Sunday, August 19, 2007

Kyle Petty Plays Injured For Team SPEED

It has been a very interesting year for Kyle Petty. Among the aspects of his life that we are curious about is his active involvement in the television side of NASCAR.

He drew solid reviews from fans and the press for his honesty and candor during TNT's summer race package. As usual with high profile individuals, he also had his share of detractors. Welcome to the wonderful world of the media.

This season The Daly Planet has watched every episode of Tradin' Paint, the thirty minute opinion-based talk show on SPEED. Our column of April 4th was entitled "Tradin' Paint, the show that ain't." The bottom line was that this show had lost its focus, and needed correction.

The premise of the series is simple. John Roberts hosts, and tosses out the topics to his two guests. The panel consists of one driver and a weekly rotating cast of media members. They can be from the print, TV, radio, or even Internet sides of the media world.

The original driver position was filled by Michael Waltrip, but SPEED made a change earlier this season. Kyle Petty committed to this series for the entire year, and he has made an immediate impact. Always plain-spoken, Kyle has mellowed with age into a veteran driver and owner with a good perspective on the sport in general.

Last week, Bob Pockrass from NASCAR Scene basically baited Kyle into blowing his top. It made for good TV, and included Kyle telling Bob he was full of BS and blowing smoke up the fans posteriors. This week, Tom Jensen from proved to be a much better chat partner.

As most fans know, Kyle was playing injured after breaking his hand during an angry moment last weekend. Something hard met something human, and the human side lost the battle. No one would have blamed Kyle had he taken this weekend off, but give him credit. He showed up, and talked about his injury right off the bat.

In front of a big crowd at Michigan, Kyle proved that he certainly has come into his own in front of the camera. Commenting on the Dale Junior vs. Theresa issues of the week, he said that "the number eight needs to stay at DEI." Petty pointed out that "Dale Senior chose that number for that company and not necessarily for his son." There is a point you have not heard in the mainstream media a lot.

Jensen piped-up with his comment that since Theresa Earnhardt did not let Michael Waltrip exit DEI with his fifteen number, no one should have been surprised that she made it impossible for Junior to take the eight. Petty added "it would be like the (NFL) Redskins letting a player go, and still letting him wear the decal on the side of the helmet." Interesting perspective from a team owner.

On the subject of Kyle Busch and the Gibbs organization, Jensen said that Gibbs Racing is now "like the Oakland Raiders." They are a group that has learned to live with dysfunction and strong personalities. Kyle was firm in his statement that "Kyle Busch will make Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin better race car drivers."

Petty's point was well-taken that Busch will be coming on-board wanting to prove he is just as good or better then Stewart and Hamlin. Cohesive was the key element that Petty pointed to as crucial to the future. Both alluded to the fact that back at the Gibbs shops, no one wears the individual car colors and everyone is made to feel part of one big team. There were lots of Redskins references.

From the start of this series, John Roberts had been directing the traffic and asking the questions. Over the last several weeks, he has also been making his views known, and expressing in his questions a lot of opinions that originate from the NASCAR fans. That is really what is missing in this show, and in other SPEED programming. The voice of the fans on NASCAR TV is silent.

In wrapping the show, Petty expressed the fact that the Michigan race would be about caution for some, especially the teams trying to either keep, or make, The Chase. He explained that teams have control at Michigan, but for some of these same teams, Bristol next week would be "a life changing experience."

Certainly, if anyone should know about life changing experiences, it is Kyle Petty. This one man has dealt with tremendous fame, personal loss, and now the challenge of building a second career to follow his driving days. Like many other things, he has stepped-up and given it his best effort.

I would enjoy seeing Kyle guest on Inside NEXTEL Cup, or co-host an edition of WindTunnel with Dave Despain. SPEED would be smart to offer him additional guest roles this season, in advance of someone like ESPN coming along and moving him into the Infield Studio to support Suzy Kolber.

Tradin' Paint has slowly proven to be a show worthy of a weekly view, and with a little better time control of the topics, it could cover a whole lot more ground. It will be interesting to see what SPEED does with this program for 2008.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by.


cwebs said...

Wow, I have to disagree somewhat with your assessment of Kyle Petty on this show. I have nothing against him. He seems to be a decent guy, and he did a great job in the booth with TNT, but I still think there's plenty of room for improvement with his performance on TP

He did make some interesting points this week, as noted in your column. On the other hand, he seems to struggle with expressing his views in a coherent and understandable manner at times.

When they were discussing the AT&T lawsuit situation, he prefaced some of his comments with something like "Listen, I truly believe this". Thinking he was going to say something interesting and profound, I turned the volume up to make sure I would be able to hear him clearly. He then proceeded to point out (in a convoluted way) that, basically, the whole thing is only an issue because Sprint/Nextel and AT&T/Cingular are in the same business (telecom). Hmmmmmm. Note to to Kyle - Everyone knows that!!! Talk about being Master-of-the-Obvious!!!

