Keyword Exclusive — Talking NASCAR
Supplement to "Kentucky’s Checkered Flag”
Read more NASCAR stories from D.W. (Darrell Waltrip), Sonora fan Charlie Thurman, and ARCA racer Steve Blackburn
“D.W.,” as Darrell Waltrip is called, was an early on participant in the design and layout of the Kentucky Speedway.
“Jerry Carroll flew me up to northern Kentucky to take a look at where he wanted to build it,” Waltrip says. “We discussed the track and positioning of the grandstands, but I guess you could say my biggest contribution was telling him to make sure he had enough bathrooms.”
Waltrip, who now lives in Franklin, Tennessee, says he always envisioned a track in Kentucky.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of what they’ve all done with the Kentucky Speedway,” he says. “And you know when you look out on the track it’s shaped like a ‘D’ and the garage area is laid out like a ‘W.’ They’ve got ole D.W. there.”
Early on, anyone who knew Waltrip knew he was different.
“Darrell was on the track team out at Daviess County High School,” recalls Army Armstrong, Monster Truck events announcer. “I was timing an 880 race he was running, and when he ran by me he made the sound of a racecar, you know, like he was shifting gears. He was just unbelievable.”
Waltrip also recalls those running days at Daviess County High.
“I had forgotten how big of a track star I was until I went back for my Hall of Fame induction,” he laughingly says. “They said I had the 880 record at the school for a long time. Man, I must have been good, I just didn’t remember how good.”
Car racing lays claim to being the largest spectator sport in the world, and without the fans not much else would happen, certainly not on the grand scale it is today.
One of these fans is Charlie Thurman from Sonora in Hardin County. As a teenager in the late ’50s, he would go see the stocks run on the old quarter-mile track that used to be near the Louisville fairgrounds.
“I really got interested in NASCAR in the ’70s while I was working for Chevron in New Orleans,” he says. “Whenever I was at any of the races I’d do everything I could to get near the garage and pit areas. In 1976 at a race in Nashville, they even let me be a gas can catcher in one of the pits. I found out real quick I didn’t need to be there.”
Later on Thurman’s son Andy raced go-karts, attended a Buck Baker driving school, and drove on some of the short tracks, and now works for the Richard Petty Driving Experience.
Steve Blackburn runs a Harley-Davidson and Honda dealership in Prestonsburg, but he spends a lot of time thinking about his #94 black 2012 Chevy Impala.
Blackburn runs on a regular basis in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
“I pick and choose what races I run because of the cost,” says Blackburn, who self-sponsors his car. “I spent three days last December at Daytona testing…finished 10th out of 60.”
Blackburn ran the ARCA Series in Daytona in February, finishing fourth, and now has his sights set on Talladega.
Because of the expense factor he says he does what several lower tier racers do when it comes to pit crews.
“I try to rent the Red Bull cup team’s crew,” he says. “I want a pit crew with experience under their belts.”
This year he used a NASCAR cup team’s crew.
To read the Kentucky Living April 2012 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to Kentucky's Checkered Flag.