Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Six Degrees Of Michael Waltrip

It was by using the "small world phenomenon" concept that the original Kevin Bacon version of this popular game was created. After the events of this week, there is little doubt that NASCAR's version will have to be called "The Six Degrees of Michael Waltrip."

Just as the original game believes that Bacon is at the center of the entertainment universe, to play the Waltrip version simply requires fans to open their eyes and take a good look around. Michael Waltrip is everywhere.

Let's start the game with ESPN's Brad Daugherty. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat on Wednesday's NASCAR Now. Host Ryan Burr had just introduced him as usual, but Daugherty could barely contain himself. He had something to announce.

It was time for the first connection.

Daugherty explained the new "strategic alliance" that his NASCAR team had just forged. Daugherty's 2009 Sprint Cup team was going to be based in Cornelius, NC. One big race shop would supply all the chassis, the equipment and the technical support for Daugherty's rookie effort. That race shop bears the name of only one man.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

For his day job, Daugherty works in the ESPN Infield Pit Studio. During the Fox portion of the season, the infield studio is called the Hollywood Hotel. Host Chris Myers works with two NASCAR professionals on the pre-race show. One is named Darrell. He has a brother.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

Darrell used to own a Craftsman Truck Series team. That entire series is aired on SPEED. Rick Allen handles the play-by-play for SPEED and his on-air partner is Phil Parsons. Added to the line-up a while back was a third member of the broadcast team.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

Lots of crew chiefs got their start in the Truck Series. One of them is Bootie Barker. Fresh out of Old Dominion University, Barker hooked-up with Truck Series owner Kurt Roehrig to begin his NASCAR career. Bill Davis Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and now Haas CNC are some of the teams that have employed Barker. This week, Barker announced he will be leaving to crew chief for someone new in 2009.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

Barker's TV gig is the popular NASCAR Performance show with Larry McReynolds and Chad Knaus. McReynolds also joins Michael's brother Darrell for the NASCAR on Fox broadcasts. One of the Fox pit reporters is named Steve Byrnes.

On Mondays, Byrnes returns to Charlotte. He hosts a TV program that in one form or another has been on-the-air for over ten years. The program has been through several hosts and a number of panelists. Only one member of the original cast is still on the show.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

SPEED is also the home of the Formula-1 broadcasts. Bob Varsha, the ageless David Hobbs and Steve Matchett call the live races from a studio in Charlotte. Out on the road with the series is reporter Peter Windsor. One of the people he interviews is the head of McLaren's racing operations named Steve Hallam. Mr. Hallam has just announced that after 27 years of Formula-1, he is leaving to work for a new employer.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

SPEED's most popular NASCAR program is RaceDay. John Roberts is the host and retired driver Jimmy Spencer is one of two commentators. The other is the younger brother of Rusty Wallace. His name is Kenny.

This Sunday, Kenny will be racing at Talladega. He was given this opportunity by an owner who used to work on a TV show with him a long time ago on SPEED.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

The Kevin Bacon version of this association game has gone on to become a book, a board game, a charitable organization and a part of modern American culture. Bacon has referred to it in several movies and made several hilarious TV cameos where he quickly tied himself to all those around him.

A while back, rumors spread that Michael Waltrip Racing was done. Out of money, over-extended and doomed to the same path other teams have walked down to their ultimate demise.

Instead, TV viewers find his name everywhere from ESPN to Formula-1. He is calling the Truck Series race for SPEED on Saturday, racing in the Cup event on Sunday and appearing on "his TV show" on Monday. He has just announced a new crew chief and a new director of race engineering for next season.

In Kenny Wallace, Waltrip has one of the most popular NASCAR TV personalities doing RaceDay in the morning, driving an MWR car in the afternoon and then interviewing the winner for SPEED's Victory Lane on Sunday evening.

The only way this game could get any easier is if Waltrip actually won at Talladega with Wallace and David Reutimann pushing him across the line while Rusty and Brad whooped-it-up on ABC from the Infield Studio. Perhaps, infield host Allen Bestwick might join-in as well.

Didn't he used to host a TV show on SPEED with.....

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Dot said...


You are too funny. How do you think of these things? I have enough trouble just writing my comments.

This is why I love your blog and the commenters who post here (except the rude ones). This is such a fun site.

Anonymous said...

LOL JD too true & funny - except its more like 1.5 degrees of separation!
You got to figure a way to tie in
Ron Kapp (? spelling/name) the drag racer & the NAPA commercials. Oh yeah & whatever the hotel chain is he is plugging. LOL
Mikey would!

