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Marriage in the Stressful World of NASCAR (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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June 30, 2021 6:00 am

Marriage in the Stressful World of NASCAR (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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June 30, 2021 6:00 am

Darrell and Stevie Waltrip share some amazing stories from the NASCAR world and talk about how their marriage endured during his rigorous racing career.

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Man, I knew my marriage was falling apart.

I just didn't know how to fix it. I felt like I would always be alone, even if I stayed married. At Focus on the Family's Hope Restored Marriage Intensive, we offer hope to couples in crisis so they can have the marriage they've always dreamed of. For the first time, I felt like my husband truly heard me. I've received some great tools from the counselors that have changed my life and my marriage.

To begin the journey of finding health, go to today. Join Charlotte, North Carolina to record with the Waltrips at the Daryl Waltrip Museum in front of a live audience. It was a great day, Jon, and a lot of fun with our friends from Focus. We enjoyed having one of NASCAR's all-time great champions with us. Daryl really knows how to drive, and in the 80s and 90s, he was the guy. He's fourth on the all-time NASCAR winning list. The Lord worked in his life to make some big changes, which helped he and his wife, Stevie, win their marriage, and that's what we're going to hear today. Let's go ahead and go back to that day in Charlotte at the museum for this fun visit on Focus on the Family. Hey, Daryl.

Lot of good folks out there. Daryl, let me talk to you about NASCAR because a lot of people follow NASCAR. The TV audiences, you do the Fox coverage, there'll be 250,000 people at the track sometimes and millions watching by television. For those that don't know NASCAR, what's its appeal, watching cars go faster on the track?

Well, competition. It's great competition, and then the drivers, the drivers are all celebrities. People have their favorite driver, they pull for their favorite driver.

Some people may pull for their favorite brand of car. A lot of different ways to connect to what we do, and then we're on TV every week. The races are all live, flag to flag every week, and it's a big production. We've been over here at the racetrack since Thursday, they're over Thursday practicing and qualifying.

It's a big, big production. It's a big weekend of television and then all the things that take place at the track. It's like going to a fair. When you go to a race, you have to experience the whole thing.

It's a great place for kids. You don't just show up for the race. That's right. Now let me ask you, how did you get interested in this, and how old were you when you thought, I'd like to race? Well, seriously, I was six years old. Six years old? Yeah.

That's not uncommon, though. A lot of these racers. No.

No. But what was uncommon was- Did you fall down, hit your head, and say, oh, I don't want to be a racer? No, my grandmother, Oda Palestine Phillips, that was her name. My grandmother loved racing, and she was a little lady, about five foot tall, probably didn't weigh 100 pounds, smoked, had a cigarette in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other. Some of you may have had a grandmother like that, I'm not sure. But anyway, a real feisty little lady, and she loved racing. And my grandfather was a deputy sheriff in Owensboro, so my grandfather would go to race and work the traffic around the race on the weekend. My grandmother would go sit in the grandstand and watch the races. And my grandmother, she had a language of her own, at least it seemed that way to me at the time, because she said words I'd never heard before.

I have heard it since, but I hadn't heard them at that point. So my grandfather, and my grandmother, she loved G.C. Spencer, and so that was her driver.

And if anybody messed with G.C. Spencer, my grandmother was in their face, and I mean in their face. So my grandfather calls my mom and says, I need for DW to go to the races with Granny.

Mom said, why? Keep her out of trouble. Keep her out of trouble. Keep her out of trouble. He said, she's going to get, I'm going to have to lock her up, you know, if she goes down in the pits cussing out any more drivers, so maybe if he's with her, she'll think twice about doing that.

Did it work? Keep her out of trouble. No, I went right along with her. I was mad as she was. Well, that kind of did set you up. You were a bad boy of NASCAR. I could be said. I played a role. You played a role.

Yeah. I really wasn't a bad person. Okay, now. But I had a bad reputation. You did, and we're going to get to how that changed, but one of the key ingredients in that change was meeting Stevie. Now, Stevie, a lot of moms and dads would say, if you were their daughter, you want to marry who?

A race car driver? Are you crazy? Yeah, they said that more.

