Saturday, April 5, 2008
"Tradin' Paint" On SPEED: The Petty Edition
Fans of Tradin' Paint knew this was going to be an interesting show.
Since the departure of Michael Waltrip in the Spring of 2007, Kyle Petty has been a regular on this TV series. Along with host John Roberts, Petty and company welcome a different media guest to each program. The results often make for good TV.
Over the course of the 2007 season, Petty had many memorable differences of opinion with several of the biggest journalists in the sport. While notable names like Liz Clarke from the Washington Post and David Poole from the Charlotte Observer negotiated their way through the show with success, that was not always the case.
Both Jenna Fryer from the Associated Press and Bob Pockrass from scenedaily.com proved to be journalists that were not interested in negotiating. They had their views, stated them clearly, and they were not going to give any ground. That simply did not work well for Kyle Petty.
Often, it seemed that Petty was trying his best to talk about another time in NASCAR without facing the grim reality of the superteams and the superdollars involved in the sport today.
Petty stood-up for truth, for personal relationships among drivers and for a sport where any team could make the field and contend for the win. In Petty's mind, his views were right and he was not going to give any ground to "the media."
On this Saturday, it was a very different Kyle Petty that sat on the set of Tradin' Paint. Across from Petty was Richard Durrett of The Dallas Morning News. In the middle was Roberts and the first words out of his mouth sent the show in the very direction that many thought SPEED would not go. It was time to talk about the troubled Petty Enterprises on national TV.
We all know the story. The sponsorship of the 43 car will move to Childress for 2009, the 45 car failed to make the field at Martinsville and even after Petty stepped aside, the car failed to qualify for Texas. This weekend, rumors of driver Bobby Labonte leaving the 43 car for Childress Racing after the season is over are rampant.
Petty did his best to explain that stepping-out of the 45 car was a group decision. Earlier that weekend, he told Mark Zeske of the very same Dallas Morning News that vacating the car was not his decision. Even as Petty talked about the team and evoked memories of his late son Adam, the reality still had not sunk-in.
John Roberts has seen a whole lot of Kyle Petty and his temper on this show, especially in 2007. After allowing Petty to explain his views on the situation at Petty Enterprises unchallenged, Roberts soft-peddled a question to Richard Durrett about teams and sponsorships. Durrett was having none of it, and began to ask Petty his own questions directly.
Durrett asked how Petty felt stepping out of the car. He asked about the very future of the Petty Enterprises organization. He quietly took the host role and left Roberts in the dust watching from the sidelines. It was a good idea.
Petty did a good job of recapping the concerns of the company as they continue through this season and head into 2009. He mentioned the need for an investor and was honest in bringing up the Bobby Labonte issue. Petty once again used his new favorite term in saying Petty Enterprises has "a lot of balls in the air."
Roberts brought-up the BAM issue with Kenny Schrader being absent from Texas, and Durrett immediately pointed the topic right back at Petty for comment. Citing the "new world order" in NASCAR, Durrett asked if there was any option to the superteams. Despite the political talk from Petty, the answer seemed to be "no."
It was Michael McDowell's accident that quickly changed the tone of the show. Petty talked firmly about the safety components of both the track and the COT from a perspective few share. Durrett challenged NASCAR to mandate the SAFER Barrier all the way around the track at high-speed ovals like Texas. Both men made great points.
For some reason, John Roberts was off-balance in this program from the start. Perhaps, he was surprised that Durrett took the ball and asked his own questions to Petty. For whatever reason, his casual approach to the McDowell accident and his extended comments on several topics were just not fitting for the host role on a program structured to feature the other two panelists.
While Petty worked his way through this program with a very cooperative media partner, things are going to get interesting as the saga of Petty Enterprises continues to unfold. This is the risk that active drivers and team owners take when they commit to TV series. They are instantly put on-the-spot for issues that may not be very pleasant. On this day, much like Michael McDowell, Petty made it through unscathed.
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