Thursday, November 13, 2008

SPEED Dusts Off "Ole DW" For Friday's Truck Race


It has been many months since Darrell Waltrip has been on the air handling a live NASCAR race. Memories of the Daytona 500, the Kyle Busch controversy and an emotional close to the NASCAR on Fox season come to mind where "ole DW" is concerned this year.

Friday night, SPEED will add Waltrip to the TV crew broadcasting the final Craftsman Truck Series race from the Homestead Miami Speedway. The trucks have been a tremendous success for SPEED this season with amazing increases in TV ratings that even took the network by surprise.

Certainly, one ingredient in the upswing in ratings has been the great racing offered by the drivers and teams. Fan favorites Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday Jr. have led a very diverse group who have provided good competition all season long.

One other key ingredient in this equation has been the top-notch television production by the SPEED crew. Led by veteran Producer Keith D'Alessandro, this team has finally broken-through to the mainstream NASCAR audience and gotten them hooked on the trucks.

As opposed to the drama of Fox and the buttoned-up Yankee hype of ESPN, D'Alessandro and his team of five announcers make viewers feel as if they are part of a big extended racing family. There is no pretense, no ego and lots of fun.

Never was this more in evidence than on Halloween (click here) when the announcers stepped-up to the plate and did the pre-race show in full costume. Memorable moments included Ron Hornaday freaking out and Todd Bodine kissing Glinda, The Good Witch.

SPEED handles the entire Truck Series from start to finish and produces all the races except the one or two seen on Fox Sports. Mixed weekends often relegate the Truck Series to the second or third tier race on the track. This season, that designation has been ripped to shreds.

The racing and the TV coverage have combined to form a potent mix where NASCAR is concerned. Often, the Truck Series race is the best of the weekend. This year, the Truck Series TV coverage is often the same.

Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip have been front-and-center where the on-track action is concerned. Allen and Parsons get along wonderfully on the air. This season, Waltrip has learned to listen as well as speak and the results have established him as a solid third man in the Craftsman Truck Series announce booth.

While other networks use four pit reporters, SPEED has the budget for only two. Covering thirty or more pits, Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander have once again done the job for the fans.

Alexander has expanded his resume to also include a solid job hosting The SPEED Report on selected Sunday evenings. Dunlap's personality makes him a fan favorite, including his unique sense of humor and ability to make fun of himself.

Krista Voda is the icing on the Truck Series cake. Gliding in to host the pre-race show, Voda has once again shown herself to be a complete TV trooper. While fans may remember her perched on Rattlesnake Hill over looking PIR as the sun set last week, it's not very hard to drum up memories of a freezing Voda in Daytona at the head of pit road to start-off the season.

Voda also hosts The SPEED Report and is someone who could assume a greater role should SPEED decide to increase the weekday NASCAR programming. This Friday, Voda will be teamed with Darrell Waltrip on The Set-Up pre-race show. Waltrip certainly brings a new level of exposure to the program, but this season the question is does SPEED really need it?

Waltrip will transition "upstairs" after The Set-Up and become the fourth man in the TV booth. Parsons and Michael Waltrip have been doing a great job this season, so they will have to consciously pull back to make room for "ole DW" in the telecast.

Darrell has not been associated with the Craftsman Truck Series this season, so it should be interesting to see his level of knowledge and familiarity with the drivers and teams. Perhaps, this move by SPEED will pay dividends and draw even more TV viewers to the Friday night race telecast.

One thing is for sure, this year "ole DW" should consider himself lucky to score an invite to sit-in with the hottest NASCAR TV crew of 2009. With the drama of the championship battle and the great racing in Homestead, the Friday night race will be eagerly anticipated by SPEED executives as perhaps their biggest ratings winner of all time.

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39 comments:

Kyle said...

I just watched him on the TWIN tonight, it looked like he was itching for February 2009. I think about every NASCAR fan is right on with him.

Gymmie said...

Yes indeed Kyle! I'm already beginning the mourning process!

I love the SPEED Gang! Everyone does a great job! I think Adam has quickly become a fan favorite :).

I don't think they could have come up with a better combo!

kang said...

Yes Ole DW is back. Can Digger be far behind? Maybe DW has a warehouse full of that Digger trash,and QVC wouldn't give him a time slot.

glenc1 said...

at times, I find him annoying as heck...but at other times, I recognize that he brings excitement and *some* insight. But I prefer DW to his brother and some other of the analysts available.

peedee said...

