Thursday, April 22, 2010

Michael Waltrip: Busier Now Than Ever

CORNELIUS, N.C. – In 2010 Michael Waltrip climbed out of a fulltime NASCAR Sprint Cup ride and climbed into a whole new world.

“Racing a car for 25 years gave me a tunnel vision. The only thing I thought about was my car and my team. This year I’m learning just how big the NASCAR world is outside the car,” said Waltrip when asked about his life of “semi-retirement” after life as a fulltime Sprint Cup driver. “Now that everyone knows you aren’t driving as much you get asked to do a lot more things. Fun things, but it keeps you busy.”

Waltrip’s job list is longer than his grocery list these days.

Ask someone to describe the 46-year-old Waltrip and you’ll hear everything from Sprint Cup car owner, part-time driver, young driver mentor, television host and commentator, charity organizer, worldwide sports car racer, Hall of Fame inductee, ticket salesman, corporate pitchman …….and the list goes on.

Nor will it shorten.

“I’m having fun and there is a lot more planned in the future that will be fun for the fans, too.”

A typical week in the life of Michael Waltrip would make George Clooney’s frequent flying movie character in “Up in the Air” shake his head in wonder.

Last Thursday afternoon he met his race team in Statesville, N.C. and flew to Texas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race. A few hours after landing he was on the stage with Track President Eddie Gossage at Fandango in front of 25,000 Texas race fans.

Friday morning Waltrip and daughter Macy left the track and flew to Los Angeles for prime seats to the sold-out Taylor Swift concert at the Staples Center. The Waltrips were up early and back to Texas Motor Speedway Saturday. That night he hosted SPEED-TV’s new television variety show “Fast Track to Fame.”

Sunday morning saw Waltrip early to visit the Sprint suite overlooking the track then back in the garage to wait out the rain. On Monday he divided his time watching the Sprint and Nationwide races as well as an appearance in Dallas for Showtime’s television show “Inside NASCAR.”

Waltrip flew back to Charlotte commercially picking up his car at the airport. The hectic schedule even causes him a bit of anxiety.

“Sometimes I get to the airport and wonder if my car is going to be there or if this or that is going to be done,” he said. “But in the end I have a lot of good people working for me and the car is there, filled up and even pointed in the right direction.”

Waltrip travels to races each weekend overseeing his Michael Waltrip Racing team and drivers Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann along with 19-year-old Trevor Bayne plus 18-year-old Ryan Truex. When he isn’t working with the race team and drivers he’s likely found in a corporate suite listening to the marketing plans of company’s like NAPA, Aaron’s, TUM’S, Best Western and Toyota.

On Saturdays he’s in the SPEED-TV booth commentating on truck series action and a few hours later on the set of “Fast Track to Fame” hosting the network’s new variety show. On Tuesdays, he’s in downtown Charlotte at the NASCAR Hall of Fame filming Showtime’s “Inside NASCAR.”

The time studying the sport has changed his perspective.

“I see these races from a different angle now,” Waltrip said. “I didn’t see it coming, but I notice that I walk around now and take a global view of what’s going on. It makes me appreciate that I did this for so long and that I still have involvement in the sport from an ownership side and television side. I’ve broadened my view of what’s going on around me and makes me appreciate what an awesome opportunity has been given me.”

Despite the success behind the microphone and in the board room, in his heart Waltrip’s first and foremost a racer. It’s that desire to race that took him to the Dubai 24 Hours sports car race to drive a Ferrari in January. It will take him to the historic Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Belgium in late July where he’ll race the same car.

“Those cars are an absolute blast to drive,” said Waltrip who participated in his first 24-hour race in Dubai.

Before he takes on the high speed turns at Spa, Waltrip will return to the No. 15 NAPA AUTO PARTS car he made famous by driving to victory lane twice at the Daytona 500 for an exhibition run across the pond.

The 46-year-old Waltrip will drive the MWR-prepared Sprint Cup car on the twists and hills at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in front of 150,000 fans in England.

Some of the sport’s most famous names like Michael’s brother Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Smokey Yunick also made appearances at Goodwood since the festival’s inception in 1993.

“That’s such an honor,” said Waltrip. “Just about everybody in the world knows about Goodwood and the racing that goes on there. It’s another sign of NASCAR’s acceptance all around the world. The really cool part about traveling to Dubai was to have people from all over the world come up to you and ask you about something that happened in NASCAR. I was amazed how knowledgeable and up on NASCAR they were. It’s eye opening how closely they follow everything we are doing back home.”

Speaking of back home, the Owensboro, Ky. native joins seven other sports stars in the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame on April 28 in Louisville. Waltrip joins notable prior inductees Muhammad Ali, Denny Crum, Pat Day, Paul Hornung, Dan Issel, Tubby Smith, Pee Wee Reese, Adolph Rupp, Phil Simms, Johnny Unitas, Secretariat and other Bluegrass state heroes.

In June, Michael and Darrell host the inaugural Waltrip Brothers’ Charity Championship benefitting Motor Racing Outreach and The National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The Opryland’s Gaylord Springs Golf Links in Nashville, Tenn. plays host to both events.

“Darrell and I have always talked about doing something like this,” Waltrip said. “We just didn’t have the time to do it right. Now we’ve been able to put some effort behind it and have already raised a bunch of money. I think this will be a lot of fun and hopefully do some good.”

He’s still the sport’s super-salesman. Track promoters at Daytona, Infineon and Richmond crafted ticket plans featuring Waltrip as another step in experiential marketing. Daytona capped its ticket promotion when fans scooped up the 500 tickets within weeks.

Whether Waltrip is at MWR in meetings, on the shop floor with the race crew, or on the phone with the team’s partners, there are a few things Waltrip always adheres to no matter where he is or what he is doing. You’ll find him in the gym each day rigorously working out or sitting with his Smartphone tweeting to his 40,000 followers his take on the news of the day.

No matter what, it always goes back to NASCAR with Waltrip.

“Second to my family, nothing is as important to me as this sport,” said Waltrip. “I’ve had a lifetime of wonderful experiences in NASCAR and can’t wait to see what is ahead. There is so much more I want to do.”

Apparently resting isn't on that list.


1 comment:

  1. Great article on a great guy. Best thing about Michael is his personality, you can see it in everything he does. Just an all around nice guy that I am proud to follow! Good Luck with whatever you do Michael.