NASCAR week: Michael Waltrip drops by Arizona's Family studios

Posted: Updated:
Nascar analyst Michael Waltrip brings his signature sense of humor to town this week. Nascar analyst Michael Waltrip brings his signature sense of humor to town this week.
Micheal Waltrip is in Phoenix for NASCAR (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Micheal Waltrip is in Phoenix for NASCAR (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
ISM raceway (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) ISM raceway (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)

NASCAR rolls into Phoenix this weekend. While it might take fans a little while to get used to calling Arizona’s track ISM Raceway, having a familiar face making his way through the infield will help.

Longtime driver, now a television analyst, Michael Waltrip recently stopped by AZ Family studios to catch us up on his what's-what report.

"I've always loved coming to Phoenix to race. The weather is perfect,” said Waltrip. “The track is awesome, superspeedway speeds over 170 mph in the corner and the short track racing in the turns... Rebuilding of the facility and renaming it ISM Raceway. It's going to be so much fun for the fans," said Waltrip.

"The driver's love that track," said Waltrip, "The amenities maybe weren't the best on the circuit but they're getting ready to be the best. Free WiFi throughout, you're going to be tuned in on what's going on on the track better than you have before...and there's going to be a track bar," quipped Waltrip, "You can get a mango margarita.”

[READ MORE: PIR to become ISM Raceway]

Waltrip's passion for racing and signature sense of humor makes him still one of the faces of NASCAR, even though he retired from driving over a year ago.

He drove in his 30th Daytona 500 in 2016 and called it a career behind the wheel. But behind the microphone, Waltrip’s career seems to be just getting started.

[MORE: Sports stories]

“Drove my car off the track, put it in a trailer, and I have it in my garage,” said Waltrip. “To have the car I had my last race in is really special. If I had one track that I would want to drive on if I could race again, it would be ISM Raceway. It's always been one of the driver's favorite tracks. It races like a short track but wow, a lot speed too."

With Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart's retirement in the last year, this has made NASCAR's premier circuit a “getting to know you“ game between the drivers and casual fans.

Waltrip is a bridge between the old and the new, reaching out to millions every weekend on television. 

[RELATED: Arizona native preparing to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr.]

When asked about the upcoming faces of NASCAR, Waltrip pointed out a 19-year-old from Massachusetts.

“One is Kaz Grala. He's in Infinity Series this year, was in trucks last year,” said Waltrip. “I'll tell you a funny story real quick. He won Daytona last year, on the last year was running seventh, six of them crashed and he won. That's an awesome way to win. Kaz is 18 years old. A week later we're in Atlanta, a kid's walking through the infield with a backpack on. I'm like, Kaz? 'Hello, Mr. Waltrip how are you?’ That's right I'm old. I was just doing a book report. I'm still in high school. That's the youth. William Byrum went from trucks series to Infinity driving the 24 car now. There's a lot of young racers that I'm excited about.”

Waltrip will be on the broadcast this weekend and might even make an appearance among the fans.

“I like to be out among the people. Having a beer with the fans, that's right up my alley. It's been a couple years since I did that. Maybe I'll rent one (Winnebago) here.”

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.