Darrell, Michael Waltrip mourn death of middle brother Bobby

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Robert Lynn “Bobby” Waltrip, middle brother of NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and Fox Sports announcer Darrell Waltrip and NASCAR team owner and fellow Fox Sports announcer Michael Waltrip, died Sunday.

It’s unknown when Darrell and Michael Waltrip were informed of their brother’s death. Both worked the Fox Sports’ Sunday afternoon telecast of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 400 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Michael, the youngest of the three Waltrip brothers, confirmed his brother’s passing on Twitter Sunday evening.

Moments later, Darrell, the oldest Waltrip brother, also paid homage to brother Bobby.

Bobby Waltrip grew up in Owensboro, Ky., but had lived in the Concord, N.C. area the last 25 years.

While he never followed his brothers into NASCAR as a race car driver — although he did work for Darrell in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the latter formed his own Winston Cup team — Bobby became a major force in the world of go-kart racing, first as a successful kart racer himself and later as an announcer and promoter in the sport in both the World Karting Association (WKA) and the American Karting Association (AKRA).

He was believed to be in his early 60s at the time of his death.

Few details of Bobby Waltrip’s death were available late Sunday night. Someone identifying himself as Bobby Waltrip’s son had this post on the well-known go-karting news site www.karting.4cycle.com.

Condolences from friends of Darrell and Michael began pouring in Sunday night, including NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr.:

Bobby Waltrip’s death marked the second passing of a close relative of the Fox Sports NASCAR broadcasting crew in as many days. Howard R. Roberts, father of announcer John Roberts, died Saturday.

It was clear from Michael Waltrip’s last tweet Sunday night how much his brother’s death was weighing upon him:

Below is a video interview of Bobby Waltrip at Volusia (Fla.) Speedway Park in late 2009 by Daytona Beach News-Journal motorsports writer Godwin Kelly.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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