I was really looking foward to the truck race until I read this. Does anyone know if there is a radio broadcast for the race so I can mute this? One Waltrip in the booth is too much, but two will be unbearable, and take away from the race. Rick, and Phil do a great job, and if Speed insist on 3 in the booth for next year, I think there will be quite a few people out of work next year that would love to have that job. There is a lot more I could say about this, but I'm sure nobody agrees with me, including JD.

Dot said...

I don't care what others think. I'm excited that Ole DW is going to be in the booth. I like him and Mikey.

DW has great insight. I'll think he'll be polite enough not to step on Phil's and Rick's toes and let them do their jobs. He wouldn't like it if someone came in his booth and got large and in charge.

Of all the racing, I'll miss the trucks the most. Great racing and even better coverage. Thank you Craftsman for your sponsorship and thank you Keith/SPEED.

Anonymous said...

peedee - You're not alone. I used to watch TWIN, but I got to the point where I could no longer stand the aggravation of watching MW. He used to say to other drivers, "If you don't like what I say, get your own TV show." I was a viewer rather than a driver, so I had to modify his message to "If you don't like what I say, don't watch the show." Thanks Mikey, I took your advice. I no longer watch any show that he is on, TWIN or anything else. With some effort, I can tolerate DW. The two of them together is more than I choose to endure.

For their fans, I'm happy for you. Don't feel sorry for me. I have a life outside of TWIN and truck series broadcasts where MW is part of the coverage. I'm doing just fine without them, thank you.

Michigan fan

peedee said...

Michigan fan- Well said.

Anonymous said...

I have to acknowledge that DW is getting smarter and mellower, and the recent article that proposed him as Commissioner of NASCAR was thought provoking, at the least.

DW - please stay smart during the truck broadcast, the fans watching this series have followed it, and know a lot about it. Many race fans are excited about a very close championship, among well known and popular drivers, and that should be the story, not DW.

The truck on-air crew does a commendable job. The booth may be a little bit more low key than the racing coverage on the big networks, but they don't have Ray Dunlap. He is a both a broadcaster and a enthusiastic supporter of the series. Ray may be an acquired taste and some people may turn the volume down when he comes on, but he accepted his role as cheerleader for the series and has become a face of the series.

Nice to see Krista Vota get more air time on Fox and Speed.

Anonymous said...

I love DW and love what he brings to calling a race. The only thing that ever annoyed me about him was his promoting of Digger gear on his website. The Kyle Busch stuff I don't hold against him because Busch had an incredible run driving a very aggressive style that DW loves and I think he would have hyped KB the way he drove under any make of car. It excited him in an old-school kind of way to see Busch pushing people out of the way and driving so hard.

Anyway, whatever misgivings I had about DW faded to black once TNT, ESPN and ABC got their chance to broadcast races. Looking back on the complaints I had about DW vs. the complaints I have about ABC... I am beginning to think I was acting spoiled.

The FOX gang does the best NASCAR broadcasts (minus the flag waver finish), and DW is a big part of that success. I can't wait for FEB FOX broadcasts and I will certainly tune in to the truck race to listen to JAWS. Love him!

Sophia said...

Well DW could've said a lot more tonight..and I noticed Mikey is quite reserved around him...it's easy to see Mikey knows DW is the more famous driver and champion...but I never saw Mikey seem almost 'shy'.

I LOVE mikey and am sad that personal comments continue to be left on this board towards him, considering how many guys from SPEED read these boards.

That said, I think DW could be fun tomorrow night but I agree, I love the threesome we have had. Even though DW's lovefest with KB drove me nuts last spring, he obviously saw the great driver KB is and I am not a rooter of KB..but DW knows talent when he sees it.

Also while looking forward to the Fox guys in the booth, I am already dreading the excess BUMPER CAMS, in car cams and only one car finish line/flag man/wife/pit crew/cc endings....Mike Wells, we hardly knew ye.

I enjoyed Steve and Mike tonight and when Carl held Gazoo under the desk on his lap, Mikes comment and reaction had me in stitches.

I LOVE MY MIKEY and my TWIN guys and shall miss them all. I only wish the last TWIN show could be TWO HOURS to give us highlights AND CONVERSATION from this woman's favorite Monday night crew.
:)

bevo said...

Why?
Speed has the best thing going with the Truck series. The crew is top notch and now some idiot in management has to put his imprint on it. The thing that is so great about their coverage is the absence of gimmicks. They keep the focus on the race. This smacks of ESPN-like thinking, let's add more and more people until you have so many it's a total cluster.

Sad that a great season of coverage has to end with a damn dog and pony show.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy watching both Waltrip brothers, even though I wasn't a big DW fan when he was racing.

