Monday, July 20, 2009
SPEED Tolerates Fifteen Minutes Of Darrell Waltrip
All the pieces were in place for some TV fun and fireworks. SPEED's Wind Tunnel on a Sunday night when both the Sprint Cup Series and the IRL were parked was a golden opportunity for some good discussion of motorsports topics.
Host Dave Despain was joined by SPEED's Robin Miller, who among other things is a great catalyst for conversation with his good questions and strong opinions.
NASCAR on Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip was a guest who has been quite popular in his Wind Tunnel appearances. Since SPEED lacks any other type of TV program where this type of conversation about NASCAR is allowed, Waltrip was the perfect guest to match wits with Despain and Miller.
Prior to the show, SPEED ran one hour of TV programming that featured policemen who drive big trucks to catch car thieves. Jacked was a series that already ran once on another national cable TV network. After Wind Tunnel, SPEED aired an hour of PINKS All Out. Finding a drag racer who does not know exactly what his car runs is impossible. It is the mission of PINKS to hide this fact at all cost.
Apparently, no thought was given to expanding the one hour of Wind Tunnel on this night. While Despain continues to take calls online after 10PM, SPEED returns to the lifestyle programming for which it is now infamous.
This idea of expanding the show had merit the moment that Dave Despain told Darrell Waltrip his two segments were done and the program had to move along. "Is the show over?" asked Waltrip after his fifteen minutes. "You mean the show's over?"
Those words may have been repeated by NASCAR fans who had tuned-in for a NASCAR TV fix on this Sunday from someone who was trying very hard to deliver just that. In a flash, Waltrip was shuffled off the show. In many ways, it was a statement of the situation SPEED finds itself in every single day.
Looking fresh and sounding up-to-date on NASCAR topics, Waltrip was candid in his brief remarks on several subjects. Where Jeremy Mayfield is concerned, Waltrip repeated the words said several times on this blog. "You have to follow the money," remarked Waltrip. "His career is ruined, so what would you say he would probably want? He would probably want a settlement. Maybe they will pay him to go away."
After a question from Robin Miller, Waltrip repeated an answer he gave during the Fox portion of the season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has too many distractions and needs to limit his outside activities. "I believe his confidence is not there...he needs to just focus on driving that race car and you might see a difference."
"The COT is an old guy car," said Waltrip. He was talking about the success of Mark Martin this season. "It drives like a car from back in the 80's. This thing (COT) takes experience, it takes patience, you have to wait on this car. The young guys just don't like to wait on it."
"Look at Joey Logano," continued Waltrip. "He can go over in the Nationwide Series and run away with it. He gets in the Cup car and he is lost."
Perhaps the most surprising comments of the evening came from Waltrip on the subject of Kyle Busch. This season, like the last one, Waltrip was the champion of this driver during the Fox portion of the Sprint Cup Series. Apparently, those feelings have now changed and Waltrip did not mince words.
"He's a man in the car," said Waltrip of Busch. "But he is a brat outside the car. Somebody has to to get their arms around this kid. Even when he drove the #5 car and he made the Chase he fell flat on his face. You've got to have composure, you've got to be able to control your emotions."
After briefly addressing the potential Indy 500 participation of some current NASCAR drivers, Waltrip was done for the night. Miller and Despain are certainly open-wheel oriented guys, but Waltrip cut through the IRL clutter and was the star of the show.
More and more each passing day, the only location for long-form conversation about NASCAR is Sirius Satellite Radio. TV has dropped the ball completely. The marching orders of SPEED on the weekend are clearly competition-oriented. ESPN's NASCAR Now allows Ricky Craven brief comments on selected topics, but there is no real conversation in that tightly controlled environment.
The basic problem is that Sirius serves around 18 million subscribers while SPEED is available in 78 million homes. So, fifteen minutes of Darrell Waltrip may be the only candid conversation about NASCAR topics on SPEED for a very long time. At least it was interesting.
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To see the picture of a slightly younger Darrell Waltrip full-size, just click on it.