Despite his negative stance, all indications were that George was planning to meet on Tuesday with several CART team owners and executives. Stay tuned.
Darrell Waltrip's Exit Plan
What Took Him So Long?
Last Thursday, about a decade late, Darrell Waltrip announced his retirement plans. He wants to drive through 2000, when he'll be 53 years old and long past his last significant victory, the 1989 Daytona 500, which was widely considered even then to be a final flicker in the twilight of his career.
Waltrip, who seems bound for the broadcast booth, says network representatives "have told me I'm the prettiest girl at the dance, but so far no one has asked me out on the floor with as much money to do TV as I get to drive a race car." He'll earn an estimated $1 million from primary sponsor Kmart for his final season. "It's a matter of economics," Waltrip says. "It's that simple." And that sad.
Waltrip is Winston Cup's winningest active driver with 84 career victories, but he hasn't won a race since 1992 and has plummeted into the realm of tragicomedy. Last season he failed to qualify for races in time trials so often that NASCAR was compelled to limit the number of pro-visional berths a race can set aside for former champions.
Waltrip acknowledged last week that his eldest daughter, Jessica, 11, is too young to remember his Daytona 500 win, and his youngest daughter, Sarah, was born the week he won at Bristol, Tenn., in 1992. " ESPN and Speedvision have done a great job of giving me some credibility with my family," he said, referring to historical racing programming, "but that's all I've got right now. I'd really like to win a race for these girls."
Waltrip choked up several times during his retirement announcement, in which he pointed out that "I've done this for 40 years," going back to his go-kart days at age 12. His reluctance to let go is understandable, but staying too long as a NASCAR driver, unlike staying too long as a golfer or a football coach, can be dangerous. Bobby Allison was 50 when he was forced into retirement by permanently debilitating injuries in 1988. Richard Petty's farewell tour four years later, at age 55, ended with his narrow escape from a fiery crash in the final race of that season.
Waltrip joked that some fans have offered to start a nationwide collection to pay off his salary and get him out of a car. That's not a bad idea.
The IRL finally won over a big-name CART driver, two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr., who has left the Penske team. Unser, who hasn't won a CART race in nearly four years, is shopping for an IRL team....