Believe me. How'd that go when you came home and talked to your mom and dad about that? Well, I met this man. Yeah, they, I was in high school. The first time I met Darrell, I was, had just turned 16, and he was 19. And I wasn't even allowed to go out with him. If he asked me, which he didn't, for a while, they would not have let me go out with him.

Way too young. But then when we did, I was a senior in high school, and we did get engaged, and my plan up to that point was I was going to go to Southern Methodist University, like my dad did. And that changed quickly. And nine months after we started dating, we got married.

So I had just graduated from high school. And so this was not part of what my parents had planned for me or had, in any way. So they were upset, but I have to say, my mother and dad, when they realized that this was the way it was going to go, they were very strong believers in the institution of marriage. And they decided, since I left Darrell, they were going to love him too. And so from the time we got married until they went to be with the Lord, Darrell always said if something happened between he and I, he was going to go home to my parents. They became very close. I didn't have a relationship with the Lord at that time, but the Lord did speak to me.

What do you mean by that? When I met Stevie, I knew in my heart and in my soul that she was the woman I was supposed to marry for a number of reasons, but mainly because I just knew God said this is the woman you should marry. Don't let her get away, because she was going to go to school. She was getting ready to leave to go to Texas to school, and I knew if she did, we might not get married right away. And I wasn't like pushing or anything, but I just knew that she was the right woman. Oh, yes, he was. And the problem was the Lord told him that, but he didn't tell my parents that.

Or Stevie. Now, were you racing at the time? Oh, yeah. Had you hit the big track by that point?

Oh, no, no. I was racing on the... My father-in-law, who had worked in the pits at Indy as one of the safety workers in the Indy, they had volunteers up there at that time, and he had worked in the pits at Indy. He'd been to the Daytona 500. So he knew about big leagues racing, but he didn't know about our little local racing at Whitesville Speedway or Ellis Speedway or Hobstott or some of the dirt tracks that I started out on. So his image or his vision of racing was not very good. I mean, he talked about beer drinking and fighting and that kind of thing. And that was true.

That's the way it was. But I had a much bigger vision than that, but it was going to take a while for that vision to come true. So I was racing at that level that he didn't like. And so when I talked to him about marrying Stevie and he says, so how are you going to support my daughter? I said, I'm going to be a professional race car driver. And he didn't think that was going to work out so hot. What did he say though?

I don't care myself, but I mean, yeah, it's all unknown at that point. And really it's like any professional sport, one in a million can actually make it, but you did. And you did in a big way.

Yeah. I was just determined. From the time I was a little guy, I raced my first race when I was 12 on a go-kart. I'd never driven a go-kart. I'd seen them race. I'd watched them race. I'd been to the shopping center parking lot where they raced these karts every Sunday. And for whatever reason, in my mind, if I ever had a chance, I could drive one of those things. It's faster, better than anybody out there.

And that's what, it's kind of like a race fan that sits in the stand, says, oh yeah, I got a Chevy SS like that, or I got a Camry like that. I guarantee I could do that. But that's kind of how I felt when I was a little guy, I said, if I ever get the chance, I know I could do that. The first time I got on it, I won. And you liked it.

And I loved it. Darrell, talk about that. Stevie, I want to hear your perspective on that.

So you have success from 12 years old on. And you then eventually make it to the big track, NASCAR, the big leagues, the big sponsors, all the brand names we talk about. What kind of person, let me turn it to Stevie, what kind of person was Darrell with that much success and that much?

Remember the recording. And that much competition. Got an audience. I mean, it's a really unique environment that a lot of people don't get to where it's about winning every day and you've got to have a fierce desire to win that's unusual. At that time in his life, that was what his focus was completely and totally all about. His was to be a successful race car driver. And like he said, he was very determined, probably would have done just about anything to make whatever it was he thought should happen, happen. So we were married at the time and my focus was on him and our marriage.

His was on racing. And obviously our focus was not where it needed to be. And our relationship was not like I wanted it to be. And I'm not sure he even thought about our relationship at the time. But he was all consumed, right?

