Friday, January 23, 2009
Darrell Waltrip Finally Gets Honest With The Fans
The Thursday edition of Preseason Thunder on SPEED promised to be a good show. John Roberts hosted with Darrell Waltrip as his co-host via satellite from his home in Tennessee.
Waltrip's commentary was mixed with soundbites from various drivers and personalities from the Charlotte media tour. The faces of Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and others flashed by, but it was the comments from Waltrip that made it worth the wait.
In this setting, where he is alone and allowed to speak his mind, fans finally got a glimpse of the frank and honest opinions that used to be a hallmark of SPEED. The network has wasted almost two weeks on "fluff" programs that have painfully avoided all the issues dominating the sport on a daily basis.
Trackside and Preseason Thunder have been off-base from day one as an endless parade of smiling drivers have fielded softball questions from both the SPEED and Fox on-air personalities. It has not been pretty.
Watching SPEED, one would not believe that two of the three NASCAR touring series are rumored to be in dire trouble after Daytona. It was Darrell Waltrip who remarked that the second race in California might resemble a "ghost town." That one comment was aired earlier in the week by accident and was actually replaced in the program's re-air with more happy faces and polite chit-chat.
Even reporters Wendy Venturini and Randy Pemberton have been following the SPEED script as they both cover the media tour. The smiling faces of freshly scrubbed drivers at beautiful shops are about as far away from the reality of what this sport is actually going through as humanly possible.
How can the "other side" of this equation not be reported by SPEED? Where are the DEI and Gillett comments about downsizing to two teams? Where is Max Siegel on his departure from DEI after all his bold predictions of growth for the company?
Where are the voices of the drivers and owners who are not happy and have comments about this season that might not be all rainbows and sunshine? The answer is they are not on SPEED.
Waltrip talked about topics from Stewart's new team to the outlook for Hendrick Motorsports in 2009. Viewers at home could have used a full hour of Roberts asking Waltrip questions and then letting him speak. Waltrip's time in this show was far too short and left a lot of great content on the table.
His final comments that closed the show were the most compelling.
"Look folks, it's not all gloom and doom," said Waltrip. "Yeah, we got problems with the economy, we got sponsors and all kinds of things that we have to work on (like) attendance and ratings, but this is the most resilient sport with the best people in the world. We know how to get it done. We will work hard and we will survive."
This is the kind of straight talk NASCAR fans have been waiting for from Waltrip and rest of the SPEED experts and analysts. Hopefully, speaking directly to the fans and offering honest opinions about the NASCAR journey for 2009 will be allowed to continue.
The final Preseason Thunder of this week is at 7:30PM on Friday, but the series continues on Monday through Friday of next week at 7PM ET. This should give SPEED one final opportunity to open up the coverage and let the reality of the challenges facing the sport become a topic that is open for discussion.
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