behind the wheel
american way: what's it really like behind that wheel?
waltrip: the intense concentration it takes to drive a car 180 miles per hour for four hours, and then everything else, it's just anguish. the heat wears you out. you're breathing in fumes. the engine's [a] constant roaring in your ears. your eyes are burning from the carbon monoxide. and it's 140 degrees in the cockpit, and there's just no way to get comfortable. everything hurts. your arms are weary.
when tv viewers see the in-car camera, the driver is just locked in. you've got to hold on tight, almost like a death grip on the steering wheel, and your concentration is dead ahead. you don't want to leave anything out there. and when you finally stand up, the blood rushes to your head, and you think you're going to pass out. buddy, when the race is over with, win or lose, you're just relieved.
american way: how crazy is it driving three cars wide at super speedways like daytona and talladega?
waltrip: it's insane. you hold the car wide open; you ride the brakes a little. you can't lift off the throttle. you've got cars everywhere, and you never know what the guy beside you is going to do. the cars are being blown around by all the air circulating around them, so you might drive in under a guy and you've got the wheel turned left but the car goes straight. you bump into him, he goes sideways, someone else runs into his back - you're constantly driving every car around you, not just your own. and all the time you're asking, where's my opening?
american way: does it take a certain personality to get into a stock car?
waltrip: it's all in the helmet. you meet 90 percent of the guys away from the racetrack, and you wouldn't know they were race car drivers. they're family men, very charitable. they're not crazy and wild. but something happens, i don't care who they are, when they get inside that roll cage and put that helmet on, and their personality totally changes. - c.