He truly was. But because the Lord uses everything to, he can redeem anything. And because I was miserable in our relationship, then I started looking for the Lord. And I believe at the time I was a Christian, but I was a baby Christian and we didn't go to church because we raced. And so I asked the Lord on our 10th anniversary, I wrote Daryl just a note to tell him how much I appreciated him and loved him. And we said our vows to each other again, but I said, I truly want to love the Lord more than I do you. And the Lord took that as a prayer. And from that, the Lord was working to get us both to that point. Did you convey that to Daryl though? Oh yeah, I wrote that in that note. Now your competitive spirit, would you say, okay, now I'm in a race with God.

Here's what I had to figure out. Our God's a jealous God. I mean, the Bible says, so he is a jealous God. You will put no gods before me. Well, this building is full of things that I put before God. From the very first time I ever drove a go-kart until 1983, I put a lot of things before God. My racing career, Stevie and my marriage, I kind of threw God in there every now and then when I needed help. It was hard for me to let go because I always felt like I did it myself. The races I won, the things I did, it was things that I had done and I wasn't giving God any glory. Well, and you were winning and you were, again, all the accolades were coming your direction, the quietness of your heart, Stevie, and your marriage feeling lonely. A lot of women feel that way with their heart charge in men. Now I don't, it's the 80-20 rule, I get that, it can be reversed, but you were lonely I'm sure.

I was. General, there was a particular race that got your attention because of what happened. Set the stage of what happened and how God spoke to your heart. Athletes and race car drivers, I can only speak as a race car driver, that's kind of how I think, but I think athletes in general think they're invincible. When something would happen to other drivers, I'd say, well, he didn't know what he was doing, he wasn't that good, he made a mistake, all those things. I'd never really been hurt in a race car. Had some wrecks, I know I'm not saying I never wrecked, but I never had a serious wreck until 1983. In 83, I had a wreck at Daytona that I spun off turn four into the inside wall and had a serious concussion. I mean, that car flipped how many times? No, it didn't, that's not a flip, this wasn't flipper, this was in 83 and I backed it in the wall and had a concussion, went to two races and didn't even remember going to them when I finally woke up. A lot of people said that wreck knocked me conscious. What do you mean by that? I think they were right because at that point, that's when I realized, whoa, you can get hurt doing this. And before 83, I had had an epiphany moment with the Lord and had started going to Bible Study Fellowship and listening to Chuck Swindoll on the radio and would turn it up really loud so that when Darrell was shaving or getting into a race, he would have to hear Chuck.

This sounds like a normal marriage. I like this. You're so subtle about this. I know, yes. And a lot of the races that we would go to, I had my Bible Study Fellowship notes and I'd be reading them out loud, Darrell, you won't believe what, this is so cool, listen to this. Hold on a minute.

Hammond's on the other line. Hang on a second. But no, he actually was very receptive, or he said he was, he said he enjoyed hearing them. And I would read those out loud to him and we would talk about them. And that was the first Bible study that I'd ever done in my life. And to this day, it's one of my best periods in my life.

Best memories. You're just hungry for God's word. He truly was, because he couldn't get enough. And so, you know, the Lord was working. The Lord was using his words and his, in Darrell's life.

He probably wasn't aware of that, but he was. One of the things that really spoke to my heart was Michael Card. Steve and I were talking about – Christian singer back in the 80s and 90s.

Yeah, well, he still is. Most all of his songs are right out of the Bible scripture, most all of them are beautiful. Beautiful songs. And we had met Michael and become friends with him and his wife, Susan. And I can't tell you how many times going to the track on Sunday morning, we would listen to Michael Card music.

And it really kind of touched my heart. And then in 83, after that accident in February, we started going to a church that met on Wednesday nights. All those years before, my excuse was, well, I can't go, I don't have time, I can't go to church on Sunday because I work on Sunday. All the races, they were on Sunday afternoon, so I don't have time, I can't make it to church, so – and I'm not one of those guys.

I'm either all in or I'm not going to do it, so we're not going to go. And then we found a – she did – found a church that met on Wednesday night. And Dr. Cortez Cooper became a great friend and a great mentor, and he helped me rededicate my life. And he asked you some very specific questions, didn't he?

Oh, yeah. No, he was – but Dr. Cooper was a man's man. He knew about baseball, he knew about football, and he knew who I was.

I didn't have any idea. He knew me or that he knew about what I did, but he knew who I was, and we just connected. He knew the good, the bad, and the ugly, and he loved him in spite of it, but he truly did.

