Michael Waltrip opens up in 'Blink of an Eye'

Thu, Feb 17
3:03
PM ET

Michael Waltrip has some words for anyone who doesn't like his new book "In the Blink of an Eye" about the day racing legend Dale Earnhardt died at the Daytona 500 in 2001.

"If they don't like my book, they don't like me," said Waltrip, who is driving in Sunday's Daytona 500 in a 10th anniversary homage to Earnhardt. "In my eyes, the book is perfect. I'm totally content with how it came out."

Waltrip won the 2001 Daytona 500, but his close friend and boss Earnhardt died on the final lap, crashing into the wall. NASCAR and safety changed forever. Waltrip hasn't really talked much about that day until he poured out his heart in the book.

"I've tried avoiding the questions about that Sunday afternoon. In a five-minute interview, you can't really explain that day," said the 47-year-old Waltrip, who has been racing about 25 years. "As the 10th anniversary approached, I decided to write a book to tell readers what that painful day meant to me."

Waltrip worked with famed author Ellis Henican, who helped pen the book by New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, on putting his thoughts together and they came up with a page-turner about the "day that changed everything."

"Mike had this stuff bottled inside him for years. All I had to ask was, 'What was that like?' I think he was ready to spill his guts," Henican said. "He is totally open about the most personal things. For a writer, that is gold."

Waltrip agrees he was ready to talk.

"Ellis, who is a great writer, would spend a weekend with me and ask a thousand questions. Ellis didn't mean to be a doctor or counselor but that's what he became," said Waltrip, who struggled through a divorce a few years ago. "I always thought that if you ignored it, it'll go away. But it never does. You have to learn how to deal with things, and this book was my way of doing that."

Waltrip said "In the Blink of an Eye" might be about sports, but it's more about humanity.

"It's a story about a couple of guys who became friends and came up with a plan to win the Daytona 500, but in a blink of an eye, it all goes wrong," Waltrip said. "I was able to open up more than I had ever had in my life. I know everything happens for a reason, but damn, how could this be."