Read In the Blink of an Eye Online
Authors: Michael Waltrip
There was no way I would just allow this team to fail, this team I had worked so hard for and was so proud of. As I sat at home that night, I knew I had to get more involved. I had to go help the people I had hired. I had to get back in there and rally my troops around me.
Why had it taken so long to make that brilliant decision? Why did I keep needing to learn, over and over again? I don’t have a great answer for that. But once I decided, I was determined to see my decision through.
Before Dale became part
of my life, I had to survive, but surviving was all I was doing. My survival on the track led me to Dale’s car and the winner’s circle. In the middle of 2007, my survival was in question again. I needed something almost magical to happen, according to my financial advisors. All my money, everything I had invested in building Michael Waltrip Racing was in serious jeopardy. We were a couple of months away from the bank owning the whole joint. No one wanted that. Especially me.
I needed something extraordinary to happen. It happened before—actually twice, down in Daytona. And I needed it to happen again. The word was out on the NASCAR street: “Michael is in trouble. He won’t be able to pay his bills much longer.” The sharks were circling. What do I do? What would Dale do? Who could I turn to?
You might be surprised.
I called the soon-to-be-former Mrs. Waltrip. I told her: “I want to talk.”
Those were four words that Private Mike rarely used. Unlike Public Mike, Private Mike ain’t a talker. But I had some things I needed to say. I wanted her to know I was sorry for letting our marriage slip away. Sorry for trying to deal with all the drama in my life by simply burying it, hoping it would go away. That was certainly no way to maintain a healthy partnership between a husband and wife. That sounds like stuff you’d discover about yourself lying on a couch in some doctor’s office, doesn’t it? I’m friends with Dr. Phil. But I’ve never been on his couch. I do watch his show a lot. Maybe that helped me figure some things out.
After my confession to Buffy on the personal side, it was time to talk business. I explained to her that the team was in dire straits financially.
I told her I was having trouble paying for all the stuff I’d bought, even that damn copy machine. She already knew there were issues, but she didn’t know how serious they were. We needed to put our heads together and come up with a plan. We needed to call someone—anyone!—and see if they wanted to own a race team.
Buffy had an idea. She called a friend, who called a friend. Then she called me back and said, “Johnny knows a man you need to meet.”
Johnny was Johnny Harris, a Charlotte businessman with connections all over the world. Johnny had a friend named Rob who loved racing. That Rob was Rob Kauffman.
Rob came to Charlotte from London in May 2007. We spent a couple of days talking about how a partnership between us might work. Rob headed back to London and said he would get back to me in a couple of weeks. We began organizing our partnership. By October of that year, he was 50 percent owner of Michael Waltrip Racing.
Rob is a billionaire and I was in trouble. Don’t tell anybody, about the bind I was in, Okay? He could have taken all of MWR if he wanted, and it would be known today as RKR. But Rob is not that kind of guy. He appreciated what I had built, and he wanted us to be partners. Every time I tell this story, it makes me cry. I can’t imagine not having the team I love so much, and I would have lost it if it weren’t for Rob Kauffman. With Rob’s support and partnership, we began making steady progress, going from missing races to making all of them to winning our first race in Charlotte in 2009. That was the same race where I began my Cup career as a driver twenty-four years earlier.
A Cup win didn’t seem so likely when I was sitting in Mike Helton’s office in 2007 talking about stupid fuel additives that had the capability of shooting you into space. Nor did it seem likely before I met Rob in the middle of the same year.
The trophy we won in Charlotte, my first as a car owner, has a prominent position in our shop. If you come to Cornelius, North Carolina, you can see it yourself. I walk past that trophy regularly. And when I do, it reminds me of the little old lady on that bus back in Kentucky. “Rejoice in the moment,” she said. “Enjoy your victory. Don’t take what you’ve accomplished for granted.” What great advice that turned out to be!
That trophy represents a lot to me. It reminds me what a long road I’ve driven to get where I am today. From a young racer who didn’t think he could lose to a guy who wondered if he’d ever win.
As a kid, race cars and high-banked turns inspired me. They were all I thought about. They brought me closer to my dad. They focused my dreams. They drove me. But as the years rolled by—and the miles—I came to see that it was always the people who mattered most. The ones who helped me buy tires and cars and parts and pieces. The ones who cheered me on. The ones who made me want to win. I couldn’t have had success in racing without them. Bobby, Darrell, Richard, Dick, and so many others. But one guy defined me—and continues to do so—both professionally and personally. His direction made me a winner. He’s never stopped guiding me.
Glad you’re still with me, Dale.
is a two-time Daytona 500 champion, one of only eight drivers to win the race more than once. He is an iron-horse racer—one of three drivers to make more than a thousand NASCAR starts. He appears regularly on
This Week in NASCAR
on Showtime and other racing shows, and he writes a monthly column for
. He is founder and co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, a three-car NASCAR Sprint Cup racing team.
“Goodbye (Kelly’s Song)”
©1990 Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC. All rights administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, 8 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Copyright © 2011 Michael Waltrip
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Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4013-2431-5
eBook Edition ISBN: 978-1-4013-9653-4
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