Waltrip talks about Dale Jr.
Q: At Bristol, Dale Jr. was quite upset on his radio after his crew chief, Lance McGrew, told him not to lay down after being caught for speeding. To hear someone even mention the noting of laying down, how tough is that for a driver?
WALTRIP: "Leading the race by a lap and you slowed down a little bit, Junior Johnson would say, "Boy, you ain't laying down on me are you?' Now that was motivation to me. It didn't require me coming back (on the radio) and saying, "What are you talking about or don't ever say that.' Every mule is different. Some of them you've got to hit with a stick and kick and others you pat them on the back. I guess Junior didn't take kindly to that.''
Q: What do you think of what Dale Jr. has done this year in getting back into the top 10 in points?
WALTRIP: "Expectations are so high with him that if he's not winning, then the world is not right and so I think they're making baby steps to get him back to where he needs to be. I told (car owner) Rick (Hendrick) and I really, honestly believe this, I'd run him in some truck races. He needs to get somewhere where he can win, and I'd get him in a truck. Not a Nationwide car, a truck. They're fun to drive, have a good time in the truck series. If I was Junior, I'd go talk to (Kevin) Harvick and ask him if I could drive that 2 truck. I'd go out, and I'd win me a couple of races and I think that's what he needs, it would really help his confidence, and I think his fans would enjoy seeing him do that. I think it would be a win-win.
Q: Where do you think Dale Jr.'s confidence is now compared to last year?
WALTRIP: "I think we've all been so hard on him, beat him up again with that expectation thing. When he's not performing, we all look at him. He's got great teammates, they're performing, how come you're not. I think that's taken its toll on him, and that's why I would try to find some positive things for him to do to help him get him his spirit up and get his confidence up.''
Q: What do you think of how Kurt Busch and crew chief Steve Addington have started the season?
WALTRIP: "I didn't know if that would work or not. Addington is the laid-back guy and we know the Busch brothers, both of them, they're like a volcano, they're liable to go off at any minute, and so I wasn't sure how that was going to work out. I don't think the first couple of races, they were not sure about that themselves. They were kind of keeping their distance almost. When a driver finally realizes that this guy knows what he's talking about, this guy can help me win races, that bond really, really grows and grows fast. I think that's what happened with those two guys. They say on the pole at Las Vegas. Wow, we sat on the pole. I'm sure Kurt is saying that's pretty good and they had a decent car. Then they go to Atlanta and they win and Kurt is starting to say, "Man, this guy must know something, he's giving me cars that I can go win races in. Then they go to Bristol and they sit on the outside pole and had a car that shoulda, woulda, coulda won the race, so I think that confidence between those two is probably growing at a really, really fast pace.
Q: How did you notice they were keeping their distance early?
WALTRIP: "Just watching. We're up there. We've got a lot of cameras. Hand signals. Body language. Expressions. I've been there. I might read too much into things sometime but most of the time I can kind of tell what a driver is thinking about and how he's feeling.''
Q: Addington just have the demeanor to deal with Busch?
WALTRIP: "He fits into the Penske program very well. He's helped all three cars. I don't know what he's brought over there, but if you look at Sam Hornish and you look at Keselowski. Last year, Keselowski in that 12 car, he ran a few races at the end of the year, you didn't even know he was in the race. Had a slow start this year. Don't know how he would have done at Daytona because he was out in three laps, but Addington has helped the whole Penske program. Addington is sort of a Penske prototype if you ask me. I think that's where he's really helped the whole organization.''
Q: How much of a concern is it to see tracks struggling to sell tickets?
WALTRIP: "We've just got too big of facilities. All these tracks are overbuilt. When the demand was there, they just kept building and building and building and if the demand ever went away or things turned soft just a little bit we're going to see what we're seeing. We're still in great shape, have over 100,000 at every event. We just don't have 150,000 maybe or 120,000 or whatever the number might be. As a whole, I think the sport is still very healthy and I just think that a lot of these tracks even the teams, we all overbuilt and overspent and now we've had to learn how to do more with what we were getting.''
Q: What were your first impressions of Richard Petty and how did that change when you started racing against him in Cup?
WALTRIP: "The thing I've watched about the Pettys was how they ran their business. I had heard about Lee Petty and how the Pettys and Petty Enterprises, how they were probably the first people that ran a race team like a business, made money, put food on the table. I wanted to be an owner. When I started, my vision was, and I think most of us was, you had to build your own cars at that time and you had to start your own team if you wanted to get into the sport, so I was trying to model my operation somewhat after their's. I always loved the way their cars were immaculate. Everybody else had a ragged car that they dragged to the track with maybe a couple of guys in T-shirts working on them and you hard Richard and Dale Inman and Maurice (Petty). It was just a much nicer run, better-run operation than everybody else. Then, there were people that said Richard, because of his dad and what they had -- a lot like they say about Dale Jr. in that he inherited all of that, that he had the golden spoon and that's why he won all the races. That was kind of my perception when I first came to this sport. Yeah, they had the Hemi engine. Nobody else had that. That was a huge advantage. They had all the Chrysler backing and they had a lot of money at the time that nobody else seemed to have. You could easily see as a guy coming into the sport, I don't know how good a driver he is, but I do know that he has a great race team. As I got to race with Richard, I got to know Richard. His record speaks for itself. Two hundred wins, no matter how many were at Islip Speedway, nonetheless, he got 200 wins and seven championships.