Sunday, October 3, 2010
Good Morning! It's "RaceDay" With Darrell Waltrip
SPEED continues to offer more opportunities to Darrell Waltrip for on-air participation. This weekend, Waltrip called the ARCA race and Sprint Cup Series qualifying from Kansas. He wraps-up his Midwestern swing on Sunday morning at 10AM with two hours of RaceDay.
Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace are the panelists on the program. John Roberts is the host. Hermie Sadler and Wendy Venturini report from the infield. Waltrip is not taking the place of anyone, he is just being added as another voice on the panel. At least, that is what SPEED would like you to believe.
There is little doubt from his endless messages on Twitter and his active participation on Sirius radio and other media outlets that Waltrip wants more exposure. After several years of working during the FOX portion of the season and then fading from view, Waltrip finally has the opening that can make it happen.
The man who originally hired "ole DW" and crafted his on-air personality, David Hill, is now in charge at SPEED. Hill has put his hands all over SPEED this season and Waltrip is one of his favorite people. Hill is an Australian who now lives in Los Angeles, CA and was introduced to NASCAR slightly over a decade ago.
It was Humpy Wheeler's TV executive daughter Patti who held Hill's hand as he learned what these rednecks were doing racing in circles. At the time, Humpy was still the ringmaster at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Hill got a lot more than the nickel tour of the sport. Millions of dollars and many years later, FOX is more deeply identified with NASCAR than TNT or ESPN.
Hill sees Waltrip as the real face of the sport because he is the only former driver in the FOX combo of Jeff Hammond, Larry McReynolds and Waltrip. The two former crew chiefs might know the details, but it's Waltrip's homespun personality and championship background that Hill admires.
As we know from Waltrip's experiences on the Trackside program he can be an engaging interviewer and an outstanding analyst. Viewers also know he can be self-centered and short-tempered. Waltrip sees himself as the senior partner in the NASCAR on FOX TV team.
When Jimmy Spencer teamed with Wallace on RaceDay the show was often over the top. Skits included a mock courtroom complete with robes and wigs, Wallace dancing on the desk in commercial break and Spencer's out of control rants on racing topics across the board.
Now, things have changed. Petty has come on board and teamed with Roberts to establish a very different vibe. A thoughtful Petty has change the tone of the show and how the panel does business on the air. This has been a major challenge for Wallace.
Once an engaging and vibrant on-air personality, Wallace often finds himself beginning his comments with a tired line. "Listen to me race fans," he says. Then the remainder of the time is filled with Wallace telling TV viewers what to think and why he knows he is right. It's gotten old.
The presence of Waltrip as an added party signals the continuing evaluation of what contribution Waltrip can make to this program and how his personality blends with Petty and Roberts. TV is often cruel because change comes on a very public stage.
The other pieces of this puzzle fit. Venturini and Sadler move seamlessly through the garage while Roberts and Petty give each other mutual respect that shows clearly on camera. Wallace is the odd man out.
Wallace does not appear on other SPEED shows like Trackside, Race Hub or NASCAR Live. He does not work on any race, qualifying or practice telecasts. He continues to race full time in the Nationwide Series, despite being at the tail end of a very colorful career.
It won't be known what form RaceDay will take next season or who the members of the on-air crew will be until later this year. SPEED has a nasty habit of never admitting a show has been cancelled or a talent has been removed from a program. Instead, the TV schedule just changes or the personality is said to be reassigned. Such was the tale of Spencer. Such is the nature of TV.
Guests on RaceDay will include Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Mark Martin. The temperature on the outdoor SPEED Stage at 10AM ET should be around 45 degrees. There are eight TV programs remaining in this series for 2010.
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