Thursday, March 19, 2009

Darrell Waltrip The Missing Piece Of Bristol Charity Race Pie


There were a lot of smiles on the Tuesday edition of NASCAR Now on ESPN2. Ray Evernham was standing alongside Rusty Wallace and both of them could not stop talking about the Saturday night charity race in Bristol, TN.

Minutes later in the show, it was Andy Petree standing in the same spot with Brad Daugherty. They were howling with laughter while explaining how Petree helped get the seven-foot tall Daugherty squeezed into a late model stock car to participate in the race.

Host Nicole Manske mentioned Junior Johnson, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough as other drivers participating in the event. The field also includes SPEED's Jimmy Spencer, the "Ironman" Jack Ingram and Harry Gant.

Originally, the charity race also included the very high-profile NASCAR on Fox announcer Darrell Waltrip. While the gang from ESPN will make things fun and the old-timers will make things interesting, it was Waltrip who would have been the star of the show. Waltrip has 12 victories at Bristol.

Last week, Waltrip suddenly announced that he was not going to be able to participate. "It seems crazy, but I am busier now than I was when I was a driver," Waltrip said. "I have some commitments to Fox Sports that have come up since we began talking with the folks at Bristol about this race."

"I was looking forward to getting out there with some of those guys again and some of them for the first time. After years with Junior Johnson as my boss, I was excited about rubbing fenders with him. But, sometimes things are unavoidable."

So, Waltrip's stated reason for not attending is that an obligation had arisen for him since discussions first began about the Bristol charity race. As mentioned above, those obligations are for the very TV network that paid tens of millions of dollars to televise the Sunday Bristol race.

For those wondering if Waltrip is not arriving at the track until Sunday, he is scheduled to be active on both Friday and Saturday from Bristol on a wide variety of TV shows from Cup qualifying to Trackside. All those programs are on SPEED and the complete weekend TV schedule is on the right side of the TDP homepage.

For those of you who emailed wondering if DW was selling Digger merchandise on QVC, For Race Fans Only is on Friday night from Bristol. After Waltrip's recent giddy appearance on Trackside with a life-size Digger in tow, that question now always has to be addressed.

It certainly is a shame that the powers at Fox could not see their way clear to let Waltrip back on the track for thirty minutes at a time when the sport really needs a shot in the arm. This is the toughest season in recent memory and it certainly would have generated some good TV and some great publicity to have DW in the field.

ESPN2 will provide live coverage Saturday at 6PM ET, with the race starting at 6:20PM. As mentioned in a previous TDP story, Ned Jarrett is stepping out of retirement to work in the announce booth with his son Dale on this telecast. Add Dr. Jerry Punch, Allen Bestwick and the ESPN pit reporters to the mix and it should be fun to watch.

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35 comments:

Anonymous said...

As is stated here, DW would have been the star of the show. But why? You cannot plan an activity around one driver. Also, where's Richard Petty?

I don't think Fox would let Simon Cowell guest on Dancing with the Stars. No matter what the reason.

This whole week ESPN has talked about Bristol and the Cup race. But not once, when they put up the weekend schedule, have they listed the Sunday Cup race at Fox. They just list the truck, Nationwide, and Charity Race. Business is business.

I'll be curious to see if Jayski lists the tv ratings for Sat.

Daly Planet Editor said...

So, your theory is that DW withdrew because the race was suddenly going to be carried live on ESPN and he works for Fox?

JD

Anonymous said...

No, I mean he would not give up a committment to Fox for another network, as has been suggested.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering about this event. ESPN has it listed as "Saturday Night Special at Bristol". There is no mention of the NASCAR brand in the listing. You have to read the details, and the first name mentioned is Harry Gant.

Then if you go to NASCAR.com, there is no promotion of this event. Was it not sanctioned? If it is that important, why didn't NASCAR use any ink selling it?

If you go to NASCAR.com tv scedule, there is no listing. They list practice times, why not this? It seems more and more like an ESPN activity. Are they the sponsors?

Photojosh said...

It may be that he had real commitments that took up time. But it sure smells like Fox said "No way in hell you are going to drive in a race on ESPN". And if that's the case, it's pretty sad. The sport needs all the excitement and cross promotion that it can get right now.

darbar said...

