DW Deserves Your Help

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Want to know why Darrell Waltrip made the field for his final Winston 500 today? Because Ricky Rudd’s team gave him an engine, from their car, to qualify with. Somebody finally got it right.

The Winston Cup season is rapidly winding down, and it's time for the sport as a whole to step up and help Darrell Waltrip.

A sport that promotes itself not as a collection of top-flight teams, but a tight-knit family, needs to open its collective arms and do whatever necessary to help Waltrip run up front for the remainder of the year… or at least one race.

Granted, this is easier said than done on many levels. Nevertheless, it's a necessity.

This season has been painful for the fans - and Waltrip. His Victory Tour 2000 has been a bust. Fact is, with the exception of the Brickyard 400, where he nearly won the pole, Waltrip has struggled to make the field at virtually every venue. And frankly, that plain stinks.

Waltrip can drive; we know that. He proved that to fans and naysayers a few years ago when filling in for an injured Steve Park and driving cars provided by his old nemesis Dale Earnhardt.

Last year, when announcing his retirement, Waltrip said the concept behind the Victory Tour 2000 was to celebrate his 84 Winston Cup wins. He said he hoped to add to his win tally and make it a real Victory Tour. Clearly that hasn't happened and Waltrip is going out in a horrible way.

It's time for his rivals and friends in NASCAR to step up and let him go out in style. He deserves the help. He's done as much as anyone to promote the sport of stock-car racing. Heck, if you cut him, he'd probably bleed NASCAR's rainbow of colors.

Waltrip was out there pushing the sport, trying to get the media to accept stock-car drivers as real athletes, years before it was cool to be a stock-car driver. What many of the drivers enjoy today – exposure, money and other successes – are in part the result of Waltrip’s efforts and character.

Be clear, we're not talking about altering the competition to help Waltrip. No, we're just suggesting someone offer assistance to a man who needs a good car setup to race. He'll do the rest. In short, the haves need to help out the have-nots.

But getting the help to Waltrip is a lot easier said then done.

"If I had a good car that I felt better suited Darrell, I'd give it to him," says Jeff Hammond, his former crew chief and soon to be Fox Broadcaster. "In our sport, it's kind of like Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. Dan Marino deserved to win a Super Bowl. But one man can't do it. I'm afraid that one car can't fix the problem."

Waltrip isn't looking for handouts, and he'd probably run the other way if someone offered up such a deal, but it can be pulled off in some way behind the scenes.

Certainly, there are hurdles that need to be cleared to get assistance to Waltrip. If Jack Roush turned around and gave Waltrip a car, he would still need a team to set it up and make it work before and during the race.

Trouble is, the cost of the sport today will likely make it impossible for Waltrip to get the real help he needs. Sponsors funnel millions to back race teams. How would a sponsor or driver feel if they gave up a car that helped Waltrip win? And how would Waltrip's current team - which has worked hard to give the legend the cars he needs - feel if another team stepped in to help? No doubt, there would be hurt feelings all around.

That said, there are a bunch of teams whose third-level engines might be better than those Waltrip is using. And there are some brilliant minds working in the garage area that could lend some expertise to his team in order to get whatever car Waltrip is using set up properly for the weekend.

"There's a lot of people who would like to see him given the same respect Arnold Palmer gets when he doesn't make the cut at the British Open or the Masters," Hammond says. "They know those people can't win, but they respect them. I wish racers in general can have the same respect for Darrell or Richard Petty, or Dave Marcis, another good example, needs to be afforded."

It’s time those around Waltrip - the sport - step up and put their own feelings aside so the man can go out with some pride and some glory.

Imagine, if only for a moment, Waltrip were to win a race. Quite a picture, no.

It's an image that would bring fans to their feet and a few tears all around, as well. And it would also instill that family value NASCAR is so proud to promote.

Folks, we're running out of time. Darrell Waltrip deserves a fighting chance to win… give him a hand.

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