Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The Ponytail Express Is Ready To Roll
There is little doubt that Kyle Petty is ready for the upcoming season of NASCAR on TNT. Freed from the day-to-day chaos of Petty Enterprises, Kyle has been limited on TV this season to a silly trivia show on SPEED.
Last week, Petty filled-in for Jimmy Spencer on RaceDay. Petty kept his cool and had fun on the two-hour show until the topic of the recent NASCAR driver and owners meeting arose. Then, Petty took a deep breath and just laid out NASCAR's senior management live on national TV.
Reminding NASCAR that he was a third generation participant, Petty said NASCAR normally pays only "lip service" to the competitors and better follow through on the ideas raised in the meeting. When Petty was done, the looks on the faces of host John Roberts and fellow panelist Kenny Wallace were priceless.
Petty recently wrapped-up another successful charity motorcycle ride. This time, in addition to raising money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp in North Carolina, Petty and his wife broke ground for a second camp in the Greater Kansas City area. Petty captured the interaction of the riders with NASCAR fans along the way and posted his photos online for all to see.
Now, Petty is embarking on another effort that should raise some eyebrows in the normally structured NASCAR TV world. At Petty's suggestion, he is going to be traveling to the six TNT races on his motorcycle. As you can see in the picture above, he recently added a sidecar for a passenger. That passenger will be SPEED's Rutledge Wood.
What Petty found on his most recent motorcycle ride is something many high-profile NASCAR TV types have forgotten. The survival of this sport depends on people who live outside of the Greater Charlotte area. It depends on folks whose only relationship with GM is a monthly car payment. It depends on those who have never flown on a private jet and are still saving-up for a High Definition TV.
Sticking Rutledge in the sidecar and taking-off to see real American NASCAR fans over a six race stretch is something we would never see from Fox or ESPN. Thankfully, Petty does not have the "Fox Sports attitude" and his wardrobe does not contain enough neckties to get him through even one NASCAR on ESPN weekend.
Dubbed "The Ponytail Express," the journey will be relayed in text and photos on Twitter directly from Wood and Petty. Video from several "lipstick cams" on the sidecar will be sent to NASCAR.com for posting. TNT will also use some of the video during the Sprint Cup Series pre-race shows to update fans on the trip.
Make no mistake about it, there are no chase vehicles or support staff on this journey. There are no helicopters or police escorts. This is just a 49 year-old man with a ponytail and his sidekick driving to six NASCAR races to experience reality outside of the "NASCAR bubble."
If there was ever a time when NASCAR needed a good swift kick in the rear, this is it. If that can be delivered by a couple of maniacs on a motorcycle with a video camera and a GPS then more power to them. It's about time some TV personalities stepped out into the world and made the statement that NASCAR is about the fans.
We fully expect that YouTube, NASCAR.com, Twitter and even CNN.com's iReports will soon be sprinkled with rather interesting video footage. Plenty of NASCAR fans will no doubt bump into this duo going from race to race. Michigan to California and then back to New Hampshire all in 12 travel days during the middle of the TNT stretch should certainly prove to be interesting.
As the memories of Digger begin to fade and before the suit-and-tie Connecticut crowd arrives, it might make for some fun this summer to keep up with "The Ponytail Express" as these two guys put their money where their mouth is and hit the road.
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