This is interesting since DW leaves his Trackside show sometime in May, when Elliott Sadler takes over. I never understood why DW stops doing that show, but that's how it's been for the last three seasons. I think I remember hearing that DW has other obligations that prevent him from doing Trackside after a certain date. But if Fox is the one blocking his driving in this race, it's pretty pathetic. Seeing how Bristol didn't lower their tickets this season, unlike a lot of other tracks, Bristol is instead doing these extra activities in order to draw in the fans. These are the types of things tracks are doing in order to keep interest up in the tough economic times.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD, I have not had a chance to try to find any articles, but my recollection is that it was reported that FOX approached EESPN before Daytona about seeing whether they might be able to cooperate on facilities at the races to reduce costs for both. I don't recall ever seeing any specific follow-up about those discussions, except an announcement by EESPN before Daytona that it would be bringing the same facilities to the races and handling its telecasts the same for 2009 as for 2008 - which to me said that it was not going to be cooperating with FOX.

Now if that is the case - EESPN said no to trying to cooperate with FOX to reduce costs - then I can envision FOX saying "you (EESPN) want us to provide our big star (DW) to help with a special race you are going to broadcast? NO. You aren't willing to cooperate with us, then we're not willing to cooperate with you."

I'm not saying keeping DW out of the race is right, but I can envision FOX's feeling snubbed and, thus, not willing to be cooperative. Does stuff like this happen in TV?

SonicAD said...

DW has appeared on NASCAR Now before (though of course there was the time he was scheduled to be on but ended up not being on)... I think it's nothing.

Anonymous said...

Is there a group of sports fans as prone to conspiracy theories as NASCAR fans?

Why can't people accept that DW could, maybe, just possibly, be tied up with work, and unable to compete?

Photojosh said...

"Is there a group of sports fans as prone to conspiracy theories as NASCAR fans?"

You mean aside from college basketball, college football, NBA, european soccer, F1, and perhaps Red Sox fans?

Lesley said...

Being from Washington state, On a foggy morning in the late 1970s I remember going to Evergreen Speedway in Monroe with my friends to see for the first time a true Southern legend in stock car racing..David Pearson..He got out of his helicopter and into a car he had never seen before,drove It on a track he had never seen before,went out and on his 2nd lap and broke a standing track record..He blew up while leading the main on the 3rd lap.Got back in his helicopter and waved goodbye to us all..It was the coolest thing I have ever seen!!I dont think Im going to watch the saturday race of legends!!I want to remember David Pearson for that day so long ago..Today there are guard rails in the same place he was kicking up dust where no one else dared to go..The man was a stud!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, winnings going to charity, but is ESPN paying for drivers to make trip-lodging etc?

CB said...

If memory serves me, when fox first started broadcasting races there was lots of bad blood between fox and espn. Fox would not let them in the track they would have to get interviews etc. from outside the track. I thought the bad blood was finally behind them, speed (which is part of fox), when I started to see qualifying on speed for races that are run on espn. It was actually nice to see the 2 channels working together. I do not think it has anything to do with the people involved like DW etc. It has all to do with the higher ups that run and own the channels. What a shame they can not come together for the good of the sport and for us, the people who pay there bills.

Anonymous said...

Hey JD - do a little snooping around. Ask why Dale Jarrett was pulled too? He was even pulled before DW was but you don't hear anyone fussing about that.

ESPN is smoothing it over by putting Dale in the booth with his Dad.

Bottomline is the same......Dale and DW are paid alot of money to be in the booth, not taking a risk of something freakish happening and getting hurt.

It's simply a business decision on FOX's and ESPN's part. It has nothing to do with who carries the race. Even if Speed were carrying it, FOX still would have said no.

But what IS funny, ESPN pulled Dale, but have no problem with Petree, Daughtery or Rusty doing it. Shows how they really feel about them, huh?

:)

Colorado said...

To CB at 7:35 a.m.: It was NASCAR that wouldn't allow ESPN inside the track. Their reason was that ESPN was a news magazine, and not a sports network. I can't believe I typed that without laughing! But that was the "so-called" truth from NASCAR. I still believe it's as simple as two rival networks, and their employees.
I would liked to have been a fly on the wall when DW told Junior Johnson to his face, "I'd love to race with you, friend, but I was given a milion dollars to stay away from you." And to the other poster about when DW leaves Trackside in the middle of the season: It's the same time that the "other" networks start broadcasting. Remember, folks, if it looks like a conspiracy, acts like a conspiracy, and smells like a conspiracy, Fox will tell you it's a daffodil...

Anonymous said...

You know what? This bit of grandstanding by some older racers and crew chiefs is supposed to be fun, plain and simple. Draw the crowds to buy tickets to the main show, which still isn't sold out. Who cares if DW doesn't show? He's not the only guy who has won there - how about Rusty?

It's no big deal in my book. You do what your boss tells you to do, if that boss is Fox or your wife.

Anonymous said...

