Thursday, March 17, 2011

Waltrip And Wallace Share Bristol Media Spotlight

Last month NASCAR on FOX Lead Analyst Darrell Waltrip got on an airplane and flew to Bristol, TN with ESPN's Lead Infield Analyst Rusty Wallace. Waltrip later remarked that putting him on the same airplane with Wallace was like putting Jeff Burton in the same ambulance with Jeff Gordon last year in Texas.

These two very distinct personalities were in town to promote the fact that longtime Bristol race sponsor Food City was renaming the March Sprint Cup Series race the Jeff Byrd 500. In October of 2010, the former Bristol Motor Speedway General Manager lost his battle with cancer. It is a fitting tribute.

"In all my years of being around race tracks," said Waltrip. "I know of no one that was more loved and more respected than Jeff Byrd." The live press conference was streamed online as BMS continues to cement it's reputation as a group that understands the power of the Internet and the role of social media among race fans.

Waltrip will be in his normal role on Sunday for FOX. He will start in the infield on the pre-race show at 12:30PM ET and then move to the broadcast booth to call the race. Normally, he is then seen on-camera when the event is over offering his summary of the action. Clearly, Waltrip is the face of NASCAR on FOX.

This week Wallace will share that TV stage. Dale Jarrett has the weekend off, so Wallace will be in the ESPN TV booth alongside Marty Reid and Andy Petree in the Lead Analyst position for the Nationwide Series race. In support of his role, ESPN has worked hard to get Wallace as much exposure this week as possible.

On Monday, a feature story on Wallace appeared on by reporter Erik Spanberg. Click here to read it. The story came on the heels of the news that Wallace had signed a contract extension with ESPN that would carry him through 2014. That is the final year of the current TV contract between ESPN and NASCAR. Clearly, Rusty was a top priority to ESPN.

Two of the quotes from the Spanberg story are very interesting in terms of NASCAR TV:

"Oh my God, I’ve learned so much in television, it’s unreal," said Wallace. "You can be the greatest driver in the world, but if you can’t explain it correctly, you’re no good."

"I really had a bad habit of trying to dominate the conversations (and) talk way too fast, that was a real big hit on me," Wallace explained. "I really had to go back and listen to some of my work. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to it early enough. I think I could have been better quicker. Now when I listen to what I did back in ‘07 and ‘08 and I listen to what we’re doing now, I think it’s way different. I understand. The way you pause in between your sentences, the way you share the microphone. I’m constantly learning. I’m totally open to it."

There is perhaps no tougher stage for a NASCAR TV analyst than trying to tackle a live race at Bristol. Short laps, fast action and a hectic pace means that the play-by-play announcer and the pit reporters are moving a lot of information to the TV viewers. Trying to step-in with analysis without stepping on the call of the race is a delicate balance.

TDP readers may remember that in 2007 Wallace was the original analyst up in the TV booth and had Dr. Jerry Punch alongside calling the action. First Wallace and then Punch wound-up getting moved out of those high-profile positions. Wallace moved to the infield and made way for Dale Jarrett while Punch returned to pit road and Marty Reid took over the play-by-play role.

Since SPEED will be handling all the practice and qualifying coverage for the Nationwide Series at BMS, Wallace will not get any on-air practice before the race. There will simply be a one-hour pre-race show at 1PM ET and then the live race at 2PM on Saturday.

Just like Wallace, Waltrip's TV contract was recently extended until 2014 as well. FOX has been working hard on raising the visibility of Waltrip on sister network SPEED and continually puts him in high-profile roles on news programs and specials.

Waltrip has also been working the media hard, including a first-time appearance on the SpeedFreaks radio program. Click here to listen to the entire interview.

Some of Waltrip's TV and social media comments were interesting. Here are some excerpts:

"I've learned a lot in the last year and a half," said Waltrip. "I'm on Twitter. I'm on Facebook and I've just started recently on YouTube. I've learned so much from fans. In the TV booth, I keep my iPad on and follow Twitter during the race."

