Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rusty Out And Petty In At ESPN? (Updated - Rusty Says No)


Leave it to little brother Kenny Wallace to get things stirred-up just a couple of days before Talladega. Click here for the article over at SPEEDtv.com that has the email flying.

Kenny is stepping-in this weekend at Talladega for Michael Waltrip Racing to pilot the 00 car and brought-up a rumor that he was talking with the MWR guys about. The way it breaks down is pretty simple, Rusty Wallace wants to race again.

After seeing past champions like Terry Labonte and Bill Elliott earn hefty paychecks simply for showing-up and getting a car into the field, one can understand where Rusty is coming from. The point that Kenny makes is that Rusty's desire is deeper and he is looking at guys like Brett Farve and Mark Martin.

Both of these athletes have retired and un-retired several times and it seems that each time they returned the competitive fire still burned. When Rusty agreed to join ESPN, it was in the high-profile Lead Analyst position. After one season, the network moved Rusty down to the Infield Pit Studio, where he still works today.

While Rusty does get to fill-in as an analyst on some Nationwide Series races, the experience of watching every race locked in an elevated box with Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty for four hours is perhaps not exactly what he had in mind for his TV career.

Let's talk about some TV and racing scenarios. If Wallace left after Talladega to fill a seat in the Cup Series, he would probably be doing it for a struggling team or one where the driver has already announced he was leaving. That situation opens up all kinds of possibilities from DEI to his old Penske Racing team.

It seems a strange coincidence that only last weekend in Kansas did the news leak out that Kyle Petty was going to be out at Petty Racing for the rest of the season. Petty already travels to the races for SPEED to appear on the Tradin' Paint show and his work last season as an analyst for TNT drew rave reviews.

If Wallace decided to make a move next week, Petty would be high on the very short list of personalities who could step right into that TV role. He knows the COT, knows the struggles of the teams this season and has been on the track with The Chase contenders.

Should Wallace decided to step away from ESPN during the off-season, that would present an interesting challenge. ESPN covers the entire Nationwide Series and the final seventeen Sprint Cup races. Petty only works on the small six race TNT summer package which would not interfere with either ESPN issue.

The best part for ESPN is that they would have someone who could appear on any show from SportsCenter to First Take without the baggage of ownership that Ray Evernham must carry. Petty would be a resource that ESPN could use "across the multi-platform media outlets." I'm serious, that's actually how they talk about the ESPN TV, radio and Internet businesses.

Update: Here is the Wednesday statement distributed by Rusty's son Greg Wallace on behalf of Rusty. ""I love Kenny to death; he's been trying to get me back in a car ever since I retired after 2005," the statement said. "While any rumors like this are certainly flattering, they're untrue. I have a long-term commitment to ABC and ESPN and I really love what I'm doing right now."

This column will be updated if any other media links or information appears on this topic. It certainly is an interesting scenario to ponder for ESPN. Rusty goes back to driving and Kyle leaves driving for the TV world. What are your thoughts?

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25 comments:

Anonymous said...

This smells like Rusty backtracking because ESPN was blind-sided by Kenny's announcement.

Listen to Rusty talk on the air--it leaves no doubt he thinks he could still be competitive today.

And if he were back on the track, he would NOT be in the booth, so it's a win-win situation.

red said...

silly season just gets . . . well, sillier, i guess.

i agree with anon 11:32 -- this reads like a trial balloon that just was floated and (maybe) shot down (altho' i REALLY like this idea a whole bunch!!)

RW fan in the 80's said...

This would let ESPN off the hook, if I remember correctly Rusty had a 6 year deal. If his youngest child was not burning through cash/cars like Sherman through Atlanta – I would say no. But if the “step mom” wants to blow Taylor’s inheritance to try to save a sinking ship – RW may just get moneywhipped back behind the wheel.

Anonymous said...

Well, DEI needs a "marquee" driver, and Rusty's as close as they're going to get these days.

I don't think Kenny made this up. I just think he let the cat out of the bag too early, and Rusty's ESPN contract hand't been dealt with yet.

Anonymous said...

If im not mistaken around this same time last year there was another rumor about Rusty. It said he was leaving the booth. At the time Rusty and those at ESPN denied it with a passion, but in the off season we found out ti was in fact true. I think we are seeing the same thing happen here. I really think this is true but Rusty and ESPN arent ready to talk.

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

Key to remember in this story-
Kenny ain't the brightest bulb!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 1:04PM,

I got grief for that story all over the Internet. It was denied by ESPN and Rusty. I kept the emails from the NASCAR media types so I could remember exactly what they said about me back then.

Funny, I never heard from even one of them when it came true...just like I said it would.

Ahh, the good times...

JD

alex said...

I think this could be a win-win situation, IF he's in a competitive car. I'd hate to see him put a stain on a good career by driving a 38th place car just to be racing. If you're gonna do it, you might as well do it right.

Anonymous said...

Kyle Petty -- vastly improved as an announcer this year. I'd rather have him in the ESPN on-air booth and have Dale Jarrett take Rusty's seat.