Yeah, that's a key point, though. Yes, he is. He put his arm around me and hugged me and told me that God loved me. He didn't tell me he loved me. He did. But he said, God loves you, and God has a plan for your life. And I said, I don't know, bud. Is he like Grayson?

Are you a race fan? Well, and you and I have talked before, you also had the doubts that your character didn't measure up. Right? How could God love me? In a lot of ways, that's true. And even in some ways that maybe you don't even realize, but we wanted to have children, and we couldn't.

We kept trying and we couldn't, and we tried for 18 years to have children. And at one time, I was convinced that it was because of me. In what way? Like your behavior? Yeah, yeah, because of my lifestyle. I thought maybe God didn't think I'd be a good father. So God was stopping you from being a father, in your mind? In my mind.

And I know that's not true. But by the same token, when you try and you try and you try and it's not happening, I kind of convinced myself that maybe God thinks I wouldn't be a good dad. When your first child came along, how did that change your heart and change your mind? It was, well, listen, I got sick. I had morning sickness. We lost babies before I finally got pregnant with Jessica, and I had such a peace about this pregnancy. Darrell, on the other hand, when I got morning sickness, and I'm celebrating because this is the way it's supposed to be, and it had not been that way in the previous pregnancy, so I'm celebrating being sick, and he actually got morning sickness. He actually got sick, and that was the first time in many years that he went from January until September, which is my pregnancy, those nine months, that he didn't want to race.

I mean, he was completely changed by this little unborn baby. Why was it such an impact on you, the hardcore winning driver? We had prayed a lot, and my walk with the Lord had gotten stronger, and we were doing everything right. We'd kind of done everything wrong, or at least I had, and now we're doing everything right. We're trying to.

Yeah, we're trying to, and then I felt like I got right with the Lord, and then this baby comes along, and I changed teams. I quit driving the 11 car for Junior Johnson, and I went to drive the Tide car for Rick Hendrick, and that was in 1987, and we had what they called the dream team. It was like the best of the best. Me, Waddell Wilson, all the best crew members you could assemble, we were going to win every race.

I mean, there was no question about it. With the talent we had and the driver and the sponsor, we'd win every race, and we didn't win a race until September. All year.

All year long. I mean, we had a good car, decent car, fast car. Up in the points good, but we just didn't win, and the weekend that Jessica was born, we won that race. That was our first win that year, and what was amazing about that was, and it's hard for me to tell these things because it touches my heart, but we're at Martinsville, one of my favorite tracks, short track, and I've won a lot there, and Jessica was born on Thursday, I think it was, and so I had to go to the track, and I left Stevie and Jessica at home, and I get to the track, and Sunday morning, I get to the track, and I'm on cloud nine.

We got a beautiful little baby girl. Things are good, man. They're good. The car won't run worth a flip, but everything else is pretty good. But it didn't matter that much.

Everything else is pretty good, and I don't really care. So I get to the track on Sunday morning, and I go down to the car, and it's in the pits here, and I look, and I see the car, and there's a vase with a rose in it. And a note, and I said, wow, what's this? Open up the note, and it said, win this one for me, Daddy. It still chokes you up. It's great.

Like a big old baby. But anyway. Well, wait a minute. You won it, right?

Yeah, but this is even better. So we hadn't won a race all year, and I show the note to all the guys, and they say, yeah, it's great. They don't want a race all year. But anyway, in the race, the car's decent, but it's not great. Late caution, get some tires on the thing, and we got to run it.

We're going to get a pretty good finish out of this. White flag comes in the air, and I'm running third. I'm running behind Earnhardt's lead, and Terry Labonte's second.

I'm running third. And we go down in the first turn, and Terry tries to get up on the outside of Dale, and Dale pushes him up the hill, and Terry gets in the wall coming off of turn two, bounces off the wall. Now I know how Terry drives.

I know how Dale is. Terry was hot, and he was going to go down in the third turn. He was going to boot O'Dell. He was going to do the bump and run on him. Well, while they're up there, two knuckleheads messing with each other, here I come.

I got a head of steam. I'm coming down the back straightaway too, and I'm thinking I'm going to at least get by Terry. So I drive down in the third turn, and Terry overdrove the corner trying to get to Dale. I overdrove the corner trying to get to Terry. I bumped Terry.

