This past week, right after the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., I began to receive e-mails from folks who know of my history with D.W. a/k/a "Jaws". Several of those e-mails challenged me to watch the video of D.W.'s almost 30 minute speech as Keynote Speaker for the Breakfast. Johnny Mallonee took it upon himself to make a Forum Post here on the site which was, I'm sure, intended to incur my wrath! Several comments were made to that Forum post which clearly indicated my dislike for D. W. is well-known. Then, to top off the entire episode, Johnny Mallonee sends me the link, in an e-mail, to watch D.W.'s entire speech. Oh, I watched it alright. In fact, I watched it three times which means I committed almost 90 minutes of my week to D.W.
Near the beginning of his speech, D.W. mentions that in his early days in racing he was called many names: Aggressive? Check. Brash? Check. Pushy? Check. Cocky? Check. Conceited? Check. Arrogant? Check. Boastful? Check. Downright Annoying? Check. He left out Obnoxious, but then we all know he is not perfect! In response to this almost 30 minutes speech, I would like to offer this open letter to D.W.:
The chances that we will ever meet face-to-face again are very slim, although our past encounters would lead one to believe that such a meeting would not be a pleasant one. I admit I have almost always had my problems with you, mostly for the reasons you outlined in your speech, all those adjectives YOU used to describe yourself as others saw you. Then you mentioned that those comments were from your friends! Looking back on your early days, I'm surprised you even had friends.
Let me tell you, D.W., a little secret only a few people who know me may recall. I was watching you in one of your first races at Darlington, in that Terminal Transport car, and I told anyone who would listen that "that Waltrip guy can drive a racecar". My observation that day was certainly accurate concerning your driving ability as has been certified by your career. It was all the mess, the same things you mentioned in your speech that turned me against you. You came into the sport with an attitude that most of we long time race fans detested. Before you were good enough to be considered a champion, you were a pain in the butt, if not the ears, of most fans. You were all those things you described, and, in spades. But still I remember the comment after watching you run Darlington that hot afternoon.
I remember watching, on television, that accident you had at Daytona which was presented to the Prayer Breakfast attendees. Even though, by that time, I was one of those "anybody but Waltrip" fans you mentioned, I sat in silence as they removed you from the car and placed you in the ambulance. I recall saying a silent prayer that you would be ok. And you were!
D.W., my current position of being at odds with you is what I perceive as a discredit to the sport of stock car racing with your often uncalled for comments during a race broadcast. Your intoned "Boogity, boogity, boogity, let's go racing boys" absolutely makes the hairs on my neck stand up. I dislike that so much I actually mute my television when the race is about to start just so I don't have to hear that. I really wish you would not do that, but then, it is your call to do what you wish and there are many more folks who enjoy that than dislike it apparently, as you continue to do it.
Now, let's get down to the "meat" of this letter. You made reference, in your speech, about the way you used to be and the events that changed your life. You had no time for church and your red-headed wife Stevie just kept saying she would pray for you. D.W., I also have a red-headed wife and I'm sure she spends a lot of her time praying for me, so I can identify with you on both those points. You also made reference to looking back on your life with certain regrets, but with much gratefulness now for the changes. You and I both share that resolve as well. So, D.W., we share a common passion for the sport of stock car racing, we both have red-headed wives praying for us, and we both are very thankful for the changes in our lives as we have aged.
You were, obviously, very nervous as you began your speech. Heck, who wouldn't be in that position, with The President of the United States, the First Lady, and dozens of high-ranking government officials in the audience? I noticed, however, as you continued relating your story, that you became more and more at ease. I also noticed that you were able to elicit very positive responses from the audience.
So, D.W., I will wind up this missive by saying that while I will never, ever, like the "boogity times three” I have to endure on race day, my respect for you has exploded to levels I never thought possible. While I would like to be able to tell you this face-to-face, I know that will never happen. I doubt you will ever even read this letter, but then I happen to know people who know you and who are, in fact, pretty close to you, so hopefully you will know that your message at the Prayer Breakfast was heard loud and clear. God bless you and Stevie.
A New Legend
On another note, I want to announce, tonight, the five individuals who will be inducted into the Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society's Hall of Fame at an induction banquet on Friday Night, September 11, 2015, at the Diamond Lakes facility in Augusta. Congratulations go out to Billy Scott, Bruce Brantley, James Hylton, Weldon Adams and Bubba Farr. This is an honor to which each of these individuals is entitled for what they contributed to the sport and to the racing history in Augusta, Georgia. Everyone mark their calendars for attendance at the banquet on the 11th of September and for the events the following day honor a rich racing history in Augusta, Georgia. This history, as is all of our racing history, is worth preserving. I admire all the folks involved with all the organizations that record the honest history of the sport. I appreciate the efforts made by all those individuals as that history means a great deal to me.
One final thing tonight. Please see the Forum Post put on last week concerning the Mike Sykes Medical Benefit Fund. For those of you who are on Facebook, you can go to my page and read all the details. The essence of this effort is that Mike was diagnosed a couple of weeks ago with Lung Cancer and will be starting both Chemo and Radiation tomorrow (Wednesday the 11th). For those of you who know Mike, you know why we care. For those of you who don't know Mike, you are missing the opportunity of knowing someone who cares more about doing things for others than he would ever care about others doing for him. It was some of those people who know him well who have started this effort to assist Mike with the medical expenses for this mammoth fight he faces. I hope everyone will consider a contribution to the fund. As Frances Flock said when she called me last week, even $10.00 is a help in a situation like this.
So, the Legendtorial this week is shorter that it has been in a long, long time. I do hope those of you who listened, and those of you who will read this later, will considered what D. W. had to say in his speech. If you haven't seen it, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward you the link sent to me by Johnny Mallonee. Oh, and thanks, Johnny, for providing me with that link. Sometimes I forget that words can be the most hurtful weapons mankind has at its disposal. From this day forward, I will try to remember that when talking about D. W.
Remember, honor the past, embrace the present, and dream for the future!