Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NASCAR TV Needs Darrell Waltrip After Fox Is Done

This NASCAR season has been unlike any other in history. The economy is reeling, the US automakers are struggling and the COT still can't run 20 laps at Indy on one set of Goodyear Eagles.

For good measure, throw-in the first drug policy suspension of an active driver, Carl Edwards' high-profile Talladega crash and the fact that the dean of the NASCAR media corps recently passed away.

One quick check of the NASCAR calendar reveals there are six months of racing left to go. The 2009 season is only halfway over.

As NASCAR fans know, the Sprint Cup Series TV pie is divided into three big pieces. Fox, TNT and ESPN each paid the piper and now have one custom-made slice that fits perfectly into their TV plans.

This works well for NASCAR in terms of dollars, but presents a growing problem. Once the Fox portion is done, Kyle Petty takes over from Darrell Waltrip for the summer as the lead TV analyst. As the Chase for the Championship approaches, Petty then gives way to Dale Jarrett who takes TV viewers through the end of the season.

Petty has certainly been a breath of fresh air and Jarrett is just as poised and polished on TV as his father was during his time. These two also share something else. They are both relatively new as NASCAR TV analysts.

For the past several seasons, once the Fox portion of the Sprint Cup Series schedule is over, Darrell Waltrip drops from the TV radar. Elliott Sadler steps-in for Waltrip on Trackside and the SPEED team handles practice and qualifying until ESPN takes over.

While Waltrip still offers a column on the Fox Sports website, it is certainly not the same once he is gone from the TV scene. The reason is very clear. NASCAR does not have a senior spokesman on TV who can offer a perspective with Waltrip's level of experience.

Jarrett, Petty, Evernham and Petree are just a step behind Waltrip in terms of years in the sport. They are able to speak to current issues quite well, but lack that extra bit of perspective that Waltrip brings to the table.

At the age of 62, Waltrip's TV presence and ability to speak directly to NASCAR issues that get both the fans and the media talking has never been greater. He evokes emotion and passion from fans who either agree or disagree with his opinions. That is why it would be such a shame if he is allowed to fall-off the TV radar once again this season.

Wind Tunnel comes alive when Waltrip interacts with Dave Despain on NASCAR topics. ESPN2's NASCAR Now has featured Waltrip several times with great results. Perhaps, Waltrip on a Monday roundtable show with Ed Hinton and Marty Smith might provide some memorable moments.

Everyone, including us, has an opinion about Waltrip in the booth during the races. That is not the point of this column. Once the racing on Fox is done, NASCAR has less of a national TV presence without Waltrip's viewpoints and perspective being available to viewers.

Hopefully, in this season of turmoil, SPEED and ESPN might consider some additional use of Waltrip when topics have to be addressed that require someone with a little bit of a longer view of the sport and the "s'purnce" to back it up.

There are two more races on the NASCAR on Fox TV schedule. Waltrip steps away from the TV side of the business this season on May 31st.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to add your opinion on this topic. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

"Drowning Face Down" While Waiting For The Truth (Continually Updated)

1PM ET Wednesday update: Jeremy Mayfield has hired an attorney and it looks like NASCAR will be defending itself in court. Click here for Marty Smith's story.

6PM ET Tuesday update: reporter Terry Blount said on NASCAR Now that Dr. Black has now publicly ruled-out the substances in Claritin as being the ones involved in the positive Mayfield test. Black added he personally advised Mayfield of the drug in question that caused his violation.

8PM ET Monday update: Click here for AP Reporter Jenna Fryer's story of Dr. Black stating directly to her that he spoke with Mayfield personally and confirmed the substance for which Mayfield had tested positive. This came after the 5PM NASCAR Now show on ESPN2.

9AM ET Monday update: ESPN's Marty Smith confirming he will be on NASCAR Now at 5PM to update the Mayfield situation.

8PM ET Sunday update: No changes. Mayfield did suggest NASCAR wants to keep Claritin as a sponsor and he feels that played a role in their lack of information given to him.

12:30PM ET Sunday update: For those asking if Mayfield's camera crew at LMS was part of a NASCAR TV series, here is an update:

Mayfield's every move was captured by a local freelance videographer. The camera operator was approached by NASCAR Media Group, the league's television licensing arm, because he hadn't been officially cleared to shoot video during the race.

After providing his contact information, he was allowed to continue on. NASCAR owns the rights to all video captured at the track during a race weekend and reserves the right to confiscate those images if it chooses to.

Click here for the full post from's David Newton.

10:15AM ET Sunday update: Click here for the first video from Mayfield and a great story from Marty Smith of ESPN. Please read the story, it has some disturbing details.

9AM ET Sunday update: NASCAR fires back with PR exec. Ramsey Poston's statement: "Jeremy Mayfield was verbally informed of the substance on three occasions last week by NASCAR's Medical Review Officer."

11:45PM ET Saturday update: article (click here to read) sums-up Mayfield's comments and has direct quotes. Reveals the reality of the situation as he sees it.

9:15PM ET Saturday update: Click here for the link to the Dustin Long story about his conversation with Mayfield on the drug suspension. Mayfield denies ever being told what the drug was and still has no knowledge. Probably a lawsuit coming.

8:40PM ET Saturday update: Mayfield was spotted on top of a hospitality trailer in the infield at LMS. Outstanding reporter Dustin Long then talked to Mayfield. Here is the message Long quickly sent:

Mayfield denies taking illegal drug ... says not been told by Nascar what caused positive test ... hints @ legal action

That certainly helps to understand where this issue is in the Mayfield camp. Thanks to Dustin for the info. AP reporter Jenna Fryer said she was "stunned" to see Mayfield at the track.

Update: It is not known who is advising Mayfield about how to approach this issue. Often, both a lawyer and a public relations agency get involved when someone in the public eye has to deal with a troubling situation like a drug suspension. One thing, however, remains the truth. Mayfield could quiet the entire situation with the NASCAR media with one or two well-constructed sentences. Speculation and innuendo can only be ended by one thing. That is the truth.

Click here to review the TDP story about the recent video released by the rock group Saving Abel and starring Jeremy Mayfield. In the video, Mayfield is being portrayed as a racer who is mired in an endless struggle to get back to the big time.

The irony of this video and Mayfield's recent drug suspension has not been lost on many NASCAR fans and journalists. Today, we are waiting for Mayfield's response to the most recent news from NASCAR about his suspension and current status.

Click here for the original TDP column on Mayfield and the over 100 comments from readers.

Earlier this week, Shana Mayfield indicated that she would be the Mayfield Motorsports interim owner and JJ Yeley would be driving for the team. She also said her husband would be addressing the issues currently facing him with a statement this weekend.

So far, the NASCAR media has made a mess of this story. Only ESPN has been front-and-center with the issue and addressed it on NASCAR Now from a clear-cut news perspective. The decision by SPEED to avoid it on Sunday during Wind Tunnel and on Monday during This Week In NASCAR was something that network will have to live with as the story continues to progress.

Once Mayfield issues his statement, TDP will update this column. In the meantime, please feel free to share with us your thoughts on the media coverage of this issue. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to stop by The Daly Planet.