytona 500, where he emphatically helped call the race as his younger brother Michael Waltrip took the checkered flag for the win.
But in a few months, after 19 years in the broadcast booth calling more than 330 races, “DW” will end his broadcasting career June 23 at Sonoma.
“Darrell has been the heart and soul of the FOX NASCAR booth since day one, so it’s incredibly bittersweet to know this is his final season,” FOX Sports CEO & Executive Producer, Eric Shanks, said in a release. “DW’s unmatched charisma and passion helped FOX Sports build its fan base when we first arrived at Daytona in 2001, and he has been the cornerstone of our NASCAR coverage ever since.”
For sentimental reasons, Waltrip made his announcement during a press conference at Bristol Motor Speedway, a track where Waltrip captured 12 wins during his racing career, including seven straight races from 1981 to 1984.
During the press conference, Waltrip said the decision to retire did not come hastily.
“I planned to retire in 2017, but then Jeff (Gordon) came on and I decided to stay another few years,” Waltrip said, adding that after talking it over with family for several months, he decided this year would be his last.
“I have been blessed to work with the best team in the sport for the past 19 years, but I’m 72 and have been racing in some form for more than 50 years,” Waltrip said. “I’m still healthy, happy and now a granddad, so it’s time to spend more time at home with my family, although I will greatly miss my FOX family.”
Gordon, a former NASCAR racer himself, and the newest analyst to join Waltrip in the booth, voiced his appreciation for the opportunity to work with the legend prior to his retirement.
“He has a heart of gold,” Gordon said. “I have been blessed to witness his passion for the sport and hear stories about everything from cars he has driven to interactions with other competitors, contract negotiations with Junior Johnson and races he won and lost. I’ve also been fortunate to have him by my side as I began my FOX TV career and to benefit from the many ways in which he has revolutionized the TV analyst role.”
Behind the wheel, Darrell won 84 career Cup Series races, including the 1989 Daytona 500. He was NASCAR Cup champion in 1981, ‘82, and ‘85, and was inducted into the third class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2012.
Waltrip completed his 29th and final NASCAR season as a driver in 2000 and joined the FOX Sports booth immediately upon retirement, pairing with Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds in the inaugural FOX NASCAR TV booth.
In 2003, Waltrip was elected to the National Motorsports Hall of Fame, an honor followed by an induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2005.
In 2004, Waltrip’s autobiography, “DW: A Lifetime Going Around in Circles,” debuted on the New York Times Best Seller List. His third book, “Sundays Will Never Be the Same,” was published in 2012 and focuses on his career as both a driver and broadcaster. On the big screen, Waltrip was the voice of “Darrell Cartrip” in the hit Pixar movies, “Cars,” “Cars 2” and 2017’s “Cars 3,” and played himself in the Will Ferrell comedy hit, “Talladega Nights.”
Mike Joy, FOX NASCAR play-by-play announcer and original member of the network’s broadcast team alongside Waltrip offered these remarks in the Fox Sports release:
“Of the 50 men in NASCAR’s Hall of Fame, only two multi-championship drivers have enjoyed second careers that could earn them a place in the Hall — Ned Jarrett, radio and TV’s first driver/analyst, and Darrell. That’s rare company. Stepping outside the sport, he frequently guest-hosted ‘Nashville Now,’ hosted the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington and sat on the board of Motor Racing Outreach. The man is a legend.”
Larry McReynolds, the third original FOX NASCAR broadcast team member, said, “Darrell absolutely has had two Hall of Fame careers. His driving career speaks for itself, but the mark he has left on the sport from a broadcast standpoint is unbelievable. He always knew the right thing to say at the right time – unscripted. He always came up with things that amazed me with their insight, humor and timeliness.”