"We (FOX) are very unstructured and we never rehearse. We found out early on that rehearsing really screws us up. I watch the other group (ESPN) and they rehearse all the time. That's all they do. They rehearse three hours. I have enough knowledge and all of us (at FOX) have kind of been around enough that it's hard to stump us."

Waltrip's point is well-taken. Reid has been having trouble with his NASCAR knowledge and Jarrett's lack of emotion during a race continues to be puzzling. Only Petree has been the steady influence for ESPN since the network returned to the sport five seasons ago.

It should be very interesting to watch Wallace on Saturday and then Waltrip on Sunday. Two former drivers who were once bitter rivals working in the TV booth at the very track that helped propel them to stardom. Both men draw the same reactions from fans. There is no middle ground.

Love them or hate them, it will be Wallace and Waltrip as key players in NASCAR's return to national TV on this critical weekend of racing.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. 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.


longtimeracefan said...

Lord, help us all.

52 yr. fan said...

Send in the clowns.

Anonymous said...

So if Waltrip has all of that digital media access available to him can he not read?


TexasRaceLady said...

52 yr. fan said...
Send in the clowns.

Sadly, the clowns have already appreared. *sigh*

Thank goodness for the mute button.

Anonymous said...
So if Waltrip has all of that digital media access available to him can he not read?


At least he's being talked about. Any publicity is good publicity -- right?

Vince said...

I'm getting a headache just thinking about those two being in the booth this weekend. The only thing worse would be having them in the booth at the same time trying to out do each other.

I'll have my Tylenol and mute button ready. The races are broadcast on PRN this weekend, right?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up, JD. I won't waste my time listening to DW and Rusty. Sad to hear DJ has the weekend off. A couple of guys with fat, new contracts will undoubtedly unload on the viewers this weekend. Lord help us!

52 yr. fsn said...

Texas Race Lady: You are right.
Sondheim, when commenting about the song, saying "we are here, we are the fools".

The Mad Man said...

Time to break out the earplugs, Pepto, and take a couple of tranquilizers to be able to handle this weekends' broadcasts. How many/much excuses, plugs, shills, and cheerleading will we be forced to endure? God help us all watching at home.

Anonymous said...

If they have learned so very much when will they apply it?We are doomed.
This is my personal version of Hades and Satan. Thanks for the warning JD.

Unknown said...

I certainly hope that the previous posters follow through with their promises not to watch the races this weekend, so that I may return here to the blog to discuss actual race coverage without dredging through unproductive, hate-filled commentary.

It is a sad state of affairs for the blog that no comments thus far have even touched on the substance of the article which was quite informative in highlighting these personalities divergent approaches towards broadcasting and the lessons that they have learned in their time in front of the camera.

I must applaud JD (who is perhaps not the biggest fan of the television work of DW and RW) for an article that is both informative and hits the exact right tone for opening a discussion on these television personalities at a crucial moment when they are in the spotlight.

Anonymous said...

Get ready Saturday! We will see plenty of the RWR 64 & 66 cars. Hopefully Rusty hasn't started his day with 5-hour energy.

GinaV24 said...

I can live without the mouths that roar.

Supposed to be a nice weekend here in NJ -- I think raking the yard will be less stressful than a weekend of racing dominated by the two guys that I find most annoying in the booth.

Debby said...

Oh Lord!! Like I posted earlier this week, I will miss my DJ!

Don B said...

As a driver , I loved Rusty Wallace, as an announcer,I love David Hobbs.....Rusty and Dw in the same booth, what time does the Women's NCAA bracket selection show start???

Anonymous said...

Rusty Wallace is the man. No driver has ever drove the high banks of bristol like Rusty...NOBODY. The man deserves respect as a driver. 4 wins from the pole in the modern era at this track...unbeleivable. Cale and DW were good but not "Rusty-Good". It's too bad Steve (Wallace) has to contend against all these cup drivers...he, without a doubt, would get a win here if they were GONE. I wish they would give a chance to the "up and coming" drivers to get in their cars and give them a chance to make a name for themselves. If there aren't any of these drivers (to make a name for themselves), then who do we expect to take over the cup series in the future when the current drivers are long gone? I think it's a damn shame.

