Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rusty's Comments On Newman Will Not Go Away

It certainly was a shame that Rusty Wallace took the opportunity to speak about Ryan Newman and Roger Penske on this Indy weekend. Certainly, the ESPN executives were hoping to go through the Saturday and Sunday races with Dale Jarrett being the big name and the race coverage being the focus. Sadly, it is not.

The long-simmering feud between Wallace and Newman re-surfaced, even through Rusty is well over a year removed from his active driving days. Last season, Wallace had a very tough time handling the pressure of the ESPN broadcast booth for one reason. He simply could not control what he sometimes said. That is key on TV.

In 2008, Wallace was retained by the ESPN team but given a new role as Infield Pit Center commentator. This released Wallace from the tough pressure of the high-profile play-by-play role but allowed him to step into the booth when Dale Jarrett was on vacation. With Allen Bestwick guiding his on-air activities, Wallace has flourished this season on multiple ESPN programs and this change was noticed by TV viewers.

This week, Wallace stepped-out on a limb again at the worst possible time. Stories like this one in the IndyStar and this one at the Sporting News told the tale. Out of the blue, Wallace declared to the working media that Ryan Newman had been fired by Penske at the end of the season.

"I'll clear the leaving thing up first," Wallace said Friday at an ESPN press conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "That didn't happen. He didn't leave. Roger Penske called Ryan Newman up to his office and said, 'I don't need your services next year.'

"Ryan Newman didn't come to him and say, 'I'm leaving.' OK? You all need to write about that. That's exactly how it went down. Obviously, there was some bad blood there when it happened. I love Roger Penske, so I'm going to clear the story up for him."

To have this happen at an ESPN press conference that was supposed to focus on the upcoming coverage of the Sprint Cup Series by the ESPN family of networks did not go over well. As has happened many times throughout Wallace's career, his timing could not be worse and dragging Roger Penske into the conversation was a big mistake.

Saturday on ESPN viewers are going to see the trio of Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree featured. Bestwick, Wallace and Brad Daugherty worked on Thursday and Friday filing reports for SportsCenter and NASCAR Now.

It will be Sunday when the network grits its teeth and turns the camera on the Infield Pit Center for the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show. In a move that now seems terribly ironic, it will be NASCAR owners Wallace, Daugherty and Ray Evernham who will be joining Bestwick on the panel. It should be very interesting to see if Bestwick raises the Wallace vs. Newman incident.

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Lou, from NY said...

Thank you JD for this to let us vent on this. This is a repost of my comment on your other column.

Too bad for Rusty Wallace. I agree, by now after last season and the currnent. I think I saw this comming. I would think he would have known better. Did he not have someone coach him? At least I have an excuse, which I will keep to myself, he does not. Mr.Wallace had an accomplished career. I hope this does not destroy his legacy in NASCAR. But it may hurt his broadcast career. How sad stuff like this comes to the cream of the crop

Newracefan said...

JD thanks for letting me know where Rusty made his bonehead comments. The fact that he did it at an ESPN press conf makes it even more ridiculous. He lost my respect last year when he began slamming Jeff Gordon gained it back at the beginning of this year but started down that slope when he took sides (very vehemently) and slammed Toyota's engines now this Ryan mess. He's burned my last bridge and it will take a lot to build another, he is supose to be a broadcaster not a former racer with a biased agenda something he has obviously forgotten. Hey Rusty I know you are all about the money (since you bring it up all the time), I wonder if ESPN has fines like NASCAR's determental to stock car racing.

Newracefan said...

oops that's detrimental

Geez said...

Call a bonehead a bonehead. :-) Even
Roger Penske issued a statement that he didn't fire Ryan.

I would be shocked if anyone other than Wallace brought this up on Sunday. And then just to apologize.

Geez said...

Another thing I'm curious about. Was he asked a question about Newman at the press conference, or did he just say this on his own.

red said...

hey jd! thanks for bringing this topic forward for comment. i posted this earlier today and still feel the same way so i did the copy/paste moment! thanks, again, jd!

red said...
anon 12:54AM: i agree with your observation about rusty wallace. when i first read his remarks, i was annoyed by not only the inaccuracies but by the assumptions he was making, especially when it became clear that wallace hadn't spoken with penske at all and was basing his comments on "knowing" how penske thinks and works.

once i moved past being irritated by that part of all this, i started getting really annoyed. wallace is now a commentator on espn and, if being an owner isn't enough of a bias for that position, he now carries on a feud from his driving days and presents a factually thin series of statements. and he was just cleared to do cup race broadcasts, wasn't he?!?

