Darrell Waltrip returns to the booth this week
February 18, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Emergency surgery kept FOX Sports broadcaster out of action for start of Speedweeks
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Fresh from surgery, Darrell Waltrip returns to the TV booth this week at Daytona International Speedway.
Waltrip underwent emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder last week before he departed his hometown of Franklin, Tenn. The procedure kept the three-time Cup champion on the sidelines as FOX Sports 1 kicked off its NASCAR coverage for 2014.
"I’m doing fine, I feel great," Waltrip said Tuesday during a FOX Sports teleconference. "I had no idea I had anything wrong; I just got sick all of a sudden. I was getting ready to leave to come down (to Daytona Beach) and the next thing you know I was rushed into the emergency room and they took out my gallbladder.
"They did a nice job and I’m healing up good. I should be good for Thursday and certainly for Sunday."
FOX Sports 1 programming resumes Wednesday here at the 2.5-mile track with coverage of Sprint Cup Series and Camping World Truck Series practices. Thursday brings the Budweiser Duel qualifying races on FS1 and Sunday’s Daytona 500, the season-opening race for the Cup Series, can be seen on FOX.
Former crew chief Larry McReynolds will join Waltrip in the booth, as will race announcer Mike Joy.
Waltrip, a former Daytona 500 winner, ended his driving career in 2000 and began working as an analyst for the network the following season. Missing last Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited, a non-points event, was like "watching somebody else run your race car," he said.
"It wasn’t any fun. But, with that said, you do observe things differently when you are at home and when you are standing up there in the booth.
"The amazing thing to me is we’re up there in the booth and we have our cameras and we have our monitors and we have all of our tools, but I can see the whole race track. So I can anticipate what’s going to happen. I see things that are starting to unfold. I can see (Brad) Keselowski getting ready to make a move, (Dale Earnhardt) Junior getting ready to make a move … I can see that developing. Whereas when you’re watching it at home, you don’t see it until it happens."
Witnessing the race as a TV viewer, he said, helped underscore the importance of his job in the booth – explaining not only what just happened, but also why it happened.
"We can always go to replays – which are always the second time around you see things differently," he said. "But I did learn a lot by just watching the race. …
"We had some good overhead shots that I’m a big fan of; I think you need overhead shots on restrictor-plate race tracks because the cars run so close together. You need to be able to look down on them and see how much they move around and see the directions they’re going in.
"I actually enjoyed watching the race; I learned a lot and I think it’ll help me (this week)."