Originally created 06/30/00

Waltrip defends brother



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Michael Waltrip isn't happy to see his older brother, Darrell, running so poorly in during the final season of his racing career.

But what upsets him most is the way he feels the sport doesn't seem appreciative of his brother's accomplishments.

"I was watching Pebble Beach the other day, and Jack Nicklaus was making what was maybe his final appearance in the U.S. Open, and he was struggling home," Michael Waltrip said.

"He got in on an exemption, and they said it could be his last one if they figure out how to get Jack into one more.

"I think about our sport and say, `Why can't people be talking about Darrell that way? Why can't they be saying this is the last time we're going to see Darrell Waltrip at Daytona."'

The elder Waltrip, 54, ran his first race at the Daytona International Speedway in a Sportsman Division race in 1966.

Now, 35 years later, Waltrip will be making his final appearance at the 2.5-mile raceway in Saturday's Pepsi 400 (8 p.m., CBS).

Darrell has 84 career wins, which ties him with Bobby Allison for third on the all-time victories list in NASCAR Winston Cup Series history. He also has three series championships.

But he hasn't won since 1992 and the last few years have not only been disappointing, they've been "embarrassing," he said.

The 2000 campaign, dubbed "Victory Tour 2000" has, so far, been a failure.

Waltrip's failed to make four of the past six races, although he erased one of those failures at the Coca-Cola 600 by buying his way into the starting lineup. Carl Long qualified for the 600-mile race near Charlotte, N.C., but he instead allowed Waltrip to drive the car.

Waltrip also has used five provisional exemptions to earn a spot in the field. Exemptions are based on car owner points.

As a defending NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion, Waltrip can use his final allotted provisional this weekend, if needed.

"Please grasp the moment: Darrell has meant so much to this sport," Michael said. "He's going to be gone. Instead of saying, `Look at him. He had to use a provisional again.' That's the kind of comments he's getting and that kind of gets on my nerves. It just doesn't seem fair."

ELIGIBLE BACHELOR:

Tony Stewart made People's "100 Most Eligible Bachelors" list.

Actor George Clooney was listed as the No. 1 bachelor in the world, followed by Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees.

Stewart was the only race car driver to make the list.