Everything I have read…drivers were extended “invitations” to race. DW accepted his invitation, and then pulled out of the event. I have not seen anywhere that DJ did the same.

If this was about $$$$$$$$$ or Fox – I really feel sorry for DW since this has potential to be an hour of good entertainment & nostalgia for some great legends of the sport.

Anonymous said...

FOX should have sponsored DW...put "Digger" & the web site to hawk goods on the side of the car....live on ESPN!

I doubt the marketing genius of FOX would be that far sighted.

Anonymous said...

To me there is more to this DW thing than we have been told. What is the commitment that is more important than this event? As someone who used to be a BIG DW fan, as time goes on I have more and more trouble with things he says. He doesn't seem forthright anymore. Maybe there are no TOYOTA late model cars available for him to drive in the event? Anyway, I am looking forward to the event and feel it's a great idea and I won't miss DW a bit.

GinaV24 said...

Considering DW's record at Bristol and that he drove for Junior Johnson, I think it would have been great to see him racing. I too have to wonder if its because the race is on ESPN and he works for Fox that he isn't going to be driving.

Thanks too for the heads up that DW will be selling Digger crap on QVC -- I used to always make sure I watched For Race Fans Only, but over the past year they've gone to hawking mostly Jr gear, so I don't watch so much any more and I'm in total avoidance mode when it comes to seeing promotional Digger crap! I had DVRd the Trackside show and could rapidly FF through all the parts I didn't want to watch.

jamie in n.c. said...
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Lisa Hogan said...

I plan on watching the race. Should be a fun time!

Doesn't really matter to me whether DW is there or not.

You always make me smile, GinaV24, when I see how you've worked in your Jr. "dig" for each post. :)

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

DW wouldn't race because they wouldn't let Digger ride in the car with him! ;-)

Mary
Richmond, VA

Anonymous said...

RE: again folks, tv coverage with no waltrip is good race coverage. whether in the booth or on the track, waltrip=suckitude
------------------------

Apparently it is a big deal. JD has been making it a big deal for the last couple of days.

There are millions of us who love good ole DW. He is a marketer's dream. What Jr does for the active side of NASCAR. DW does for the retirees. Many of us are happy for him. When he was driving, there was not the kind of money the new guys are making.

In 29 years of cup driving, DW made less than Jeff Gordon makes in one year. I'm happy for DW and his family, and am happy for all of us who love to seem him. He gets to earn a good living while having fun.

Anonymous said...
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David said...

JD...i keep hearing about driver "pairings" what exactly is the breakdown for this race in terms of who is in the field?

Will there be 2 guys in a car or will one guy start the race then do a drivers swap or how is that gonna work.

As for DW its a shame, FOX could have done better by having DW in the race rather than not in my own opinion. Hard to see any "obligation" for FoxSports being more important then having your "star" back behind the wheel of a race car considering how they've handled his truck races over the years...

Richard in N.C. said...

Lesley, the Silver Fox is still a stud. I believe he ran 7 or 8 late model races last year, but was only able to win 5 or 6. I am a Richard Petty fan, but they broke the mold with Pearson.

It amazes me that a telecast of the charity race was put together so quickly it appears - especially since EESPN does not really go overboard with the amount of coverage it gives racing. I wonder whether SMI, in particular, or NASCAR might be underwriting some of the cost of the telecast.

Anonymous said...

Richard, I doubt NASCAR has anything to do with this race. Nowhere on their site is it advertized, and ESPN does not have it listed as such (NASCAR race) in the tv guide.

USA Today had ONE sentance about the race toward the end of an article a couple of days ago.

This appears to be an idea of Bruton and track president to fill the stands for the Nationwide race. They seems to be promoting it locally only.

Anonymous said...

Richard, I take it back. NASCAR.com finally has an article today. Fianlly!!

Newracefan said...

DW says it was a compromise he made with his wife only doing Trackside until May when Fox steps aside.

I really think it is a shame tht he baled out on the race for "Fox commitments" perhaps he realized how much money and effort Rusty was putting into it (new car, wind tunnel, practice=$$$$) and he did not want to put in that much money and time and didn't want to get smoked by Rusty. My sister is actually going to Bristol this weekend and has tickets to the charity race too She is a Rusty fan and is really excited.

Vicky D said...

Also I just heard that David Pearson won't be racing either so DP & DW can sit on the sidelines. Larry Pearson will be driving David's car on Saturday according to Nascar Now.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who feels that anything that was supposed to have DW, & now isn't. Has been improved? Speed seems to love Mikey. More's the pity.

dawg

Anonymous said...

The biggest names are not racing David Pearson, Dale Jarrett, Richard Petty, and DW.