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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