Still, I do agree that the show is improving. Here's hoping they keep working at it. The sport definitely needs a show where honest and open opinions can be presented. If everything that comes out of people's mouths at the track is controlled by PR hacks, NASCAR will continue to lose fans. I hope the NASCAR bigwigs understand that a little criticism from the fans and media is healthy, just as disagreements and open emotions shown by the drivers on the track are.

Speaking of honest commentary, what prompted Jimmy Spencer to call out Dale Jarrett on RaceDay today? Those comments were pretty harsh, but also refreshing. I wish more commentators would feel free to voice their opinions!

Tripp said...

Put the fans on TV?

At any Cup race, scour the venue for people. Drivers, crew, broadcasters fans, even the concessionaires, and take a half dozen people from each category and put them on TV. The smart money will have the least insightful and least articulate comments coming from the fans. OK, maybe the concessionaires, but the fans would be a close second. And that makes for bad broadcasting.

One suspects that the suits at Speed Channel have listened to the 24/7 NASCAR coverage on Sirius NASCAR Radio and sampled the fan's offerings. Aside from the oddball conspiracy theories, there is man-love or vitriol for their most or least favorite drivers, antipathy for Juan Pablo Montoya and hand wringing over the fate of the "8". Neither these topics nor many others voiced on the three main Sirius weekday shows provide any significant insight into the world of NASCAR.

The best on Sirius NASCAR radio is offered by the hosts or the NASCAR guests. Pick between a fan comment or a Buddy Baker story. No question which is more entertaining and informative. David Poole, love him or hate him, offers creative analysis and commentary as a representative of the press. Ricky Craven, John Andretti, Randy LaJoie and others speak plainly from the drivers' perspective. Overall, the words of the pros, drivers, press and broadcasters, are the most informative and entertaining. Although fan calls can be funny, nothing will beat Dave Moody's monologue about Tim Brewer analyzing the unfortunate Pocono rabbit.

All of this in varying degrees is good broadcasting. How will interactive fan involvement on "RaceDay" or "Trading Paint" improve those products?

To be clear, fans are great. They are the passionate backdrop upon which the race day drama plays out each week. From a racing fan's perspective, they are the best fans around. They simply would not add to the quality of these broadcasts.

That said, the fan contributions to ABC's "NASCAR in Prime Time" were priceless in that heavily edited and post-produced product. For that show, it worked. But a fan with a mike on live TV will always make network suits sweat hard and will usually hurt the show.

Anonymous said...

Depends on the fans. Some of us do know how to do public speaking and are quite good at getting our point across without worrying the suits.

Get some of the webwriters and bloggers on the show. They seem to be literate and do put thought to the electronic pages we read.

Anonymous said...

Memo to Kyle: The 1st car in the DEI stable was the #1....not the #8

suzy24 said...

I was bummed out that the Michigan Race was rained out but I enjoyed hearing guest commentary provided by the stranded drivers who stopped in to share their concerns with Suzy Kolber, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daughtery. I found NASCAR drivers to be the most articulate and interesting of professional athletes who can provide simple explanations to complex technical issues and then offer an enjoyable yarn about a teammate or competitor. This helps open the sports to an expanding audience and fan base of all stripes.

Anonymous said...

I'll agrre with Tripp. I watch NASCAR coverage on TV to learn new info about the sport, NOT to "hear from the fans." I can do that on the internet or at a bar.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Do you remember This Week in NASCAR with Eli Gold? It was a weekly show that traveled the Cup circuit and allowed fans to ask questions of a driver, team owner, NASCAR official, or whoever the guest was that week.

Over the course of an hour, fans asked the best questions and made the best comments you can imagine.

Sirius is great, but simply having a fan ask a question on Tradin' Paint, offer an opinion on two hours of RaceDay, or even give a shout-out to a friend or family member on Trackside would include the crowd.

Fans are what make WindTunnel interesting, and I continue to think that working to include them would be a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Kyle Petty's comments about car numbers needing to stay with teams was ignorant. Does he not remember what happened when his dad left Petty Enterprises in the early 80's??? "The King" took car #43 with him to Mike Curb's team. Richard Petty was both a car owner and driver and he chose to keep the number with the driver and not the team. Yet Kyle goes on the show and talks about the 43 belongs with Petty Enterprises. Except in rare instances, eh?

Anonymous said...

There was no one driving at PE when Richard did that so there was no one to say we'll keep it here. If DEI were closing it's doors as well it would not be an issue, all of their numbers would be up for grabs.