This past week was just awesome. When you add it to the ones I have already enjoyed in 2012, well you see why I say I am a blessed man. We had the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction that saw our oldest daughter and her husband get back just in time from Brazil to be able to attend. Then the surprise of surprises, our youngest, Sarah, flew 25 hours from the Philippines to be at the induction to surprise dear ol’ Dad. Last week saw what I called Super Sunday with my birthday and the Super Bowl falling on the same day. So things have been pretty cool lately for DW.
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This past week ranks right up there with all the fun I’ve been having. Stevie and I flew to New York City last Tuesday as part of Simon and Schuster’s promotion for the release of my third book, "Sundays Will Never Be The Same". The book is about how I got to where I did, the folks that helped me along the way and the good breaks and the bad in 40-plus years of racing.
I came up with the title based on all the events of Feb. 18, 2001. It was the dawn of a new career for me — a second career, if you will. For the first time I was no longer a race car driver and that was a very weird feeling not being down on the starting grid. I was up in the TV booth. Within that first race for the brand new NASCAR on FOX TV package, we had my brother winning his first race of his long career — which ironically is our sports greatest race — yet at the same time losing my good friend and our sport’s icon Dale Earnhardt.
On that late Sunday afternoon in Daytona, I went from heading to Victory Circle with tears of joy to celebrate my brother’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup win, to rushing to the hospital, with tears of sorrow, hoping against hope that somehow, some way, my friend was going to be alright. Sadly, it was not to be. That’s why to me, Sundays will never be the same.
So last week was all about making the rounds. The timing worked perfectly because on one hand Simon and Schuster wanted me to be in NYC to promote the book while at the same time FOX Sports wanted me to be there, too, promoting the Daytona 500 on Feb 26. So they worked together, combined the effort and really maximized the opportunities. It was, as you hear me say all the time, a case where Simon and Schuster’s two and FOX’s two added up to five.
You probably know by now that I am a really big Don Imus fan. I watch his show all the time and call in periodically. Now I know at times he can be controversial and outspoken and maybe that’s why we have been buddies all these years. But, believe it or not, Don and I had never met. That all changed early Wednesday morning when I got to meet Don on the set of his show. It was quite a thrill. In the past I always liked talking to Don’s brother Fred about NASCAR, but now Don has Dagen McDowell on his show and she keeps Don up to date on all things NASCAR.
We left there and headed to the CBS Studios for their revamped CBS This Morning Show. The new format features my buddy Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Erica Hill. I found this fascinating — the show is produced by CBS News and it’s only the 10th time since 1954 that the format for that morning slot has been retooled. That’s pretty remarkable.
The set is like the Hollywood Hotel on steroids. It is a beautiful studio all completely high-tech. It was quite an experience. I got to hang out with the legendary singer Gloria Estefan. Her interview was right before mine. She is a really nice person. Of course host Charlie Rose is from North Carolina. He is a car guy and knows NASCAR really well. He and CBS correspondent Jeff Glor conducted the interview with me and it was really enjoyable.
Don’t forget, CBS has a long history in NASCAR. In 1978, Bill France Jr. sent Ken Squier and me to Los Angeles to pitch CBS to carry the Daytona 500 live in 1979. As history shows, CBS said yes, carried the race live for the first time flag to flag, and that was the race that put NASCAR on the map. The 1979 Daytona 500 will always be remembered as "The Fight." Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough wrecked and then Cale and Bobby Allison, who had stopped to check on his brother, proceeded to get into a fight in the infield. All that was going on while Richard Petty and I raced back to the checkered flag. I couldn’t get past Richard, so he won. I finished second and A.J. Foyt came home third.
Later Wednesday afternoon, I went over to the Bloomberg TV studios and taped an interview for PBS. The network provides funding and studio facilities for the nightly PBS/WNET program Charlie Rose. Naturally Charlie and Jeff Glor were once again also part of the interview. That one hasn’t aired yet but we will let everyone know when it will.
Now I was supposed to do the Hannity show on FOX News that evening, but a scheduling conflict couldn’t get corrected in time to let me appear there. So I need to get back to NYC sometime and make that up to Sean Hannity because I was really looking forward to doing his show.
Thursday morning found me on the set of FOX and Friends, which is one of my all-time favorites. I am a big fan of Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade. The interview with Brian was fun and entertaining as always when you put Brian and me together.
But, believe it or not, that wasn’t the best part.
I got to meet the guys from Swamp People, who were there promoting their upcoming season. Host Troy Landry is such a cool guy. You probably know the premise of their show, which airs on the History Channel. It’s a reality show that follows a group of Cajuns living in the Atchafalaya River Basin swamp in Louisiana that hunt alligators to make their living. They are beginning their third season on the air. The show is a big fan favorite that last year saw viewership jump 32 percent over the first season.
They brought a couple alligators with them to have on their segment on FOX and Friends and ol’ DW got to hold one. I told folks that Jaws met Jaws last Thursday. That big ol’ thing was not very happy to be there and was hissing at everyone. It sort of reminded me of some of my competitors back in the day! So that was a really cool experience.
Following that it was an interview with Jonathon Welsh of the Wall Street Journal. He’s a really big NASCAR fan so it was fun to talk with him. I then wrapped up the two-day NYC whirlwind tour at the FOX Business Network. I did that segment with Dagen McDowell. Now Dagen wears many hats. She is an anchor there at the FOX Business Network. She is a business correspondent for FOX News, plus as I mentioned earlier, she is part of the Imus in the Morning show.
I love Dagen to death. She is a huge NASCAR fan. She was born in Virginia and graduated from Wake Forest. I say this lovingly: She is one redneck girl. She is eaten up with all things NASCAR. Give that girl the smell of burning rubber and 800hp exhaust fumes and she is in heaven. She comes down from New York all the time doing things for her shows from the various race shops. She did her show last year from Victory Lane during the lead up to the Daytona 500. Just last month she flew in for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction.
The thing I love about Dagen and all the folks I met with in New York City last week was their passion and excitement about our sport. Both on-camera or off, they wanted to talk about how great last year was in NASCAR and how excited they are to see what 2012 will bring our sport. As if I couldn’t get excited enough about heading to Daytona this week, here they were pumping me up even more with their excitement.
Sundays Will Never Be The Same is now out. I hope you like it. It was hard to write about what happened on Feb. 18, 2001. It wasn’t until I got way into the book that folks that were with me in the hospital that fateful afternoon pointed out things that I literally had blocked out from my mind. That was quite stunning.
Naturally you can get autographed copies at DWStore.com. Unsigned copies are available at bookstores all over the United States. You can also find it on Amazon, download it to your Kindle, etc.
So it was a really exciting week in NYC. With Daytona being a week later this year, I get to spend Valentine’s Day with Stevie at home for the first time in many, many years. It’s off to Daytona on Wednesday and we’ll have Budweiser Shootout practice on Speed next Friday evening and then of course the Budweiser Shootout Saturday evening on FOX at 8 p.m. ET.
So it’s here. The offseason and testing are over. It’s time to go racing, gang!