Vince said...

JD you have way too much time on your hands! ;-)

Dot said...

@ Jo,

I knew someone would add to the list. Good one. Btw, It's Capps.

Photojosh said...

This is one of the reasons I'm a Waltrip supporter. He doesn't just pay lip service to being dedicated to NASCAR, he lives it.

Sure, I can see why some people find him annoying with his constant goofiness and sponsor plugs. But for a lot of people, that's just part of his charm. He is a huge part of NASCAR crammed into one person.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Good idea about Ron, I added him and his MW shirt to the story as a pic. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Michael Waltrip is one of the most engaging personalities in NASCAR.

That said, I do think his team is facing serious problems. They struggle to keep two of their cars in the Top 35. They are losing UPS as a sponsor and apparently they just barely kept NAPA on a performance-based contigency. The team has already said that they can barely afford to keep running the Aaron's 99 in the Nationwide series and with that series switching to the COT the costs will get much worse. Last year MW had to take on a billionaire as a partner, and in that time MWRacing has shown a championship ability to spend it - opening a massive state-of-the art tourist-friendly shop. All that money blown to keep three of the worst cars in NASCAR going. That money fountain cannot last forever.

I love Michael Waltrip. He is in many ways a lovable loser that all fans can relate to (I am not calling him a loser, just referring to his inability to get to victory lane over his long career). Just so likable and tries so hard. But I don't know if his team's lack of success and huge budget can survive even a good economy, let alone one with the squeeze on it.

And as to the original premise -- NASCAR is a pretty small family-type community. You could pretty much pick any driver with a famous last name and connect everyone to them.

Sophia said...

This is too funny. I love Michael but agree, the financial pressures seem to be taking over his life and I hate to see that.

He does amazingly well to be positive amongst it all. Is it any reason he still does all the sponsor plugs. The guy is fighting for all he is worth. Hope he finishes up the season doing better.

Schrader is coming back for a few races so one never knows in this sport. now if ONLY they would add Schrader to TWIN so they could rotate and have THREE PANELIST plus Steve. That show would kick butt.

Well, they need to get rid of all the canned video junk that is killing the show the way the flip flop did...but the NAPA commercials with Mikey are a hoot. Some are better than other ones. My fave were the letters he read last year....the one about his head has always been located between his shoulders always made me smile or giggle. :)

Anonymous said...

LOL! That was a fun game :)

Vicky D said...

JD what a clever column and so true - Michael Waltrip is everywhere. I love the commercial for Best Western with the two kids talking about passing and drafting and their dad asks them who told them that and there's their friends Mikey & Reut sitting in the restaurant. Thanks for cheering us down here in southeast Texas.

Anonymous said...

Interesting column. Just shows how much goes on behind the scenes to keep a team going. I wish MWR all the best, no one can say this guy didn't work his butt off to make it in this tough business. Well hmmmm, he still has a pretty nice butt lol.

ri88girl said...

What a great story! Thanks JD. I love Mikey and I think all fans do even if he annoyes like a baby brother. Someome said earlier that he doesn't just pay lip service to the sport, he lives it and that is 100% true; as does DW.

He has gained the love if not passion of the fans like no other, remember how genuinely worried for his mental health people on boards were when there was fuelgate and the car accident and all that?

I love that he is going to have Bootie as his crew chief. Even if they don't run well, the will be GREAT TV.

While Mikey seems to be going out of his way to help and support this sport, Jr is looking inward, when maybe he shoud step up and Help DEI even if he never dives for them again. It is in someway a statement that this game is six degrees of MW and not nascar's most popuar driver.

Anonymous said...

Wish more people in the USA had his work ethic!

Anonymous said...

"I love Michael Waltrip. He is in many ways a lovable loser that all fans can relate to (I am not calling him a loser, just referring to his inability to get to victory lane over his long career)."

Never been to Victory Lane?
4 points wins and many Non points wins.

HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...

Just a clarification to one earlier poster. MW built his state of the art race shop and entertainment center before he took on Rob Kaufmann. Rob helped him be able to get the state of the art tech stuff that he needed. MW is a visionary and thinks so out of the box and so far ahead that he is respected. What he will talk about now generally gets done in some fashion or another down the road. His race shop is a destination center for the fans and from what I have heard, some fans that I know of that live close to there go there at least a couple times a month as fans can learn so much about building cars and all that goes into them.

