Saturday, October 25, 2008
Kyle Petty's Black Hat Makes A TV Statement
It is just a little thirty-minute TV program where two panelists talk about the NASCAR topics of the day. Tradin' Paint is a series on SPEED that takes place at the SPEED Stage on each Sprint Cup Series weekend.
The program host is SPEED veteran John Roberts. He leads a two-person panel through a series of topics with a live crowd listening-in as well. This panel consists of a NASCAR driver and a member of the NASCAR media.
While the media member is different almost every week, the driver selected for the program appears on every show. It was Michael Waltrip that got this series off the ground originally several seasons ago. Unfortunately, Waltrip and his new MWR team ran into some problems at Daytona and his credibility took a big hit.
SPEED and Waltrip came to an understanding that he would leave Tradin' Paint. His replacement was a popular one and a great choice for SPEED. Kyle Petty was a proven veteran with a long family history in the sport. He was also about to embark on a part-time TV career with the TNT Network covering the six races that network televises during the summer months.
In 2007, the first year of The Daly Planet, we documented Petty's season on Tradin' Paint. The word "meltdown" was used rather frequently. Petty found that several members of the NASCAR press corps did not agree with everything he said and sometimes disagreed completely. That did not go over well.
Credit goes to Petty for sticking-out the entire season and beginning to get his "TV legs" in this talk show format. Working with Bill Weber and the TNT crew helped tremendously in this pursuit. Weber is foremost a journalist and Petty clearly benefited from working with a veteran media member who also has extensive TV experience.
This year, Petty has been walking a very fine line on the program. His TV skills and ability to talk with anyone on any topic are now outstanding. Reporters like Bob Pockrass and Jenna Fryer who caused titanic Petty meltdowns in 2007 now get a head shake and a smile when they go-off on tangents.
Unfortunately, the dark underlining of this show has been the real meltdown at Petty Enterprises. Kyle has gone from the smiling host of the press conference introducing the Boston Ventures investment firm to now being pushed-out by the CEO of the new company.
The Daly Planet article about the press conference in June was called "SPEED Televises The NASCAR Culture Clash." Click on the title to read the full column. Basically, a non-racing group bought the majority of Petty Enterprises to use the Richard Petty name, logo and properties for their own purposes.
On one hand, Kyle is in the middle of a growing TV career and a new direction in life. On the other, so much of what is personal and almost sacred where his family business and racing is concerned is being forcefully taken away.
This weekend, Tradin' Paint welcomed reporter Bob Pockrass back to the program in Atlanta as the media guest. It was cold outside and Kyle Petty wore a Petty Enterprises jacket and a black baseball hat for his #45 car and its sponsors. Only this week, TV viewers saw that something was different.
In the same way that policemen and firemen put a black band around their badges when a co-worker is lost, Petty had a black band firmly placed right through the numbers on the front of his baseball hat. It was clear for all to see that the #45 car that Kyle had clung-to in memory of his late son Adam was no longer his.
The frustration emerged on a day when it was reported that Boston Ventures CEO David Zucker had said the company would field two cars for 2009, but that Kyle Petty was not going to be involved with either effort. "Part-time if a sponsor could be found" was the phrase used to describe Petty's future opportunities.
Petty's words on that topic came out during a Tradin' Paint discussion about mergers. "I have not seen an acquisition help any team in the sport yet," said Petty about the new wave of outside investors. "I have not seen Boston Ventures help Petty Enterprises be more competitive now than what they were at the beginning of the year."
"When you look at it and ask what do they get (in mergers), I don't have a clue what they get," continued Petty. "You are taking two organizations who are falling or stable and just putting them together. Sometimes, warm water and warm water (combined) just gets colder."
It was a shame that Roberts or Pockrass did not take a moment to ask Petty about the black band on his hat and the future of his beloved #45 car. As the season draws to a close, it is also a shame to see what has happened to the Petty family business. The one thing that is very clear for all to see is the tension on Kyle's face.
Sunday in Atlanta, rookie Chad McCumbee will once again be piloting the #45 Petty Dodge in the Sprint Cup Series race starting from the 41st position. While Kyle Petty may have been in Atlanta for Tradin' Paint, he is not working on the TV broadcast of the race and may once again not even be at the track on Sunday.
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