- Book: In The Blink Of An Eye
- Author: Michael Waltrip with Ellis Henican
- Price: $24.99 .... Pages: 223.
- Synopsis: NASCAR driver/owner Michael Waltrip grapples with his emotional racing career and life in a page-turning yet painful account.
- The verdict: Buy it.
Before ever turning a page, readers understand Michael Waltrip's new book – In The Blink Of An Eye – probably won't be a happy read.
And it's not. Given the main topic revolves around one of NASCAR's greatest tragedies, that's to be expected. Plenty of fans can relate to Waltrip's sadness about the death of his close friend and car owner, Dale Earnhardt.
But what's surprising about the book is how much Waltrip reveals his inner demons. Until now, fans have been more familiar with the goofy Waltrip they see on TV. As it turns out, Waltrip has wrestled all his life with some very difficult emotions.
More than anything, In The Blink Of An Eye is about a man who has struggled to find acceptance and recognition – never quite getting his due. And then, on the day he finally got it with his Daytona 500 win, all the joy was taken away.
Waltrip regularly cracks jokes along the way and makes sure to work in sponsor mentions – just as he would in an interview. But the humor sometimes serves to deflect a tangible sadness through many areas of his life.
There's no getting around it: This book hurts. It's certainly not one long laugh-fest with the Mikey from the NAPA commercials.
Waltrip struggled to get attention from his family all throughout his youth. He had no relationship with older brother Darrell until they were adults – Darrell actually refused to help Michael with his racing career when Michael was young. And Michael's desire to race was an afterthought to his father, too – as was Michael himself most of the time.
Waltrip makes no attempt to hide how much that stung him – and it's clear the lack of attention helped shape him as an adult.
Another brother, Bobby, started Michael's career by giving him a chance to race go-karts; the fact he was proud of Michael meant more than any trophy.
Why? Because Michael wasn't getting that outward attention and love from anyone else.
There was no hug from Waltrip's father when Michael moved out of the house; his dad barely noticed he was leaving. Michael finally got to spend quality time with his dad after the elder Waltrip was diagnosed with cancer – but then his dad was taken away.
One of the most painful parts of the book comes when Waltrip discusses the guilt he feels for his father's death – even though it seemingly wasn't his fault at all.
But this is a racing book after all, and there's plenty of that among the 223 pages. Readers may find it interesting that two of NASCAR's greatest drivers – Earnhardt and Richard Petty – were responsible for Waltrip's Cup career.
Petty pointed Waltrip in the right direction for his first Cup ride (advising him to skip the Busch Series altogether) and Earnhardt put Waltrip with the Wood Brothers – and later, of course, with Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Waltrip not only considered Earnhardt to be a close friend, but extracted meaning from his every word. When Earnhardt told Waltrip he could win – and proved he believed in him despite an 0-for-462 start to Waltrip's Cup career – Waltrip took it to heart.
What happened next, of course, is a story everyone knows: Waltrip won NASCAR's biggest race, finally achieving glory on what seemed to be the best day of his life. And then, it turned out to be the worst day of his life.
By the time that point in the book arrives, Waltrip has already suffered through so many disappointments that readers may find themselves hoping for a different ending.
After all, it seems too cruel to be true. But it is.
In the 10 years since, life hasn't been any easier for Waltrip. And for the first time, Waltrip discusses his divorce, his car accident and details the near-demise of his race team.
All this while battling the guilt he feels over Earnhardt's death.
Though he's tried to wrestle those emotions and use Earnhardt's influence as a positive in his life, Waltrip is clearly still searching for the acceptance and recognition he's craved since childhood.
It's painful, honestly. But it's real.