a shame, really. i felt for him when it came to sitting in that booth when he son would have "a moment" on the track. and i was ok with him being cleared for cup broadcasts as well b/c i do believe he has a knowledge base which would be interesting to hear. but now, these most recent comments will be front and center in my head and that's a problem.

in my opinion, he crossed that line between racer and broadcaster and he has elimintated whatever credibility he had built with me this season. he's made significant improvement and we've commented on what a refreshing change it's been. sadly, that's now been compromised for me. someone should have had "the talk" with him and explained that he simply cannot put his opinions out there the way he did now that he's supposed to be part of a broadcast team. his every word will now be heard by me through a filter of doubt.

i don't expect anything to "be done" by espn but he's lost my respect and it will take an effort of some magnitude on his part to gain that back.

July 26, 2008 8:05 AM

Anonymous said...

I said this on the other column comment-
As far as cRusty - he has shot himself in the foot with me. I want him now to join Brent Suzy & Co. His credibility is toast.
He is an owner who unlike Kyle P. cannot set his owners agenda aside while on TV.

Now I will add the rest - it is truly sad to see anyone repeatedly self destruct, it is difficult to watch cRusty grind axes that are completely worn down & should have been buried when his driving ended. He is not professional in the slightest, he regularly butts in where he has no business, talks on things he has NO first hand knowledge of. In the article on Nascars site he admits he did not speak to Roger directly about RN leaving , yet he claims to "know" & wants to "clear the air" for Roger.

Excuse me I do not believe Roger Penske is a shrinking violet, he would clear the air if HE wanted to.

IMO Penske & Newman handled this with class and dignity ( 2 things cRusty lacks)- they agreed to seperate, and took the high road, leave it to cRusty to get it to the gutter.

BTW now that Penske has issued the statement I DEMAND Crusty apologize to RN on air!!!!!

When he is on air and Steve is on the track we get not a drop of unbiased comment from daddy - we get excuses, not the type we get for other racers from cRusty, we get daddy isms.

He routinely bashes Toyotas to the point of mania. I'm not a fan of them I'm happy my driver will be back in a bowtie next year. But he really needs to give it a rest. NOW. Since Nascar stepped in he will probably be crowing all weekend. So in advance can someone let him know 1 time is enough?

Why he still is on air is beyond me, at what point is enough enough with him?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I think after this incident, we'll only have to put up with Rusty for the rest of this season (hopefully) or perhaps one more. By then, other drivers who might be retired or retiring should be hired as his infield countdown program replacement.

Rusty was the big "name" driver available when ESPN was coming back to NASCAR two years ago, but there are other, better options now. Based on his behavior and inability to control his thoughts in a media setting, he hasn't earned the right to be a regular ESPN analyst.

SophiaZ123 said...

ok..having a slow brain day. You mean to tell me Rusty made these comments on his own with OUT PROOF?

A fantasy comment in his own alleged mind?

Wow, Ray Evernham is lookin' better to me everyday.

ESPN needs to clean out their on air personalities. This is amazing.

I remember the hammering on J Gordon..and the Toyota's..and now this??

I am so done with these guys.


Anonymous said...

I think Rustys comments have really cost him his job. He may not be "fired". But we may only see him next season on shows like NASCAR Now and SportsCenter. Not actual race coverage.

Patrick said...

I have never been a fan of cRusty's (nod to Jo). He is extremely arrogant, self-centered and unprofessionally biased. He talks out of his backside more than half the time. I could be appeased with the removal of him, Daugherty and Brewer. This trio contributes nothing beneficial to the broadcasts. I think Dale Jarrett took the Dale Carnegie course on public speaking and each of the current trio could benefit from the same, but I don't want them to improve. I want them to go away.

Kenn Fong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kenn Fong said...

J. D.,

I wonder if ESPN will do anything to Rusty for this. They are leaving poor Dr. Jerry Punch to twist in the wind instead of moving back to a position where he excels.

On the other hand, my experience with management is they are usually reluctant to admit they've made a mistake. Switching Dr. Jerry Punch and demoting or firing Rusty would be a tacit admission.

Kenny - Alameda, California

Ken said...

When I watch a race, I want objectivity. Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip are so far over the line, I DVR at least half the race so when they mouth off, I can skip past their comments. I hate that both the beginning and the end of the season is being damaged by retired drivers who can't control their personal feelings. Rusty is more damaging than the others because he is more personal and mean spirited with his drivel.

