NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip gives keynote address at National Prayer Breakfast

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Speaking to an audience that included President Obama, the Dalai Lama, and several thousand attendees from around the world, NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip discussed his faith during the keynote address at this morning’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

The three-time Sprint Cup champion joined a long line of prominent past guest speakers for the event, a line that includes the late Mother Teresa, U2 frontman Bono, and former UK prime minister Tony Blair.

As part of his address, Waltrip talked about how arrogant he was in his early career and how hated he was by fellow drivers and fans, as well as how hard it was to look back on that now.

“My personal life was a mess,” Waltrip said. “I drank too much. I liked to go to the bars and hang out with the boys. I just did everything to satisfy me. Whatever felt good to me, I did it. I didn’t give it a second thought.

“That was my lifestyle. That’s how I lived. I didn’t have any great friends. I didn’t have any close friends. I’d always figured if you wanted a friend, get a dog…I have several dogs [now].”

His personal woes didn’t stop him from winning the 1981 and 1982 Cup titles, and his wife, Stevie, stood by him even as he brushed off her prayers that he would one day pursue a deeper faith.

But a crash in the 1983 Daytona 500 caused him to truly take a hard look at his life.

“When I finally came to or woke up, I realized that that wreck had knocked me unconscious,” Waltrip recalled. “It scared the hell out of me, and I mean that literally. I realized that I could have been killed that day. What if I’d lost my life right there that day at Daytona? What would I have done? Would I have gone to Heaven? Or would I have gone to Hell?

“I thought I was a pretty good guy, but folks, let me tell you something. Good guys go to Hell.”

After the crash, the Waltrips began going to church together. Darrell became a Christian, which he said today was “the greatest day of his life.” And Darrell, now kinder and more humble, eventually became a fan favorite – a status he still enjoys in his current role as a NASCAR analyst for Fox Sports.

President Obama thanked Darrell for sharing how his faith impacted him.

“Darrell knows that when you’re going 200 miles an hour, a little prayer cannot hurt,” Obama said. “I suspect that more than once, Darrell has had the same thought as many of us have in our own lives: ‘Jesus, take the wheel.’ Although I hope that you kept your hands on the wheel when you were thinking that.”

Obama also thanked him and Stevie for their efforts in supporting Motor Racing Outreach, which offers church services and spiritual support to the NASCAR family on race weekends. The Waltrips were part of the founding group for the organization, and remain part of its Board of Directors.

“…We are so grateful to Stevie for the incredible work they’ve done together to build a ministry where the fastest drivers can slow down a little bit and spend some time in prayer, reflection, and thanks,” Obama said.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”