Terry bumped Dale. Dale and Terry went up the racetrack backwards, and I went by. When I went by, I was waving, and I didn't leave but 600 feet of that race, but I won that race. You led only 600 feet of 500 miles.

From turn four to the start and finish line. That's all I led. Oh, my goodness. I guess that's all that matters. That's all that mattered. I won that race.

Now, after the race, did they come to you and pray for you? Oh, yeah. Oh, no. They used some of those hyphenated words that we might not all be repeating. Those grandmother words, right? Yeah, those grandmother words. Your grandma came back to you. My granny was there. Yeah.

But it was amazing because it's the only race I won that year in 1987. Oh, that's something. Stevie, let me ask you this because so many people, they may not have a spouse who knows the Lord, and they're where you were. Speak to that wife who knows that her husband isn't there yet, and you could tell there was a change in Daryl. So many times people say, well, how do you know if you encounter God? You saw a changed life and a changed heart.

I did. Describe who he became, the kind of man. Well, first of all, I never gave up on the hope that we have in Christ.

The Lord's the one that does the saving, and my part is to pray, and that's what I did. And I asked people that I could confide in that would love Daryl regardless. Now, you've got to paint that picture because Daryl was that driver that everybody hated.

I mean, they would throw beer cans at him and yell at him. Chicken bones. Right? You were the bad boy of the circus.

Even chicken bones. Oh, yeah. I mean, that's pretty bad. Yeah, that's pretty bad. But you were.

I liked both. You were the bad guy. Today, who would that be?

Oh. Who's kind of that guy? Well, it could be a couple of guys. It could be Kevin Harvick. He's got a hot temper written, and Tony Stewart kind of got a hot temper. So that hot temper. So that paints the picture.

And Kyle Busch is probably a good representative of somebody that I acted like. Right. And so then, continue from there, Stevie. So that paints the picture.

Yeah. And so I just prayed, and so did a few of my close friends. Then I would, like I said, I read my notes to him, and he could not help but notice the enthusiasm that I had in regards to the Bible and what I was hearing. And he grew up going to church. So it's not like it was completely foreign to him, but I'm sure it did have some sort of influence. And so I would just tell a wife that you might give up on your husband, but don't give up on God.

You know, the Lord wants all of us to be in his kingdom. So that was my approach with Darrell. And I also, you know, there is this picture of this aggressive, angry young man. And he was. But also, he had an incredibly tender heart. And I probably was maybe the only person that recognized that.

We can't have what he's got. I always think of him, his heart was so tender that he did whatever he could to protect that. And that's kind of how I saw him.

And little by little, the Lord just chiseled away, chiseled away, chiseled away at that hardness. And you could see it. I could see it. Yes. And then you knew he was changing. Yes. She likes to say that she'd been married to two men with the same name.

That's a good thing, though. Yes. Yep. We've been listening to a special Focus on the Family conversation with Darrell and Stevie Waltrip from Charlotte, North Carolina that was recorded in the Darrell Waltrip Museum in front of a live audience. And there was a steady rain coming down all day.

You might have heard that actually in the background. It didn't dampen the spirits, though, of those of us in the room listening to this couple share so insightfully and candidly about their marriage and their experiences in NASCAR. And as you've heard about their spiritual journey, it may be that you'd like to know more about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. We would love to share a little booklet we have with you. It's called Coming Home, and it explains the Christian walk more fully.

It gives you some next steps to grow in your faith, and we've got that online, or we can send a printed version to you. Our number is 800, the letter A in the word family, or just check the link in the episode notes. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family.

I'll invite you back next time as we continue the discussion with Daryl and Stevie Waltrip, and once more, help you and your family thrive in Christ. When a woman discovers her husband's struggle with pornography, she needs a practical plan. The latest book from Focus on the Family, Aftershock, by professional counselor Joanne Condie, will help you through the seven steps of self-care, and you'll learn how to deal with the emotions involved in the discovery of your husband's addiction. Let Joanne Condie's timeless wisdom give you hope, even while you're in your own season of Aftershock. Learn more about Aftershock at slash store.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-25 19:43:00 / 2023-09-25 19:55:40 / 13

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