Lisa Hogan said...

I have been disappointed at the tone of some of the comments about Rusty. Also, comments that Rusty is letting personal bias get to him seems to fit some of the posters here. I thought for a minute that I had wandered onto the SPEED forum. :)

I am in the minority here. I just don’t feel that upset that Rusty made the comment. I take it with both a shrug and a grain of salt. :)

Reedsgran said...

Rusty had no business opening his big mouth on this subject.

What happened is between Ryan and Roger. It was rude and shows a lack of class for Rusty to say what he said -- and without even being asked!!!

Rusty is useless on ESPN -- actually a distraction. He needs to be let go at the end of the season.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Look for changes in the off-season just like they did last year. I had the "Rusty is out of the booth" story last October, and got roundly criticized for it. ESPN even denied it and made some very bad statements about me and this blog.

Lo and behold, everything we predicted came true and ESPN even threw Ray Evernham in the mix just to make it interesting.

Jerry Punch has already done a lot of TV this weekend. He has NASCAR Now, NASCAR Countdown and then a multi-hour race that is rapidly turning into another Goodyear train wreck.

Sunday afternoon should be very interesting.


Richard in N.C. said...

On the other hand, most of the comments seem to assume that Rusty does not know what took place. In all likelihood Rusty has better contacts with Roger P. and with Penske South than anyone else in the media since he drove for Penske for many years ( & before Newman showed up) and owned 25% of Penske South until his last year.

Despite his apparent giant ego, I find it hard to believe Rusty would make such a comment unless he had some basis for its validity. There is substantial evidence that Rusty's comment may be true. Penske South was much more successful before Newman showed up and has been less successful since Rusty retired. Also over the years I read several reports that one cause of the friction was that Newman & Borland would not share advances they found with Rusty, even though Rusty had much, much more experience and owned 25% of Penske South. Roger P. has been very successful in every other racing series except NASCAR and I do not ever remember there being such infighting on his Indy car teams.

Even Newman has been quoted as saying (referring to Penske) "Our goals didn't align,..." How could their goals not align? Sounds like an admission of friction within Penske South to me.

If you give Rusty the benefit of the doubt that he at least believes he has an adequate basis for his comment, as a journalist should he have kept such "knowledge" to himself - unless he had been told confidentially?

I am not a Rusty "fan," as I am an Earnhardt fan and for years Rusty was the enemy. But from all I have read he had earned and deserved more respect than Newman showed him - and I still cannot understand why Roger P. never put an end to the infighting.

Maybe Rusty should have kept his comment to himself and, yes, he probably could have made his comment in a better way - but, it is news and in effect defends Penske.

Anonymous said...

Rusty didn't get along with Mayfield either, so the "Newman didn't respect Rusty and caused infighting at Penske" argument is invalid. Rusty's the common denonimator there.

It's not a Penske issue, it's an issue of an ESPN analyst popping off at an inappropiate time (a press conference supposed to be about ESPN coverage, not about Rusty or Penske), and the way he denigrated Newman while popping off - and Penske has not confirmed that any or all of Rusty's statements are true, so I don't belive anything Rusty says. Rusty took a very personal tack with his comments.

If Rusty felt sure that his allegations were true, why didn't he go to the many reporters at ESPN/NASCAR and ask them to look into it? I'll tell you why: because Rusty wanted to be the center of media attention. He himself had to be the one to "defend Roger", who is a multi billionaire and really doesn't need defending. Penske's not-very-good NASCAR record speaks for itself.

Rusty could have gotten Massaro or Smith to confirm the story if he felt so strongly about it. If he didn't have such a big ego, he'd realize the story would have more validity coming from them than from him.

Adam T. Martin said...

Well, Rusty really did dig a hole today.

Me? I have a like/dislike mentality towards him as a driver back in the day.

As an analyst, he needs to be careful of what he says. Rusty isn't as annoying as DW, but what Rusty said was completely unprofessional.

Anonymous said...

RW does not need to be on the air at all. He obviously can't maintain a professional and neutral demeanor when it comes to others in the sport.

I think this is Rusty Wallace's way of getting back at Ryan Newman for their time together as teammates. One of my friends works for one of the major Cup teams and when I asked him about Ryan Newman and how everyone in the garages felt about him, my friend told me that everyone likes Ryan and that he is well-respected. Over the years, I have NEVER heard one negative thing about Ryan Newman from anyone. I can't say the same about Rusty Wallace and have heard from several people that he's quite arrogant and rude to the fans.

