Sunday, August 3, 2008
Reclusive Waltrip On TV Monday Night
It was the question everyone was asking during and after the race. Why had the ESPN crew not talked to Michael Waltrip, the first car out of the Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono?
This was a crucial moment in Waltrip's season as he retired from the event with apparent engine failure. Waltrip is the owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, and this finish was going to deeply affect his points situation and qualifying status for the rest of the season.
Since Waltrip had another car in the race, the question of whether or not he departed the racetrack was never made clear by ESPN. Last season, TDP criticized ESPN's pit reporters for not following-up with the drivers that fell out of the race. What happened this time is not clear.
Even if Waltrip refused to speak, ESPN owed it to the viewers to update the status of a Sprint Cup Series driver/owner for the TV viewers. Waltrip is a very high-profile individual with his TV commercials and his various roles on SPEED programs that span more than ten years.
This lack of information had fans wondering what the real issue had become? Waltrip is a veteran driver and has experienced the highs-and-lows of racing over the years. Simply having an engine problem should be nothing more than an opportunity to encourage the team to do better and mention the sponsor.
Monday night at 8PM on SPEED should now be very interesting. Waltrip is scheduled to join Chad Knaus as the panelists on This Week in NASCAR. Steve Byrnes hosts this one-hour show that looks in-depth at both the previous weekend's event and the upcoming Sprint Cup Series race.
This program revolves around Waltrip. As they say in TV land, Waltrip is "the franchise." Characters like Allen Bestwick, Johnny Benson and Kenny Schrader have come and gone, but Waltrip remains as the personality who can draw a wide variety of viewers who either love or hate his very unique perspectives on racing.
This is what makes Waltrip's disappearing act at Pocono even more strange. During the rain delay it would have been responsible for ESPN to update Waltrip's status even if he refused to do a TV interview. If ESPN was dismissing Waltrip as a backmarker who fell out of the race, that certainly is going to be a big shift in status for this owner/driver.
In an interesting twist, it will be all four of the NASCAR on ESPN pit reporters appearing as the panelists on Monday's NASCAR Now on ESPN2. This 5PM ET show should be very different as host Allen Bestwick goes into this episode without a former driver or crew chief to lend expertise to the commentary. One of the pit reporters was however assigned to Waltrip, so viewers may want Bestwick to ask about the reality of what happened.
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