Both have a real love and enthusiasm for the sport as a whole--something that's not always evident with other drivers on TV (cough *Rusty* cough).

By the way, it seems to me that DW sat in on the final truck race last year, didn't he? No problem at all.

Anonymous said...

JD , thanks for the warning , we could have switched on the truck race and been assaulted by mindless ramblings and constant self promotion , not to mention re-writing of history . I'll find something else to watch that doesn't feature DW .

jamie said...

well....so much for the dvr....i will just listen to the end of the race on sirius on the way home from high school football

Anonymous said...

The Waltrips are still the best thing that Na$car and Speed have going for them.

glenc1 said...

my issue with DW is, he has some insight into how you race a vehicle...but I certainly wouldn't say 'great' because he's simply been out of it too long. Truck racing is much like 'old time' racing so I'd agree it's more up his alley. That said, I'm happiest when it's the Allen/Parsons project--with no Waltrip in sight. I just think it'll be hard for DW to contain himself. And BTW, DW was my first favorite driver; this isn't personal; it's just about the broadcasting.

ri88girl said...

'D' I'm 'cited!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love me my DW. What a night it will be, I can't wait THANK YOU SPEED. How many days till Daytona?

ri88girl said...

TDP Editor said...

'As opposed to the drama of Fox and the buttoned-up Yankee hype of ESPN, D'Alessandro and his team of five announcers make viewers feel as if they are part of a big extended racing family. There is no pretense, no ego and lots of fun.'

This synthesises and captures exactly what I have been trying to express all season when it comes to the difference in coverage. Thanks for putting it so well.

This is what I want from my NASCAR TV partner. I don't want to go to a race with a stuffed shirt, nor do I want to listen to one on my TV.

midasmicah said...

Welcome back, DW. As bombastic as Fox is, it beats ESPU hands down. What a fitting end to a great truck series finale.

Robyn said...

@sophia - Mikey made a point last night on TWIN when Steve asked him why he was asking JJ so many questions. Mikey's response was I know I won't be able to get a word in when DW comes on.

I really don't think that they need a 4th in the booth. It's going to be an exciting race.

I hope that SPEED doesn't keep reminding us of the points as they race now. The bottom line is that whoever finishes in front of the other is going to with the championship, with the exception of 1 scenario. So just highlight where they are on the track.

majorshouse said...

The Speed crew has shown us time and time again why the other series in NASCAR racing should be done and it will definitely be interesting to see how well DW fits in with the rest of the crew too. I just wish that the cup and Nationwide series were bing covered by the Speed guys as well.

red said...

hmmm. well, i have to miss the truck race regardless so i won't be able to listen to how this plan plays out. BUT i have to say, this seems like a case of messing with something that works beautifully and is not in need of any "dinking."

i'm concerned that adding a fourth into the booth will change the dynamic that's been established, regardless of who the fourth may be. i don't understand why speed feels this is necessary: they already put on THE best broadcast each week and have fine-tuned it to a smoothly functioning event.

with the series championship coming down to this single race, i would hate for all the terrific work that's been done all year to be disrupted with this move. the trucks gang have made racing enjoyable to watch at a time when other networks have been dismal in that regard.

it may all run smoothly and having a fourth voice in the booth may add to an exciting last race. but my gut tells me otherwise.

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

been a nascar fan 40t yrs this year i have really enjoyed the trucks and the announcers , all drivers were mentioned at leat once if not more ,the entire racing field was covered they did a great job but now I will have to push the mute button to shut out Jaws and his non-sense. When somethings has been so good all season why goof up this end? Maybe next season all 43 drivers could be mentioned they all drive their hearts out and I do get tired of the same few mentioned all the time.

Broomfield, Colorado said...

First off, SPEED and FOX are owned by the same entity, so it's no surprise that they have a fellow employee stand in. What they are trying to do is "transition" into FOX's upcoming broadcast of NASCAR. (As if we don't already know about it).
It's not uncommon that DW be a commentator for the Trucks. He did it last year for several races, and the year before that.
On the side, it was interesting that last night, for the first time since he was a driver, DW actually DISAGREED with NASCAR and also with his brother, who has now become the "Company Man". The look on DW's face was priceless, as Mikey said that there is "All kinds of drama in the Cup series", to which DW replied, "Let me ask a question. Is there a Chase in the truck series? And what's the points differential? Is there a Chase in the Nationwide Series? And what's the points differential?" Then Steve Byrnes, sensing a NASCAR backlash and probably fearing for his job, said, ' I have one question:
What time is Thanksgiving dinner, and what are we having ?"