Rusty Wallace -- I don't doubt that he wants to get out there and race, but does he really want to pull a Bill Elliott and turn laps in 31st place in a junk car every weekend? In my opinion, the only reason a champion does that job is cash flow.

Kenny Wallace -- This guy loves to start rumors. Maybe HE was hoping to fill Rusty's ESPN seat!

Jerry Punch -- It's been about 48 hours since anyone on this board suggested he be moved out of the booth, so I thought I would just bring it up to keep the streak alive.

Anonymous said...

Come to think of it, if we could put Jerry Punch in one of the backmarker cars too, that would also solve one of ESPN's other big problems.

Seriously, I bet this is a serious "rumor" being floated. I don't think the Wallace's are smart enough to keep these things silent, just like with rusty and espn last year. no offense to them, of course.

alex said...

Anon 1:39,

They could put JP in a backmarker car, then have him as the in-race reporter. I smell a sports emmy coming on...

Richard in N.C. said...

You never know what kind of sponsor interest you might be able to flush out of the weeds with some media smoke.

As I recall, Rusty did make the Chase the last year he raced - and when he was racing I believe he was in the top 5 in memorabilia sales.

majorshouse said...

I would love to see Kyle in the broadcast booth. He brings credibility where I really do not think that Rusty does. I have never been a Rusty fan and many after seeing ESPN bring him down to the pit stuido can more than likely see why.

Vince said...

RW fan in the 80's said...

This would let ESPN off the hook, if I remember correctly Rusty had a 6 year deal. If his youngest child was not burning through cash/cars like Sherman through Atlanta – I would say no. But if the “step mom” wants to blow Taylor’s inheritance to try to save a sinking ship – RW may just get moneywhipped back behind the wheel.
============================
Note about the above comment posted earlier: Teresa Earnhardt is not Taylor's step mom. She's her Mom.

alex said...

Maybe he meant Dale Jr.'s step mom? You're right though.

Wisconsin Steve said...

Sorry if I'm nit-picking, JD, but unlike Favre, Mark Martin never said he was going to "retire". He has certainly changed his plans a few times, but never once used the r-word.

While I hope that what Kenny Wallace is writing is untrue, I cannot think of anyone in the media who would know more about Rusty's plans than Herman himself.

What I don't understand is why he wrote this column. Whether its true or not, I doubt Rusty is happy about it.

Jessica said...

(1) yes please, this would be perfect on many levels.
(2) So, do you suppose Bootie moving to MWR will change his involvement in NASCAR Performance? I love him on that show. On the other hand, he would be sweet as a TWIN guest....

Daly Planet Editor said...

jess,

When I get an update on that I will pass it along. Other than logistical issues, I don't think there is going to be a problem.

Chad makes time for it ever race weekend, so hopefully Bootie will stay.

JD

rw fan in the 80's said...

I realize the lineage of Dale Sr. 4children….. I could have also included Kerry – since I am guessing that Kelly & Jr. are not sitting around waiting for a check from Teresa.

If you only have 1 sponsor & 4 cars…the decision not to give up half last year is not looking that great. Rusty Wallace will not be the savior of DEI.

Kenny said that Rusty could out run half the guys out there….which means he would still be behind Hendrick/Roush/Childress/Gibbs.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is why he wrote this column. Whether its true or not, I doubt Rusty is happy about it.

When you conisder that it came out of nowhere, I'd say there is a very good chance that he wrote it with a specific purpose, maybe after talking with Rusty, to get the ball rolling without Rusty having to do it himself.

Anonymous Coward said...

Daly Planet Editor said...
Anon 1:04PM,

I got grief for that story all over the Internet. It was denied by ESPN and Rusty. I kept the emails from the NASCAR media types so I could remember exactly what they said about me back then.

Funny, I never heard from even one of them when it came true...just like I said it would.

Ahh, the good times...

JD

Some of those guys use the word 'journalist' as if it were an attribute:-)

Newracefan said...

Trial balloon concept has merit IMO. I also think it would be a mistake although I would love for Rusty to try and race the new cup car so he could see that it isn't so easy. Overall an interesting concept but DW's return after a few years didn't go so well and Rusty's very well could be the same and besides Tony will be the most recent past champion and that entire concept has gotten very annoying. Rusty stay were you are, you may be annoying at times but it's the right place.

Richard in N.C. said...

Rusty was a polarizing figure as a driver and I believe a lot of that has carried over to his work as a commentator - and obviously he often shoots from the hip. However, he's not a fool, he knows the economics of team operation, and he was around to watch DW stagger out of driving. I cannot imagine Rusty going back to driving unless he has a well-funded, fully-funded ride - and maybe some media smoke might flush one out. Maybe DEI could hang on to the Army sponsorship with a big name driver in hand?

Tom said...

very strange- yesterday while listening to the morning show on SIRIUS, they were talking about how hard it is to be a TV analyst and Mike Bagley said "Just ask Dale Jarrett". I was kinda shocked, as I thought that "Umms" aside, DJ was pretty good and getting better. To now have Kyle in the mix makes that comment seem more relevant. Is there a problem with DJ that we are not aware of?

Tom
Inverness, FL