Sunday, June 13, 2010
Darrell Waltrip Debuts On "RaceDay"
Kyle Petty has been a welcome addition to the two-hour Sprint Cup Series pre-race show on SPEED called RaceDay. Taking over for Jimmy Spencer, Petty turned the show into an open and honest discussion of various NASCAR topics.
Now, Petty is off for six weeks working on the TNT telecasts. SPEED tapped Spencer to return for Pocono and New Hampshire, but it was the announcement that Darrell Waltrip would step-in for the other four shows that raised some eyebrows.
Traditionally, Waltrip has gone away from the sport after the FOX portion of the Sprint Cup Series was done. Elliott Sadler has taken over Waltrip's role on Trackside for the past couple of years. Jeff Hammond has taken Waltrip's place in the TV booth as SPEED covers Cup Series practice and qualifying.
Now, Waltrip is back. He is also back on Trackside and in the TV booth for those four weekends. While those are familiar roles, RaceDay is not. This program is a mix of outdoor weather, raucous crowds and controversial topics.
Part of Spencer's demise was his often cutting and sometimes outrageous comments on RaceDay. On topics from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Joey Logano, Spencer never minced words. Unfortunately, he sometimes went to extremes in the words that he chose to use.
Waltrip is walking into two hours of unscripted opinion. He is joining a partner who has a tired act of lecturing the TV audience and playing to the crowd with over-the-top antics. Kenny Wallace is going through what Spencer went through last season.
Two rising stars in NASCAR TV are Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler. They have moved from two RaceDay reporters who roam the garage to two sharp TV anchors who have their own infield set. This duo provides the vast majority of the credible news content for the two hours.
The role of Waltrip and Wallace on RaceDay will be to provide opinion on the topics offered by host John Roberts. Over the years, Roberts has become a total professional at apologizing. Fortunately, that has changed since Petty has come on the program. This season, Roberts has been smiling a lot.
Waltrip has experienced a tough couple of months on FOX. He positions himself as a spokesman for the sport even while playing favorites. In one breath he declares the Daytona 500 as the best race of the season. That race is on FOX. Then, during the event he calls out for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to pass Jamie McMurray in the final laps. It was raw emotion, he explained.
While the racing action can sometimes dull the pain of Waltrip's comments, there is no such distraction on the two hours of RaceDay. It is simply going to be all DW all the time. While Wallace will have his say, all eyes and ears will be on Waltrip.
Unlike Trackside, where there are guests on the set and four panelists, Waltrip is going to find himself constantly being asked for opinions on topics that he did not select. On RaceDay, things happen live and they happen fast.
Sunday, there will be no Mike Joy, Jeff Hammond or Larry McReynolds for Waltrip. There will only be an existing crew of on-air and production folks who have been working on this series for a long time. In many ways, Waltrip is a very big fish who has suddenly found himself in someone else's pond.
Sunday morning at 10AM ET on SPEED we will all find out just how well Waltrip gets along in his new assignment.
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