Darrell Waltrip's speech was the highlight of Friday night's NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Because the event doesn't air on Speed until Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern, you probably haven't heard what Waltrip said yet.
Here's a partial transcript of Waltrip's 24-minute speech:
I've got to straighten something out before we can get to any of this other stuff: It wasn't that I talked that much. Those other guys didn't talk at all. So it just looked like I was talking a lot. I had to fill in the blanks. If there is something that needed to be explained, DW had to explain it. So it looked like that I talked a lot, but I honestly didn't. I just want you to know that, for you new fans that have listened to all this stuff tonight.
This is a red letter night. You have to admit. Bobby Allison said I deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. Does anybody in here know how big that is? That's big. And he swore to me that they weren't holding a gun to him or anything, he did it right out of the goodness of his heart. So thank you, Bobby.
You know, this night, these men and the people in this room, they're what inspire me. They are what inspired me to be a race car driver. They are what inspired me to...Cale said he climbed a ladder. I feel like I climbed a lot of mountains, and the climbing was rough. But these men in this room inspired me to be successful and to be good, and they gave me great examples of how to do that for every one of them from all the inductees from the prior hall classes, Richard, Bobby, David, thank you very much for being patient with me and helping me when I needed it.
And then it's been the most important people in my life are right here on the front row. This has been a big week for DW. Not just tonight. I mean, this is huge for my career, but in my family life, we found out that Fausto and Jessica, my oldest daughter and her husband, are expecting their first child. So I'll be a grandfather. And if you ever want to see DW speechless, my Sarah, who was on a mission trip in the Philippines, as early as Wednesday, we talked to her earlier in the week: 'Dad, I wish I could be there, I know it's a big night, I'm sorry I can't make it.' When I checked into the hotel room last night and I opened the door, my Sarah was there. She flew 25 hours to be here tonight, and she's got to turn around Sunday and fly 25 hours back to the Philippines. That's sweet. That means a lot to an old dad, trust me.
And then there's the redhead. If there was a Hall of Fame for drivers' wives, Stevie would be in the first class. We've been married 42 years, and like a lot of drivers and people in racing, it was tough back in the day. I mean, it was just one week to the next. What you won one week, you paid enough bills so you could make it to the next week.
But the funny thing about Stevie is when she came to the sport in 1972, I know you're going to find this hard to believe, but there could be no women in the pits. You could have no women in the pits, in the garage. It was men only.
I didn't like that, Stevie didn't like that. So I talked to I think the competition director was Bill Gazaway. I said, 'What do I got to do?' He said, you can have car owners and crew members, and that's it. The next week, Stevie was the car owner and she was a crew member.
Now, to say it went smooth would be an understatement. My very first race in the Daytona 500, we had only run short tracks all over the country, a lot of short tracks. Hundred lappers were about as long a race as we'd ever run. We get in the Daytona 500 and it's not going very well. I'm getting slower and slower, and Jake Elder was there, and Jake said, 'What's wrong with him?' and Stevie said, 'I think he's hungry,' and Jake said, 'He's hungry?' She said, 'Yeah, he's never driven a race this long, I'm pretty sure he's hungry.'
So Jake kind of blew that off and went about his business, and Stevie figured she'd better run to the truck and make me a sandwich. So she ran to the truck, got some ham and cheese, made a sandwich, ran back out to the pit, and when I came in the pit to make my green flag pit stop, guess who came over the wall? Stevie Waltrip handed me a ham and cheese sandwich.
Now, can anybody in here top that? Handed me a ham and cheese sandwich. Jake and them are changing tires and I take this sandwich, and I look at her, and about that time the jack dropped and I knew I had to go, so I just threw the thing out the window, and as I drove away they said Stevie was standing there shaking her head going, 'I thought he liked ham and cheese!'
You know, Stevie says this all the time, not so much anymore, but she likes to say she's been married to two men with the same name. For you folks who are maybe new to the sport, I hope you feel the same way. I have had two lives, and I've had two careers. When I came onto the scene, I was not a nice guy. I was an antagonist. It just seemed to work for me. I always thought that a lot of people say they take the path of least resistance. I took the path I couldn't resist. You know why? There ain't nobody on it. So a lot of times I was off on my own.
But through a lot of hard work, and Richard Petty, you may never remember this, but he put his arm around me one day and he wasn't even mad at me, and he said, 'Boy, keep going like you are, you're going to have a hard time finding a sponsor.' Does any of this sound familiar? Antagonist, hard time to find a sponsor, a little trouble on the track? If it doesn't, it should. And I took that to heart, because Richard Petty, he gave you good advice. When he told you something, you take it to the bank.
So I worked hard on changing my image, and by golly, in 1989 and 1990 I was able to win the most popular driver of this sport, and that's one of the biggest awards in my whole career.
But one of (Junior Johnson's) favorite things to do to me, he inspired me a lot, he called me 'Cale' a lot. When I first started driving for him, he'd come on the radio and he'd say, 'Pit next time by, Cale.' I'd say, "Dadgummit, Junior, my name ain't Cale.' '10‑4, Cale.'
They always told me, if you're going to dream, dream as big as you possibly can because you know what, it might just come true. And tonight, I'm living proof of that.
I wanted to mention my grandmother who took me to races when I was a little boy, seven years old. I got bit by the bug. G.C. Spencer was her hero, he became my hero, and I told granny one Sunday when we were standing in victory circle with G.C. Spencer, I said, 'Granny, someday I'm going to do that,' and she said, 'Boy, that's impossible.' I took that word and I broke it down: 'I'm possible, I'm possible,' and I took that with me everywhere I ever went.
It all comes down to this, folks: I've had a marvelous career. My faith is important to me. One of my biggest accomplishments that I never get a chance to talk about is Motor Racing Outreach. Our president is here tonight, Billy Mauldin. I had a lot of things out of order, and my priorities were one of them. I loved racing. It's all I cared about. I didn't care about anything else, and it bit me. After a while it got me, and I finally realized that I had my priorities wrong. It was God, family and racing, and when I got that straight, I became a much better man, and I actually ended up being NASCAR's most popular driver. I was blessed; I was given a second chance.
In closing I'll say this: It's not about me. It's not about what I've done. It's not about wins, statistics or anything else. Tonight it's about family, thank the good Lord that they're all here. It's about all my friends who came from miles away to be here, and it's about all the fans that are back there that have supported me all through the years, and it's about NASCAR and what they've been able to do with it sport, and I'm just glad I was able to be a part of it.
I'm probably running a little bit long but I've got to tell you this quick story. Just one more story, I promise. You see this ring right here? In '81 I won the championship and they gave me a ring and it was a little rinky‑dink ring. I didn't think it was very pretty and it wasn't very big, and I thought, 'Man, that's really not very indicative of how hard you have to work to get this thing. So in '82 Bill France called me up and he said, 'If you win the championship again this year, you can pick the ring.' So I picked this ring, and if any of the champions here have got their ring on tonight, it started in 1982.
I've worn it every day since I got it, but tonight I'm taking it off and I'm putting on the Hall of Fame ring because this is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.
Thank you very much.