Race Weekend Central

Driven to the Past: When Darrell Waltrip Was the 1 Missing a Part

Had one of those moments on Friday when you suddenly remember something that happened 20 or 30 years ago, and connect it with what was just said.

Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds were talking about the fact that chrome wheels aren’t allowed in NASCAR competition, with DW explaining that his brother’s wheels had a powder coating and weren’t really chrome. He added the next day that Michael Waltrip planned to use gold wheels for the 50th anniversary Daytona 500.

They pointed out that the reason for the rule against chrome wheels was that it was difficult to secure wheel weights on them.

Darrell noted that some organizations he had run with, like ASA for example, had allowed chrome wheels, at least for a while.

I don’t know what race he was talking about, or what sanctioning body specifically, but he then commented that he lost a wheel weight one day, and it apparently hit somebody important.

“DING” goes the bell in my head.

In a practice session for an ASA race at Milwaukee, I was in my usual position on the flagstand, and suddenly heard something fly past my head. A few minutes later, I felt a sharp pain in my right thigh. It wasn’t incapacitating, but just a little later I noticed a bloodstain on my white pants, and there was a wheel weight lying on the floor.

Needless to say, this precipitated an immediate waving of the yellow flag, followed by the red flag.

Rex Robbins, the founder and president of ASA, wanted to know what happened. I informed him that we had a problem with wheel weights, and I felt we ought to get it corrected before one of them got into the grandstands.

He agreed.

If I recall correctly, DW was driving Ray Dillon’s V6-powered Cavalier in that race. Hey, Darrell, I’ve still got your wheel weight around here somewhere…

Wheel weights weren’t the only problem we had at Milwaukee. The place must have been a magnet for this kind of thing, like trash at California. Actually, there were only these two incidents, but that’s what sticks in your mind.

One day during practice we started having all kinds of tire problems.

EVERYBODY was pulling in with flattened tires. It was only by pure luck we didn’t get somebody in the fence, because it happened while they were warming up and nobody was up to speed yet.

A quick look revealed thousands of pop rivets all over the track. Right, pop rivets.

Turned out somebody had gone out with his crew’s rivet kit still in the car. Little unsprung weight, you might say.

I even found the rivet gun close to the flagstand on the front straightaway.

I took it with me to the ASA headquarters motorhome, and during the hour they were cleaning up the track, the crew chief sticks his head in the door and says, “Somebody told me you found a rivet gun on the track.”

I said, “Yeah, if it’s yours there’s about 30 or 40 guys who want to talk to you about their tire bill.”

“Nope, not mine!” and the door slammed.

Still got that rivet gun around here somewhere, too.

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