Sports Stories

It was Michael Waltrip’s first visit to Sedona. “I want to see those red rocks,” Waltrip said with a southern drawl.

By Nick Ruland
Larson Newspapers

It was Michael Waltrip’s first visit to Sedona.

“I want to see those red rocks,” Waltrip said with a southern drawl.

Atypical overcast weather and fog blocked the scenery but did not dampen Waltrip’s enthusiasm on this day.

nascar01-2-2The two-time Daytona champion was shooting a Best Western commercial at the Best Western Arroyo Roble Hotel in Uptown on Wednesday, Jan. 31. The national spot is set to air in March.

It’s Waltrip’s second commercial for the company, though he has done many commercials in the last five years.

“It should be the funniest one,” Waltrip said.

Photographers and wire reporters from USA Today and other national media outlets gathered to get a chance to view the legend.

Waltrip’s new No. 99 Toyota Camry was in town as part of the shoot. The roar of ignition from the beast compelled the crowd to stare. The power from the potential 750-plus horses enticed the “wannabe” gearheads to ask a flurry of questions of Waltrip’s stage crew.

After the commercial was shot, Waltrip stayed for a photo shoot, showing patience with the media and fans gathering to request personal picture opportunities.

Later, Waltrip gave one-on-one interviews with media members inside a hotel room.

Waltrip was personable and candid, articulate and funny.

With a full head of Hollywood hair and a superstar glow, Waltrip showed off his ability to captivate.

His NBA frame leaned back into the hotel chair, contorting in a way that seemed he could just as easily take a nap.

Though he was asked many of the same questions, he answered most with creativity and reflection.

Waltrip first talked about how much he wanted to come back to Sedona.

“It’s a great place. There is really nothing like it,” he said.

He spoke of NASCAR trends and how he appreciates his current sponsors.

NASCAR is the fastest growing “sport” in the United States. Waltrip confirmed that, indeed, NASCAR is a sport.

A follow-up as to why NASCAR is a sport was not asked due to time constraints and fear of losing the interview.

When asked what it is like to experience a NASCAR race, Waltrip gave his best answer of the interview.

“It’s three things,” he said as a Southern tone began to take over his business voice.

“Either you are behind somebody, passing somebody or you are on the couch,” Waltrip said.

Waltrip expanded by saying that he loves to pass people, dislikes being behind and hates sitting on the couch watching the race.

Waltrip talked about his ownership of Michael Waltrip Racing and the 2007 NASCAR season.

He said he does not like to make predictions for 2007, citing that when he became a professional driver, the sport was nothing like it is today. Thus, he cannot see the future.

He claimed he was as excited as anyone else to see how the first foreign car, his Toyota Camry, will do in the first race of the 2007 NASCAR season, the Daytona 500 in February.

Waltrip talked about the recent controversies in the sport regarding fights. He said that just like any other professional sport, NASCAR is full of competitiveness and emotion.

Waltrip appears to be a keen businessman. He spoke of the rise from go-cart racing and what it takes to become a professional racer.

He said it is more difficult to become a professional racer because of the financial requirements.

He talked about his hearty appreciation for sponsors and how, as a child, he dreamed he would have them.

Waltrip is a star. At every corner, he seemed to have an agent or a member of his or Best Western’s team watching him. Everyone knew what Waltrip was doing at all times.

Waltrip wants to come back to Sedona to tour the red rocks. If fanfare followed, it wouldn’t be a problem.