Perhaps RW is jealous of Ryan. Or feels intimidated by him. Whatever it is, it's a shame that RW can't let it go and move on. Doesn't he know that it's not healthy to hold grudges?

Richard in N.C. said...

I see that Rusty is quoted as saying Friday that Penske said "I don't need your services next year." Later Friday Penske is quoted as saying "I have read Rusty's comments and it is important for everyone to understand that I did not fire Ryan. His contract runs through 2008 and we sat down and agreed that we were not going forward beyond this year." In a most diplomatic manner, Roger P has affirmed what Rusty reported.

While Rusty often appears to be arrogant and is often irritating and probably enjoyed what he said about Newman more than he should have, that does not mean what he said was not true.

Anonymous said...

To richard in nc, I suggest you go to and see the David Poole story. Here is a pertinent quote:
Former Penske driver Rusty Wallace, now a TV commentator, made some waves earlier this week when he said Newman had been fired. Newman denied it on Friday and Penske followed suit Saturday.

"(Newman) made a decision, we made it together that he'd move on," Penske said. "There was no issue between the two of us. There's some reports that there was and that's not the case."

That dripping you hear is Mr. R Wallace being hung out to dry!

Anonymous said...

Edit: I said it was a David Poole story at, it's actually an Associated Press story on that site.

SallyB said...

Whether Rusty's comments were correct or not, it certainly seems he now suffers from 'The Mayfield Syndrome', where airing the 'dirty laundry' of your employer, former or otherwise, will only get you into trouble.

Richard in N.C. said...

I still cannot find anywhere that Rusty is quoted as saying Newman was "fired." But now Penske's statement quoted saturday by the AP seems to be somewhat in conflict with his statement Friday quoted by Terry Blount on - I guess that will teach me not to quote Terry Blount. 1 for Rusty and 1 for Newman.

Anonymous said...

Since when does an ESPN on-air talent come out and make statements about a team's personnel issues at a press conference?

And to "correct" Newman, who was the actual person involved in the deal--"You all need to write this?"--my God, Rusty needs to be fired.

I'm glad Penske stepped up and put Rusty in his place.

Rusty clearly doesn't know his current role. Put an end to this.

Renata said...

I admit I had my doubts about Rusty being able to temper his own agendas against his professional obligations even before he started his ESPN gig last season. However, this incident along with the others(shots at Jeff Gordon, Toyota engines, etc.) have pushed it beyond the point of no return. He crossed over that line the same way Boris Said did earlier this season. The only difference is Rusty had more NASCAR credibility to lose than Boris did.

Anonymous said...

Diane said....

In the Corporate world we would never let on if some one was let go. Of course many would suspect, but we always had the courtesy (unless it was something illegal) to allow that individual to resign and give 2 weeks notice. For someone, Rusty, who was not directly involved to speak for either party was totally unprofessional and in my opinion, disrespectful to Roger Penske. What is the point? Other than Rusty trying to validate himself that when he and Ryan were "teammates" he was the good guy. Drivers and teams part ways all the time. We don't need the dirty laundry aired. (Unfortunately, the JR thing was to the nth degree! A JR fan who hated that it happened the way it did.)

Anonymous said...

I have never been a Rusty fan and after these comments, I will never be a Rusty fan. It is a shame that he is such an arrogant jerk that just shoots his mouth off and he needs to to take some lessons from younger brother Kenny who is a delight to watch and it is a shame that ESPN cannot hire Kenny. I think that Rusty is as irritating as DW got this year and would love to see him replaced and judging from what I have read, that might not be really far off and I for one would welcome it. I would love to See Sllen Bestwick as the lead announcer int he bootha nd put Jerry Punch where is at his best on pit road.

Anonymous said...

I think that Rusty has a problem with envy. He has never gotten over the fact that he would never get as many wins, endoresements, media attention that Jeff got from day one.

And then he had to work with Ryan, who looked like he was going to be as competative as Jeff. During the time that Rusty raced head-to-head with Ryan, Ryan left him in the shade. During their time together, Ryan had over 30 poles to RW's 1. I'm sure it got his goat that the media made such a big deal that Ryan was a college grad.

I imagine RW is green with envy that the buzz that Tony might be chosing Ryan to join him.

I can only hope that ESPN does something about this latest incident.

Desmond said...

I can't believe I am only seeing this story now, 10 days after it happened!

This is another example of the media not covering itself well.