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Martinsville Memories: Darrell Waltrip, 1976

4 September 1997

MARTINSVILLE, VA - When a young Darrell Waltrip finished second to Richard 
Petty in the 1975 spring Winston Cup race at Martinsville Speedway, the media 
asked that he be included in the post race interview since he was a new face.

And it found the brash newcomer to be hilarious.

A large group of fans was waiting outside the Press Box and chanting for
Petty. "Watch this," Waltrip said. He walked outside, opened his arms wide and
the silent crowd just stared. He was still virtually unknown.

When Petty left the Press Box, he was greeted by a big cheer as the fans
pushed and shoved for his autograph. "Listen to that crowd," Waltrip marveled.
"It really must be something to have the fans waiting for you like that just
to get an autograph."

The next spring at Martinsville, it was his turn. He won the 1976 Virginia 500
by a lap over Cale Yarborough and two laps over David Pearson and Petty.

It was the first of his 11 victories at Martinsville, second only to Petty's
15. From the beginning, Waltrip has spoken his mind and still is a media

He made it a habit to challenge the establishment with Petty, Pearson,
Yarborough and Bobby and Donnie Allison favorite targets. "I had to get inside
their heads and make them think and talk about me on and off the track,"
Waltrip said.

"At that time, those were the guys who ran the 'inner circle' and no one got
inside. They were the ones with money and great equipment. It was a lock. They
were the only ones winning races.

"As Bill France, Sr. told me, we were the slow cars for the fast cars to 
pass. I didn't have the great equipment in the beginning to compete with them
so I found another way.

"If I said something or did something that got their attention and they
started talking about me, I knew I was doing something right, I was on the 
right road."

Yarborough pinned Waltrip with the nickname "Jaws" in 1977. "Cale and I had an
on-track rivalry," Waltrip said. "Between us, we won 15 of the 30 races that
year. He came up with the Jaws name because he said. I talked too much. That's
when I made up the 'Cale Scale,' which was a scale of one to ten and how I 
measured the difficulty of a win.

"We had a good time with it and I think the media did, too. We weren't
breaking any rules. It just helped heat up the battle."

Now 50, the three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion is still a hoot. The media
can always get a great quote from him and he borders on being a stand up
comedian. A television career is assured when he quits racing. And when a new
driver mouths off, Waltrip just shakes his head and grins. And remembers. And
then adds a few of his own comments.

By Martinsville Speedway Public Relations