I love MW/Em Dub wholeheartedly and am a huge fan and supporter of his and his organization. If it were not for him and his famous hug back in 2001, I don't know if DEI or Nascar could have bounced back as quickly as they did. MW really was the glue that held DEI and Nascar fans and community together back in those days.

I for one am looking forward to the day when MW wins again. At one of the other forums that I read, someone commented that back in 1994 at either Dega or Daytona that Big E won the race but was mixing it up seriously with MW and Big E took notice of MW.

Sorry for the essay on MW, I am just so happy that you wrote this article, JD.

Another connection with Nascar Performance is Chad Knaus. That show has become a Mikey related show by having his crew chief on and the crew chief that he does a show with on Mondays.

I think that it is more like 10 degrees or more.

Mikey eats, drinks, sleeps, and lives Nascar and all that it entails. He is so busy (I have heard) that he does his best to try to squeeze a few hours a week to relax by playing golf. Even playing golf, he is working as this week, he taped his XM radio show, Michael Waltrip Outloud while playing a charity golf tournament.

Another connection is the Three Wide Life with Tony Rizzuti because Tony hosts Mikey's XM show.

Thanks again, JD, for this article.

Skip said...

On a related note, is there something in the TV contract that states 'thou shalt give Michael Waltrip an in-car camera?' I'm not sure I remember a week when he didn't have one. So far in every chase race it's been 7 chasers and the 55.

Or maybe they just want to have someone who'll be at the back so they can get good in-car video of wrecks unfolding in front of him?

Daly Planet Editor said...


Like a famous man once said..."follow the money."

Anonymous said...

He also has only 4 wins in just under 720 starts, with 140 DNF's. It was 462 starts, before his 1st. win. some of your comments are true, but a true racer, he is not.

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

"but a true racer, he is not."

The guy has two Daytona wins, was picked by Big E to drive, has raced in NASCAR's top series for 24+ years, won the all star race (when it was the Winston Open) twice, won 11 races in the Nationwide/Busch series, owns his own teams, works all over NASCAR and is a well respected personality in the garage (except by idiots like Boyer).

Not a true racer? I call B.S. on that. Don't want to like the guy? Thats fine, plenty of reasons to find him annoying. But don't say stuff just to hear yourself talk. What's next? You going to say that Ken Schrader or Joe Nemechek aren't "real racers" either? After all, they only have 4 wins in hundreds of starts.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 12:32PM,

Happy to have you offer your opinion. Not too happy to have you tell us stuff you don't really know.

You can re-phrase and re-post anytime you wish.


Photojosh said...

I have no idea why I said "24+" years there. My public school math has failed me again. His first race was in 85, so I really should have gone with 23+. But whatever.

The point is that he's had gainful employment in nascar's top series for a darn long time. Not a lot of other racers can say the same thing. And it's not just the name, there are plenty of "names" in NASCAR who can't get a ride. Kerry Earnhardt ring a bell?

Anonymous said...

I would like to write a very entertaining, & enlightening comment about Mikey.
Unfortunately I just don't think I could improve on Robby Gordon's succinct comment!


Anonymous said...


Looks like you want to hear yourself more than me. I only posted a few lines. That facts, and I have my opinion, you have yours. this is what this site is about, I thought. (our media members opinions).

Anonymous said...

Anyone with over 700 Nascar Winston/Nextel/Sprint Cup starts... is a true racer... otherwise the career would have been much shorter. Why does nobody bad mouth Joe Ruttman? Visability, Mikey makes himself a target... but he is truly a bigger man than his detractors. Go #55!

HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...


If I remember correctly, during the TNT portion, MW did not have an in car camera. IIRC2, I believe that the sponsor buys the time for the in car camera for the car. That is what I remember MW saying once.

MW is sure a lightning rod for comments. Either one loves him or hates him.


Newracefan said...

Too Funny, Mikey's the main reason I expanded my Nascar viewing, Trucks(he in the booth), NW he's got a car in the field, TWIN and on and on and on. Now I am a fan who attends races and watches practice and qualifying.

Anonymous said...

I didn't recall Mikey in my years of off and on watching, but after the 2K season and chatting with others I decided that 2K1 would be the season I'd start watching full time.

So I had said that I'd cheer for Dale for the 500. Then I saw a pre-race segment on Mikey on how he had all those races with no win. I felt sad for him so changed it to Mikey. And that's how I became a Mikey fan.

When I was packing up back in 2K4 to move here to TX, I ran across a Sports Spectrum magazine I had kept but never remembered having. Sports Spectrum is basically a Christian version of Sports Illustrated produced by RBC Ministries.

