Darrell Waltrip made it 19Â years as a NASCAR on Fox analyst, a storied career that almost didnât get off the ground after one fateful Saturday in the 1980s.
âMy start to being an analyst on TV was a little bit on the rough side,â he recalled.
Waltrip, still at the height of his racing career, was in the middle of his first broadcast ever with racing broadcast legend Ken Squire, calling what is now equivalent to an Xfinity series race sometime on a Saturday at Daytona.
It was DWâs first major broadcast. He had done some small TV work, but nothing of that magnitude to that point. During the final lap, Waltrip recalled a pair of cars going into the third turn and crashing, then another car T-boning one of the vehicles that had crashed.
âOf course, me, working around cars and crews in the pits and all that, when that happened I said âOh s—!ââ Waltrip said. âJust like that. It just came out because it was a huge hit.â
Waltrip recalled the look he got from Squire â it wasnât good.
âOh my God, your TV career is over before it even gets started,â he recalled thinking. âAnd I thought it was. I thought, âMan, this is the worse thing I ever done, I said a bad word on TV and Iâm in trouble. And I was in trouble.â
Luckily for Waltrip, he got a pat on the back and a free pass for being a first-timer in the booth, and another chance thatâs allowed him a second career in an industry he excelled at for the better part of 20 years. He called his final NASCAR race Sunday at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
Waltrip became an anchor on Fox NASCAR broadcasts, well known for exclaiming âBoogity, Boogity, Boogity, letâs go racinâ, boys!â as the green flag drops. When a NASCAR fan heard that, or even his voice on Saturday night or Sunday, they knew they had tuned in to watch a Cup series race.
The ânatural progressionâ from the track to the booth, as he calls it, started when Waltrip recognized during his racing career that the media can be used to deliver a message to the guys in charge.
âI found out that the best way to get a message to Bill France Jr. in NASCAR was through the media,â he said. âSay something to a reporter, heâd put it in a newspaper, they would read it and they would receive your message.â
Waltrip thought he would originally call it quits in 2017, but Fox Sports and Waltrip ultimately decided to wait until 2019.
âI had originally thought 2017 because I love the number 17. I had won the Daytona 500 in car No. 17, my name has 17 letters, my house is on lot 17,â he said.
He and Fox Sports executives had discussed his retirement for a few years now, but chose to wait after Jeff Gordon joined the broadcast and it was agreed leaving commentator Mike Joy with two rookies in the booth might be too much.
âI stayed on and Jeff and I have developed such a great relationship and we have so much fun, I was thinking this might last a little bit longer, but itâs time for me to step aside and let someone else a little bit younger and maybe with a different perspective have the kind of fun Iâve had, because Iâve had a ball doing this,â Waltrip said.