Scripture Verses on the Fast Track: An Interview with Stevie Waltrip

Scripture Verses on the Fast Track: An Interview with Stevie Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip hugs Stevie after he delivered the keynote address at the National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 5, 2014. Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Stevie Waltrip is well-known among race car drivers—first, for being the wife of FOX racing analyst and NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip; and second, for her pre-race Bible verses.

Each week, she pores over her Bible and waits for the Lord to direct her to just the right Scripture. Then she writes the verse down on five-by-seven cards and gives copies to drivers prior to Cup events.

Stevie will be the first to tell you she hasn’t always had a kingdom mindset. Nicknamed Stevie by her older sister, Stephanie was born in Texas but grew up in Kentucky. At 16, she dreamed of going to Southern Methodist University, the same Texas school where her grandfather taught and her dad attended—until she met a loud, brash, little-known race car driver by the name of Darrell Waltrip.

“Darrell was a wild and crazy guy, and my family was ultra conservative,” Stevie said.
Much to her parents’ horror, the lovebirds were wed once Stevie graduated high school, and they immediately moved to Tennessee so Darrell could focus on his dream of racing.

Stevie went to work on learning the sport. She did a variety of jobs, including calculating fuel mileage and recording pit stop performance, which helped Darrell win his one and only Daytona 500 victory in 1989. Her work helped in two ways. First, it saved money for the cash-strapped Waltrips. Second, it gave her something to do other than pray and fret while the love of her life raced in close quarters around fast tracks in underwhelming safety equipment.

It was a fast-paced lifestyle, and Stevie found it quite lonely—until she started seeking God. She knew about Jesus, thanks to her church upbringing, but she had some gaps to fill. Huge gaps, like why was the crucifixion necessary? She struggled to find a satisfactory answer to this question until she crossed paths with Ann Isaacs, wife of Leonard Isaacs, who had asked Darrell to serve on his bank’s board in the 1980s.

Out of the blue, Ann gave Stevie a cassette tape on the substitutionary death of Christ.
“She had no idea where I was spiritually,” Stevie said.

A few days later, Stevie listened to the message while tending her flower garden, and she finally got it: The penalty for sin is death. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were required to sacrifice animals,  and the blood of the animals symbolically covered their sins. But when Jesus arrived on the scene, He became the once-and-for-all sacrificial lamb. His blood now covers our sin.

While Stevie accepted Christ as a child, her experience in the flower garden answered her questions and sealed her faith.

“I had never heard that before in my life, and that was the picture I needed,” Stevie said. “That moved me from wherever I was spiritually to a whole other plane. I was on my knees, and I had my hands raised in the air. I was crying. It was awesome.”

Stevie attended Bible study with Ann. She turned up the volume on Christian radio broadcasts at home and relayed her notes to Darrell during car rides. She started putting Scripture verses in his car, even though his life didn’t match up.

Darrell wasn’t exactly a fan favorite early in his career, although he was successful on-track. In fact, he earned the nickname Jaws from the legendary Cale Yarborough for his mouthiness. No matter, Stevie kept putting Bible verses in his office—the race car—right where he could see them.

“I believe God’s Word is living and powerful and life changing, so I put Scriptures on the dash of his car, not for any other reason than to just help him focus on what truly was most important, to give him encouragement,” Stevie said.

Darrell didn’t object. He had even started attending Bible study with her. But God’s Word took on a whole new meaning in 1983, when Darrell was in a serious accident at Daytona.

“He spent a night in intensive care,” Stevie recalled. “I think the Lord used that to knock him conscious.”

In July of that same year, in a church meeting at a high school outside of Nashville, Darrell knelt down on his knees and, with Stevie and his pastor both by his side, he asked the Lord to forgive his sins. From that point forward, Stevie could see her husband’s faith getting stronger. Neither of them knew how important that would be for the upcoming season in their lives.

Stevie felt certain God wanted her and Darrell to have a child, but in 1985, their hearts were broken when they had a second miscarriage. They sat side by side in their room and poured out their hearts to God.

“We’re sitting on this blanket chest, and we both opened our hands and gave the whole situation to the Lord,” Stevie said. “We said, ‘If You want us to have a child, we would love for You to give us a child, but only if it’s Your will.’”

Not long after, they started the adoption process, but by late 1986 Stevie was pregnant—and Darrell was a wreck. This man who had three NASCAR Winston (now Sprint) Cup championships (1981, ’82, ’85) under his belt did not win a race the entire year.

“He actually got morning sickness,” Stevie said. “He was more focused on me and having Jessica than racing.”

Jessica arrived Sept. 17, 1987. That next week, Darrell was racing in Martinsville, Va. Stevie asked a friend to put a red rose in the seat of Darrell’s car with a note that read, “Win one for me, Daddy.” And he did.

Several years later, the couple had a second daughter, Sarah Kaitlyn.

“As you look back on those years, you can see what the Lord did with those hardships,” Stevie said. “For the first time in his life, the Lord and his family—his girls—became what his heart went to first.”

Stevie prayed through those difficult years, not just for her family. She sensed a greater need in the NASCAR garage, and together, the Waltrips started a weekly Bible study with two other families that over time evolved into Motor Racing Outreach.

Her personal ministry with Scripture verses extended as well. But never did she dream she would be writing down verses weekly for a man known as the Intimidator.

A hard-working fan favorite, Dale Earnhardt Sr. was as intense as he was charismatic. He had no problem wrecking a competitor to win or saying exactly what was on his mind. One day while on pit road he noticed Stevie had her five-by-seven Scripture card for Waltrip.

Earnhardt said, “Well, where’s mine?” Stevie was stunned. “I said, ‘Wait here. Let me go get you one!’ I had to run into the pits and get something to write on.”

From that point on, she started giving Dale a Scripture verse every race. Most of the time she gave Darrell and Dale the same Scripture, but every once in a while she would bring two verses. Dale would read both, and decide which one he wanted.

On Feb. 18, 2001, at the Daytona 500, Dale Sr. got Proverbs 18:10: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (NKJV).

“He got in that car and four hours later he was in the arms of Jesus,” Stevie said. Earnhardt died when his car crashed into a wall on the final lap of that race. “I think that Scripture was to give all of us that were grieving and so sad about his death—it gave us peace of mind. This was the Lord’s message to us that He had him.”

Stevie trembles when she thinks back on what she and Darrell went through toward the latter part of Darrell’s career. She watched painfully as her husband went from a contender to a champion to a mere entry. But God made good on His promises to provide.

Neither Stevie nor Darrell could have imagined a future in which Darrell would move out of the race car and into the television booth, but that’s where he’s been since 2001.

“This job was an answer to a prayer that we never prayed,” Stevie said. “That is vital that he has gotten to stay in the world he loves so much.”

Stevie’s Scripture tradition lives on. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fiancé, Amy Reimann, tweets the passages—#SteviesVerse—every week during NASCAR’s 10-month season. Some fans consider the verses more than a way of connecting with their driver, who has been chosen the fan favorite for the past 13 seasons.

One fan tweeted back that  the verses were good study material. For a moment, that rendered Stevie speechless.

Then she said: “It’s so gracious and kind of the Lord to use a little act like that and expand it to that point. That just makes me really happy.

“For [Earnhardt and Reimann] to have that kind of platform and to use it in that way is so valuable, so significant; it’s a great thing for the kingdom.”  ©2016 BGEA

Kellie Van Gilder is a BGEA Internet writer and editor.

Subscribe to Decision Email Devotional

Subscribe to Decision Email Devotional

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

About Us     Contact Us     Privacy
©2024 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. BGEA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.