Anywho, this issue had various Christian NA$CAR drivers in it and as I was flipping through it to see if it was something indeed I wanted to keep, I came across an article on Mikey & DW as well as others.

Now if I ever get the rest of my stuff from Cali, I'll have it again :). My mom is storing the stuff I didn't bring with me. But I plan on moving again hopefully in the next year to year and a half so it probably won't be until after that I'll get them back. It's mostly books and magazines so none are anything I "need" right now.

Jeffin ATL said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...


We need more from you than just that to stay in the comments.

Be happy to hear your opinion about the topic at hand.


Anonymous said...

Funny stuff and so true, JD!

I believe I heard Tony Rizzuti on "The After Show" that Michael has been voted in by the fans on HotPass, every race since the Chase started. Maybe that has something to do why the 55 has a in car camera.

Michael Waltrip is everywhere....that's fine by me. :)

GinaV24 said...

Really funny stuff, JD, even if I don't like MW. I think some of it is because he is EVERYWHERE. He's the main reason why I don't watch the truck races on Speed. I just can't deal with listening to him since IMO he doesn't make a lot of sense, but I can see that others really lilke the guy and that's great. To each his own and I'm in the camp that thinks he's on over his head more often than not and not nearly as funny as he thinks he is.

rich said...

Great idea, JD. Personally, I enjoyed the truck race today and found MW and Phil to play off of each other very well. A pleasant change from Dr Jerry on the Cup broadcasts. Love him or hate him, Michael is indeed a true racer folks.

Anne M said...

Fun column, JD. I'm really fond of MW, so I'm glad he's everywhere!

I think I have another example:

I've read that Chad Knaus was briefly Michael's car chief in 1997 or 1998 when Chad worked at DEI. (Chad was Steve Park's car chief for a few months and this would have been after that.) A little fact-checking shows that it was probably Darrell rather than Michael, but even so you've got Michael's brother working with Michael's co-star on TWIN, who co-stars on NASCAR Performance with Michael's new crew chief.

(I really wish this would come up on TWIN some night!)

Anonymous said...

Great article this week. I love all things Mikey and although many haters like to complain about him, Nascar would be rather boring without him. Nothing I'd rather see than Michael win a race this year & cannot wait to see him back in the Nationwide series in 2009!

Tracy said...

What a hoot. I'll bet there are even more degrees of connection than those of us on the outside don't recognize, but the media people do.

Zieke said...

I was wondering how those F-1 announcers returned from a race to be on TV the same nite. Why do they try to call a race from a studio? That seems a bit much to expect very good coverage, does'nt it?

Daly Planet Editor said...


Announcers all over the world do the exact same thing. To send a crew all over the globe for a short race would not make financial sense.

Many networks take the "world feed" and voice it over. SPEED goes one step further by inserting Peter Windsor as a reporter live during the event.


bobb said...

Great article about MW. He has always been one of my top drivers

[begin tongue ib cheek]
even though he is considered BY ONE PARTICULAR DRIVER to be the worst driver in NASCAR.
[end tongue reference]

Wow for someone who is so bad at driving he does a lot of great things for NASCAR and drivers.

jamie said...

wow, thanx article that lists all the reasons my tv is rarely tuned in to non-race nascar programming.

HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...

The Dow's closing number today caught my attention with it's number. This is the number 9955.50.

Does that number ring any bells? If you need help, I will answer it in a few days.

Steve said...

I started watching NASCAR when I moved to Nashville in the early 90's. I use to root for Dale Jarrett when he drove the #28/#88. And then switched over to MW and the #15 when Dale Sr. hired him. As far as I am concerned, there is no better recommendation than being hired by Dale Sr.

I was thrilled when MW hired DJ to drive for him. I wish things had turned out better for DJ at the end of his driving career.

MW is the guy down the street and the guy next door. He has taken his talents and efforts and made the best of them. I think he draws so much attention both good and bad because we can look at him and see ourselves.

I say three cheers for Mikey and MWR. It is great to see the whole organization doing better. They have a long way to go to be on par with the super teams, but I think they are making headway.

HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...

I will give my answer to the Dow's number.

99-David Reutimann's NW Dream Machine number

55-MW's number

50-the number that MW tested as a fourth car at 2007 preseason testing.

Interesting numbers, huh? Or am I just nutz in looking at it that way?

Daly Planet Editor said...


Time to buy a Lotto ticket!