Zieke said...

I can't tolerate either one of the "self-promoting" Waltrips anymore. The race will be just fine on "Mute" after Krista goes off the screen. If anyone deserves it, she should be in the booth.

Anonymous said...

been a nascar fan 40t yrs this year i have really enjoyed the trucks and the announcers , all drivers were mentioned at leat once if not more ,the entire racing field was covered they did a great job but now I will have to push the mute button to shut out Jaws and his non-sense. When somethings has been so good all season why goof up this end? Maybe next season all 43 drivers could be mentioned they all drive their hearts out and I do get tired of the same few mentioned all the time.


And at the superbowl I'd like to hear about all the other teams that didn't make it, because they played hard too........
November 14, 2008 10:12 AM

Vince said...

Thanks for the heads up JD. I'll have to pass on tonight's race. One Waltrip in the booth is too much for me. If you've had to listen to DW since the 1970's like some of us have, the rest of you would understand. I've had enough of the loud mouthed, self promoting, me me me attitude of both Waltrips. Thanks for nothing Speed..........

Jojaye said...

I'm looking forward to DW in the booth. I do enjoy DW & God help me I never thought I'd miss Boogity, but after this debacle known as "coverage" by the un- named network of the other series, I can't wait.
I just watched the drv & I liked what DW had to say about testing, NA$CAR & such. He has mellowed quite a bit. And as a former racer, owner of a truck team (or was it Busch?) he has some insights. I think tonight will be good, and some are acting like he has the plague!
No I think tonight will be fine & Mikey will be tamer too.

go kyle go said...

DEAR GOD WHY?!?!?!?!!!

Ole DW loves to make things all about himself. he bashed Kyle Busch at the beginning of the season 'cause junebug took his ride. then the media started comparing kyle to a young dw. oops its all about me, yay, dw now loves Kyle. i guess with the slump that kyle has been in, it is back to bashing kyle.

please lord let kyle busch lead every single lap tonight and stink up the show show that dw can talk about himself all race long.

Speedcouch said...

Thanks for the warning, John! Why on earth the Fox-family feels they must ruin the truck finale with DW's mouth every year is beyond me. Thank goodness we have Trackpass so we can listen to the beginning of the race on MRN tonight. I'd rather not have to deal with BBB for another 3 months.

Richard in N.C. said...

Ray Dunlap does not get nearly enough credit. There are some just as good, but I really believe there is no better pit reporter.

When he was racing I called DW everything but Mr. - but I have come to enjoy him since he's gotten into TV. I do believe he has a genuine passion and appreciation for the sport, and for all it has done for him. It does continue to amaze me how much he does let others talk - never thought he could learn to share.

I have found in the last 2 years that when DW makes a prediction, most of the time he has been correct.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather not have to deal with BBB for another 3 months.

You could just mute the TV sound for the three seconds it takes for DW to say that.

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new post up for the qualifying on ESPN2 and SPEED.

Thanks,

JD

stricklinfan82 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stricklinfan82 said...

I don't mind adding DW to the mix as long as Michael doesn't have to be bumped in the process.

My biggest problem with Fox's treatment of the Truck Series on "special occasions" is the vast amount changes that are made the couple times a year they move to the Fox network. I don't like the fact that Krista's Setup, Michael Waltrip, Ray Dunlap, and the great Speed Channel Truck production truck are replaced by the Hollywood Hotel, a Cup analyst, a Cup pit reporter, Digger, and the "ignore the finish line on the last lap" Fox Cup production truck every time the series airs on Fox.

The great thing about the Truck Series is its seperate identity both on the track and on the air. I don't have a problem with the small tweak of adding DW this weekend and not taking anything away in return, but next year if the series appears on Fox I would hope they will uphold the integrity of Speed's unique Truck Series TV crew and not make it a Cup production like they have done the past few years.

Wisconsin Steve said...

Speed has been doing this every year for the season finale since they started covering the truck series in 2003. It made sense back when their booth team was terrible (remember Allen, Dodson, and Schroeder?). But now that Allen is more experienced and they have two decent analysts in the booth, it makes no sense to add a fourth voice. Darrell helped ruin last year's broadcast of the season finale. I hope that doesn't happen again.

Richard in N.C. said...

MRN will be broadcasting the race, but I believe few stations pick up the truck broadcasts. Last week I did pick up the MRN truck broadcast free off NASCAR.com, but that might have been because my ISP is bellsouth - but the screen made it appear it was free to anyone.