|Alex_Crapser||Date: Sunday, 31-May-20, 11:06 AM | Message # 1|
|Brad: Welcome to the show Walt.|
Walt: It's great to be here.
Brad: You ran four races this year including your "final" Coca-Cola 600. We had heard that last year was your first "final" Coca-Cola 600. Is this it for you or will you continue to race in the future on a substitute basis?
Walt: I really think this is it for me. Jeremy [Pringle]and [Harrison]Junior and everyone in the series has been so great to me through the last 32 years, but I just felt like this is a great time to hang up the helmet. It's no secret that I haven't driven in great equipment for a while, so even though I was retired at the time, I thought it was appropriate to consider and accept the substitute offer from QuickSilver Motorsports and I appreciate all they've done for me. And obviously, I hate that something terrible had to happen to my good friend Dan Johnston for me to get the opportunity. I had a great time racing at Dover, being able to lead laps and finish in 11th, but winning the All-Star Race Qualifier and qualifying for my first All-Star Race in 15 years was a career highlight for me especially because everyone had written me off. We didn't have great luck at Martinsville or in the 600 at Charlotte, but every week I felt like I still had a chance to win with [crew chief] Ragnar Moon and [engine builder] Squire Boggs and that really helped me with a great sendoff into permanent retirement.
Brad: Talk about how the sport of Extravaganza racing has changed in the 32 years you've been involved as a driver.
Walt: Well, when I first started a lot of the all-time greats like Harrison James and Roscoe [Riker]were still racing and it was a little intimidating to be out there as a young driver racing against them. Certainly you never wanted to be in their way! Of course, we had no idea what Harrison would accomplish throughout the 1990s. When I started, Harrison was a proven winner and 1987 series champion driving those Coors Dodges. We knew he was good, but we never expected five championships in seven years from him. The drivers nowadays are probably better talent-wise than anyone in the 1980s or 1990s, but they're so specialized to driving these Extravaganza cars because it's all they've ever known. I think Ernesto [Guerrero]and others like him made it possible for diversity in the Extravaganza Series, and I think that has made it easier to create a pipeline for finding better drivers. These days, the best drivers are getting into the series. Back then, it was the guy who took advantage of the right opportunity at the right time. As far as the cars are concerned, they really aren't as different as you would think. When I came through the Busch Bonanza Series, or the Budweiser Bonanza as it was called back then, we ran the bigger Monte Carlos. My first year in Extravaganza racing in 1989 was really a transition year for the series and I only ran three races anyway. Chevrolet had converted to the smaller Luminas to be more comparable to the Pontiacs and Fords and it really was a learning experience for me. Because I had learned to race the bigger, heavier cars, it actually made it easier for me to adapt to the new Extravaganza Series cars.
Brad: You mentioned that the All-Star Race Qualifier was a career highlight for you. Am I right in assuming that your 1997 Daytona 500 win is the most important highlight of your career?
Walt: You'd be right. For me, 1995 and 1996 were pretty forgettable so to come back in 1997 and win right off the bat in the biggest race of the year was very special. My winless streak had grown to over 70 races but the confidence I gained from winning the 500, beating guys like "King" Joe Dawkins, Harrison James, G.G. Sphere, and others was enough to propel me through the season. 1997 remains as my best year in the series, finishing 3rd in the point standings. Pretty impressive when you win nine Extravaganza races in your career and one of them is the Daytona 500.
Brad: We certainly appreciate your time with this interview, Walt. Thank you for all the memories and good luck in your retirement.
Walt: Thanks, Brad. I still want to be around racing for a long while, just not in a driving capacity. I already threw my hat in the ring as a free agent crew chief last season. I guess there's a reason for everything. If I had become crew chief, I wouldn't have gotten to replace Dan Johnston in the #121.
Message edited by Alex_Crapser - Sunday, 31-May-20, 2:13 PM