Anonymous said...

Mark Garrow should replace Marty Reid. This weekend like many others, I'll get online and listen to the scanners on TRACKPASS during the race. With the 7 second delay I can jump to the scanner where the action is. Y'all should try it>

Anonymous said...

During their driving careers, I was not a fan of DW or TW. I did respect their abilities and accomplishments as drivers.

As broadcasters, I still respect their accomplishments as drivers; but that's about it. They primarily serve to illustrate the principle that stardom in a sport is no guarantee of success as a coach, owner, broadcaster, etc. I regret that their present employers are so taken with their success as drivers and so oblivious to their lack of talent and discipline as broadcasters.

Unknown said...

I'm no DW fan, but to say Rusty was better at Bristol as a driver is laughable.

Study your history much, Anon???

Jonathan said...

I can hang with DW I like him but Rusty drives me crazy! I still watch though never will I not watch just cause of the announcers. Buts thats just me

Anonymous said...

the only reason why dw was any "good" (which is denoted by the # of wins as the only measurement i guess, in this at bristol in the early 80's is because of JUNIOR JOHNSON...ask junior, ask andy petree (who stated this almost verbatim just a couple days ago on "nascar now"), ask jeff hammond, and ask dw himself and he will tell you the exact same thing. Junior knew the car inside and out, he set up the car, and his cars were far above anyone else's. dw just drove the car the way junior told him to and the way junior set the car up for him. Even cale yarborough had a better talent and all-around knowledge of racing a car at bristol than dw did. I'm a racer myself (street stock and hobby stock) and i know a supreme handling car when i see one and i know a superiorly gifted driver when I see one. Rusty's 9 wins were a result of a combination of his driving ability and his technical knowledge of the chassis. His car was NOT superior, performance wise compared, to his competion, unlike dw's cars (like I stated above) because of the thickening of the rule book over the years and respectively the parity of the field. Junior Johnson was one of the biggest reasons that there were so many rule changes and why there is the level of parity that we have today. the fact that rusty won at bristol in 1986 in a car that was so under funded and so inferior to the likes of junior johnson's cars for example, is a direct representation that exemplifies rusty's unbelievable ability to set his car up and his superior knowledge of how to apply this to his method of driving on this particular track. dw has even admitted this exact point on national tv that rusty was better overall at bristol than he was because he "simply had a better understanding of the chassis than anyone else's uncanny". It's too bad that there are so many people out there, that are just the "typical" nascar fan that can't separate their feelings from the facts. It is quite evident that some of you (darren) just exaggerate your ignorance with such blatently stupid and uneducated remarks. I hope there is a great deal of thought next time you decide to utter anything at all. I learned to think before i speak when i was like 3 years old. Oh by the way, rusty's social and general i.q. overall is not very high indeed, but his racing i.q. (specifically is mechanical i.q.) is very, very high. Look at ALL THE FACTORS if you want to come to a well-educated, well-researched, and well thought out judgement on something. I sort of thought that this was considered "common sense", but then again, I never am surprised by the likes of people like darren. I have to keep remembering what genre of people (in genereal..NOT ALL) i'm dealing with...ooppss.

Cooter said...

It's unreal how many times Rusty Wallace can say "it's unreal. He uses it as punctuation.
But then, he doesn't say much of value anyway.

Anonymous said...

It's good to see Rusty is at least trying to get better, whereas DW obviously isn't and it shows big time. Unstructured is the word, listen to DW fumble and it's obvious, he does no preparation for the broadcasts.Not knowing the truck series title sponsor, etc, etc.Criticizing others and not even looking at his own work is shameful. Cale had similar success at Bristol in those Junior cars , they were dominant there.

Zieke said...

Anon. 1:13 is correct. Of course we all remember what happened to "Ol DW" when he became an owner & didn't have Junior. He wasted wheelbarrows full of Western Auto's money while taking PCP's and riding around at the back of almost every race. That was one of the most complete embarrassments in NASCAR's history. Bet Rusty is still laughing over that one.