Darrell Waltrip’s five most memorable calls from the booth

Darrell Waltrip announced his retirement as a broadcaster in an exclusive interview on Thursday in the Tennessean.

When I read the announcement, my mind immediately flashed back to my countless memories of hearing his voice through my television set. As a kid, I still recall his K-Mart No. 66 Ford as he raced in his final two years for Travis Carter Enterprises. And then, he hung up his racing helmet, replaced it with a suit and tie, and grabbed the mic. After 19 years in the FOX broadcast booth, Waltrip will retire at the end of FOX Sports’ 2019 NASCAR race coverage on June 23 at Sonoma Raceway.

There had been some speculation and rumors of his potential retirement last year, but Waltrip assured everyone on Twitter at the start of the year that he was still in the booth for one more year.

“FOX Sports is putting together an amazing group of young and enthusiastic journalists,” shared Waltrip over his Twitter account in January 2019. “But they still need “old guy” wisdom, I’m happy to say that for another year that “old guy”will be me!”

Waltrip had what he called an “old school” style that he felt may have clashed with Jeff Gordon’s younger crowd style. Gordon’s retirement from driving to continue his involvement in the sport was an exact replica of Waltrip’s footsteps 15 years later. As social media developed over the years, it seemed that some fans shared controversial opinions about Waltrip’s remarks, either in the booth, on pit road or during the week.

But that didn’t stop him from calling racing as it was.

“Race fans are very intelligent. They know what happens,” Waltrip stated just days before his retirement from driving in 2000. “How are you going to try to tell them something didn’t happen when they saw it? You can’t try to fool them. You’ve just got to tell it like it is.”

So after getting the green light from former head of Fox Sports David Hill, Waltrip used his personality to create his most well-known catchphrase: “Boogity, boogity, boogity – let’s go racing, boys!”

So as a former champion and race winner aspiring to become a lap-by-lap announcer myself, here are my five favorite calls by Darrell Waltrip.

#5 – Darrell’s First “Boogity”

The story goes that Waltrip grew tired of the same calls for each race.

“I hated the way a race started on the radio,” said Waltrip in 2017 to Scott Fowler with The Charlotte Observer. “The announcer would say, ‘The green flag is in the air, and the cars race off into Turn 1.’ Are you kidding me? That’s the best we can do?”

Waltrip recalled listening to Ray Stevens’ ‘The Streak’ on country radio. He and Ray were great friends and golfed often, so he was already familiar with a lot of his music. However, the idea dawned on him during one section of the song: “Here he comes – Boogity, boogity! There he goes – boogity, boogity!” That’s when he caught it.

If you’ve watched a NASCAR race for the past decade or so, you would fall into one of two categories. You love it, or you hate it. But for FOX Sports and NASCAR, it became their signature sound clip. Waltrip subtly said it over the air at the start of the 2001 Coca-Cola 600 after Mike Joy announced the green flag. Throughout FOX’s share of broadcasting the first half of the season, Waltrip would say the iconic phrase sporadically, but would lock it in starting at Sonoma in 2001.

#4 – McDowell’s Massive Qualifying Crash at Texas

Waltrip had a distinctive ability to catch things mere seconds before they actually took place. His championship experience behind the wheel allowed him to show fans and his colleagues what exactly to look out for as they watched on television. As each driver would make their way around the circuit, his body language would translate through the broadcast as if he were behind the wheel himself.

The first major test of the Car of Tomorrow was during qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway in 2008 when Michael McDowell was fighting a tight race car. In most cases, if the car got loose into a turn, it was common to see drivers overcorrect to compensate for what would be a loose condition. That’s exactly what happened to McDowell heading into Turn 1. The car got light going into the turn, slid sideways ever so slightly, and Waltrip caught that from the booth to bring immediate attention to what would be a disastrous crash that would test both the SAFER barrier and the new COT package.

#3 – Sharing a Hall of Famer’s Insight on Racing

Starting in 2006, NASCAR started to see big changes across the sport. Some of those changes were fantastic and even influential to other racing series across the world. SAFER Barriers and the mandatory HANS device has helped save many lives in vicious crashes. The investment and technology installed at tracks within the schedule have already been tested many times, but other changes have not been taken as well.

The Car of Tomorrow made its debut at Bristol in 2007, and Kyle Busch, the winner of the race, said the new car “sucked”. The year before, Waltrip called the car “ugly” and even gave a perspective as a team owner wondering why the designers couldn’t take the technology in the Car of Tomorrow and put them into their current generation cars to save teams “$2 to $4 million dollars a year”.

The biggest controversy for today’s package in the 2019 season has been the high downforce, high drag and low horsepower racing. Qualifying sessions have been all about drafting for the best run instead of the fastest lap and the practice sessions have given teams little information about race day. And during the races, while we have seen more passes in the middle of the pack, there has been a “catch the leader and stall” style of racing. Fans across social media have been controversial about the new package, but they weren’t the first to say something negative. Waltrip, during the 2009 Auto Club 500, said that restrictor plates, or a draft-focused style of racing, would “destroy racing of any kind.” NASCAR had tried this before at New Hampshire, resulting in Jeff Burton leading every lap in 2000.

#2 – The Closest Finish in Cup History

The year before the Chase was introduced into NASCAR, there was a lot of scuffle about many things regarding NASCAR. One was the debate of taking the iconic Labor Day race weekend away from Darlington, and fans fought hard to keep the grassroots tradition with the Southern 500. The Lady in Black had bigger plans when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series first visited the egg-shaped raceway in March of 2003.

The battle between Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch would not only be one of the most exciting and closest finishes in the history of NASCAR, but would subtly have fans remember the most classic of lines in motorsports history; “Have you ever? No, I’ve never!”

#1 – From Tearful Joy to Tear-Filled Sorrow

Who would have ever guessed that Waltrip’s first race from the booth would be one that would change NASCAR as my generation would know it. NASCAR on FOX kicked off the season with the 2001 Daytona 500, and what would be a special day for the Waltrip family would quickly be overshadowed by the death of Dale Earnhardt. As Michael Waltrip crossed the line to win his first Daytona 500, televisions across the nation would hear the cheer of older brother Darrell proclaiming, “Mikey! Mikey!”

A few brief moments later, Waltrip would look to the left and say the sorrowful words, “I just hope Dale’s okay. I guess he’s alright, isn’t he?”

And one week after NASCAR’s darkest hour, Waltrip stood on the front stretch at Rockingham Speedway to share a prayer for fans in the stands (or in attendance) and around the globe.

“Lord, our hearts are hurting. We’ve lost a great friend, and it all seems so unfair. People ask us how can we go out and race today. We can do that first of all because we know that’s what Dale would want us to do, and second of all, because Lord we know without a doubt that he is dwelling in your house and will forevermore. Amen.”

It’s not just Waltrip’s calls from the booth, his memories of racing history or his race wins and championships that made him a NASCAR Hall of Fame member. It is also his personal care and attention to every single member in the garage and to all the fans across the world on a weekly basis. All of this and more will be be missed when Waltrip calls his last race.

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