Darrell Waltrip and the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IJuly 4, 2009

DAYTONA, FL - JULY 05: Darrell Waltrip, Daytona 500 winner, poses prior to practice for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, 2007 in Daytona, Florida.   (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Darrell Waltrip evokes about as much of a response from fans as the late Dale Earnhardt. 

Some of it's good and some of it's bad, but everyone has something to say about Waltrip.

On Thursday night NASCAR released their nominees for the first class to enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.

Among the 25 nominees names such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress appear. 

Also on the list is the man that many call "Jaws," Darrell Waltrip.

The Hall of Fame won't be opened until May of next year in Charlotte when only five of the nominated 25 will be inducted.

Right now though Waltrip says he is enjoying just being nominated with drivers and owners that he considers to be great.

"It's a dream come true for me," he says. "This is as exciting as if I just won the Daytona 500 again."

Waltrip could potentially enter the HOF having competed in 809 races over a 29 year career. He won 84 Sprint Cup races, 59 poles and racked up 390 top tens. In 1981, 1982 and 1985 Waltrip was the toast of NASCAR as the Cup Series champion.

"I've always wanted NASCAR to have a Hall of Fame just like baseball does or football does. Where when your career is over with you're retired and you're sitting back looking back at what you've done, that you would have an opportunity to be inducted in the Hall of Fame of your sport."

Waltrip though became loved or hated, not only from his actions on the racetrack, but his words off them. He had no problem telling you he was going to walk all over you and then go out and do it.

He has always had the ability to make himself the center of attention.

During the 1970's Waltrip let his aggressive style show as well as his harsh words fly as fast as his car. This earned him the nickname "Jaws" from Cale Yarborough, among many more names that most likely can't be published. 

Waltrip though, quickly lived up to the name.

Not caring what the situation was or who the individual was, Waltrip was going to say what he felt.

Whenever he was in a tiff with Dale Earnhardt, Waltip would tell people that he could say whatever he wanted and the media could print it because neither Earnhardt nor his crew would be able to read it. 

Waltrip even once said, "Earnhardt isn't choosy. He tried to kill me."

After winning the 1989 Daytona 500, he proceeded to hop around in victory lane before spiking his helmet in what he called the "Ickey Shuffle."

Heading for the last lap of the 1989 All-Star race, Waltrip was leading but was spun out in turn four by Rusty Wallace who went on to win the race. Afterward Waltrip said, "I hope he chokes on that $200,000. He drove into me and spun me out. It was pretty flagrant."

His career long foes also included Yarborough and anyone with the last name Allison. But he even had problems with car owners who said they wouldn't hire him because of his ways. 

Not to leave anyone out, Waltrip jabbed with the fans who would boo him, he said they should "boo if you love D.W." Then later went on to say that any fan who booed him or cheered when he wrecked should "meet me in the Big K parking lot...and we'll duke it out."

These days Darrell Waltrip is a lot less hot headed and has turned to making people laugh instead of scream. He's a fan favorite on the Fox broadcasts with his invented words and pre-race tradition of "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity."

On Friday at the Daytona International Speedway Waltrip reflected on his career and his time in NASCAR saying "I had been a problem child."

The fans now have the opportunity to make the problem child a NASCAR Hall of Fame child next year.