Driver/owner Michael Waltrip had one word to describe the sandbagging by NASCAR drivers in Saturday night's $1 million All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway: "Genius."
"Listen, there are so many people in the pits who study these rules and know how to get a competitive advantage," said Waltrip, a two-time winner of the Daytona 500 and now owner of his own racing team. "People need to pat those guys on the back and get over it."
Under the new format, the winners of each of the first four 20-lap segments lined up 1-to-4 for pit road. Once there, it was a race to be the first to get back on the track for the final 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag.
So winner Jimmie Johnson sandbagged for 60 or so laps before turning it up for a final charge to his third All-Star victory.
"As soon as Jimmie won that first segment, he knew he could change tires and have the whole track in front of him to himself," Waltrip said. "That's just genius to me. We're all competitors, and it is their livelihood to figure out how to manipulate the rules. it's an All-Star race. It's supposed to be unique."
Waltrip has never been one to mince words. And he isn't just talking about racing.
He's now working with Happy Madison Productions about turning his best-selling book "In the Blink of an Eye: Dale, Daytona, and the Day that Changed Everything" into a movie. He, along with Angelo Pizzo, who wrote "Hoosiers" and "Rudy," are writing a screenplay.
"I want to make this movie the way it was meant to be. It doesn't need to be 'Hollywooded' up," said Waltrip, who still remembers every detail of the day Dale Earnhardt died in 2001. "I still have so much passion about NASCAR. Racing is my life."
And he's also working with Country Time on Facebook on naming a new flavor.
"This is their first new product in 14 years. And in 1989, Country Time sponsored my Pontiac, so I thought it would be cool to return the favor," Waltrip said. "I'd like it to be called the 'Waltrip.' Is that genius, too? Granted, I'm slightly biased."