1 January 1901
Q&A - Darrell Waltrip
With the Daytona 500 less than two weeks away, three-time champion and current Fox Sports NASCAR analyst Darrell Waltrip shares his thoughts on the upcoming season...
How excited are you to get away from the bad news of the offseason and into racing?
Off seasons are always kind of chaotic. You've got all these people, and more now than we ever had before, telling you what's wrong with the sport and how to fix it. That's what happens when you have a little lull in the activity. Once we get back into racing, it's more about what's going on at the track and on the track than it is what's going on away from the track.
A lot of the things we've been reading about and hearing about, we'll be able to put those things to rest. We're going to have plenty of cars at Daytona. We're going to have a lot of new teams that are going to show up. I don't know how long they're going to be able to hang. But the excitement Daytona generates is a great way to start off the year, particularly this year, when there's been kind of a lot of gloom and doom.
How big of a deal will it be if Jimmie Johnson wins four titles in a row?
I think it's huge. I really think they can do it. Obviously, the competition is going to come from probably the Roush camp. It looks like it'll be Carl [Edwards] and Kyle [Busch]. But until someone shows me they can go mistake free, in the Chase particularly, and until somebody shows me they've got what it takes to beat that team, I've got to put my money on Jimmie.
Who do you think is going to win the Daytona 500?
I think the surprise of the 500 is going to be the Penske cars. They'll have to go up against the Toyotas, any Toyotas. The way Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart ran at Daytona back in February, I would have bet the farm that Kyle or Tony was going to win that race. They just made the wrong move on the last lap.
You've got to look at the record of Penske on the restrictor-plate tracks, Kurt Busch particularly. Now his brother, Kyle, is the head of the pack. Kurt's there every race, too. It could be a Busch-whacking going on in February.
Even though he didn't win, Kyle's performance in the 500 last year was incredible.
I felt that way about him all year long, up until obviously the end of the season. I would pay to go watch him race. Whether you're at Daytona with the restrictor plate or you're at Atlanta or you're at a road course, he was putting on a show. If I'm going to go to a race, I want to be entertained, and that dude will entertain you. You can just tell that he has a lot of natural ability, and he can do anything with that car that he wants to. He's having fun.
Which track is your favourite to call a race from?
Obviously Bristol would be high, high, high on my list. I love doing the Bristol races. I get so excited when I go there, knowing what it takes to win there, 500 laps, staying out of trouble. It's usually pretty exciting, it's usually pretty close. There's always tempers and fights. I think it's kind of the consummate racetrack for all the things we love about racing.
Would you be worried going into the season not having tested?
No. Here's the reason why. When they open the track for practice, nine times out of ten, the fastest lap that a guy runs is his first lap around the racetrack, unless your car is just totally out to lunch. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, all those guys are usually in the first lap or two of practice at speed, running as fast as they can go. We don't need testing any more.
These cars are tested to death before they get to the track. We used to have to do everything at the track that they're able to do at the shop now. Probably the only thing that has to get up to speed is the driver, not the car.
Does the lack of testing help veterans?
Yes and no. Somebody said the other day that a certain driver needed to be on a certain team so he could help these younger guys. I said, 'I'm not sure I agree with that. Why do I want an old guy telling me what I can't do?' A lot of drivers, as they get older, kind of become set in their ways. They've got habits.
They say, you can't do this or you can't do that. I don't think there's an advantage either way.
by Matt Crossman/Sporting News
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