Saturday, October 4, 2008

SPEED's Kenny Wallace Could Be Talladega's Wild Card

That is the crew above that many fans remember from the old Inside NEXTEL Cup Racing TV show on SPEED. Kenny Wallace was just getting into the TV business back then. He was the part-time guy when one of the regulars had to take a Monday off.

Now, Wallace finds himself headlining two of the most popular shows on SPEED at each Sprint Cup race weekend. RaceDay and Victory Lane have each forged a path through the jungle of NASCAR TV shows and formed a bond with the audience.

In a way, it seems that Wallace has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Sunday at Talladega, that will be put to the test.

Veteran fans have a vivid memory of Wallace staying right-in-line behind the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. as he won at Talladega. Kenny gave Sr. the push he needed and understood his role in the race and the sport in general.

Michael Waltrip has shared a lot of TV time with Wallace over the years. Now, Waltrip finds himself in need of someone to help him boost one of his team cars into the Top 35 in points. Someone who can run Talladega, stay patient and understand his role in the race and the sport. He dialed Wallace and made the offer.

This puts together quite an interesting scenario where NASCAR TV is concerned for Sunday. The possibilities are almost endless. Wallace will begin the day with his role as a panelist on RaceDay at 11AM.

On this particular Sunday morning, instead of two hours of conversation with John Roberts and Jimmy Spencer there will be a driver's meeting and sponsor duties. Wallace will be handling two very different tasks at the same time, driver and broadcaster.

Once RaceDay is over, Wallace will be available for an ABC interview during NASCAR Countdown with Allen Bestwick. At 2PM, he will be in the car and ready for a reprise of his famous role. This time, he has Toyota power under the hood and absolutely nothing to lose.

Immediately after the race is over, Wallace reports directly to Victory Lane. While it may not be as the driver with the checkered flag, fans should remember that at Talladega anything can and often does happen. How Wallace finishes this race and what role he plays in the ending could be the story of the weekend.

Expect Wallace in his driver's suit to join Roberts and Spencer as the Victory Lane show on SPEED is in-progress. He has done this before and his firsthand account of the racing made both the program in general and the questions he asked of the guests that much better.

RaceDay has been in a bit of a funk. The program was moved back an hour to clear the TV schedule for the NASCAR Countdown show on ABC. No more pit walks with Wendy Venturini while the activity buzzed around her. No more driver interviews with Hermie Sadler as the drivers waited to be introduced to the huge crowd on the main stage.

Having Wallace in the race will be a good shot in the arm for the TV show. Having him in a MWR car really keeps it almost inside the SPEED family. Waltrip should be able to look in his mirror and see David Reutimann and Wallace looking to line-up the three Toyotas and make some noise.

After the ARCA and Craftsman Truck Series races showed just how hard it is to pass, the Sprint Cup race should be fascinating. In the past, two COT cars were able to just hook-up and run away from the pack under the right circumstances. No doubt Waltrip would like to learn what three cars can do.

So, the day ends for Wallace in Victory Lane reviewing the race highlights and asking questions of the winning driver, crew chief and owner. Regardless of who that is and how the chips fall, the ABC TV crew may find themselves calling the name Kenny Wallace several times as the race gets down to the final laps.

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The Six Degrees Of Michael Waltrip

It was by using the "small world phenomenon" concept that the original Kevin Bacon version of this popular game was created. After the events of this week, there is little doubt that NASCAR's version will have to be called "The Six Degrees of Michael Waltrip."

Just as the original game believes that Bacon is at the center of the entertainment universe, to play the Waltrip version simply requires fans to open their eyes and take a good look around. Michael Waltrip is everywhere.

Let's start the game with ESPN's Brad Daugherty. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat on Wednesday's NASCAR Now. Host Ryan Burr had just introduced him as usual, but Daugherty could barely contain himself. He had something to announce.

It was time for the first connection.

Daugherty explained the new "strategic alliance" that his NASCAR team had just forged. Daugherty's 2009 Sprint Cup team was going to be based in Cornelius, NC. One big race shop would supply all the chassis, the equipment and the technical support for Daugherty's rookie effort. That race shop bears the name of only one man.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

For his day job, Daugherty works in the ESPN Infield Pit Studio. During the Fox portion of the season, the infield studio is called the Hollywood Hotel. Host Chris Myers works with two NASCAR professionals on the pre-race show. One is named Darrell. He has a brother.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

Darrell used to own a Craftsman Truck Series team. That entire series is aired on SPEED. Rick Allen handles the play-by-play for SPEED and his on-air partner is Phil Parsons. Added to the line-up a while back was a third member of the broadcast team.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

Lots of crew chiefs got their start in the Truck Series. One of them is Bootie Barker. Fresh out of Old Dominion University, Barker hooked-up with Truck Series owner Kurt Roehrig to begin his NASCAR career. Bill Davis Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and now Haas CNC are some of the teams that have employed Barker. This week, Barker announced he will be leaving to crew chief for someone new in 2009.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

Barker's TV gig is the popular NASCAR Performance show with Larry McReynolds and Chad Knaus. McReynolds also joins Michael's brother Darrell for the NASCAR on Fox broadcasts. One of the Fox pit reporters is named Steve Byrnes.

On Mondays, Byrnes returns to Charlotte. He hosts a TV program that in one form or another has been on-the-air for over ten years. The program has been through several hosts and a number of panelists. Only one member of the original cast is still on the show.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

SPEED is also the home of the Formula-1 broadcasts. Bob Varsha, the ageless David Hobbs and Steve Matchett call the live races from a studio in Charlotte. Out on the road with the series is reporter Peter Windsor. One of the people he interviews is the head of McLaren's racing operations named Steve Hallam. Mr. Hallam has just announced that after 27 years of Formula-1, he is leaving to work for a new employer.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

SPEED's most popular NASCAR program is RaceDay. John Roberts is the host and retired driver Jimmy Spencer is one of two commentators. The other is the younger brother of Rusty Wallace. His name is Kenny.

This Sunday, Kenny will be racing at Talladega. He was given this opportunity by an owner who used to work on a TV show with him a long time ago on SPEED.

His name is Michael Waltrip.

The Kevin Bacon version of this association game has gone on to become a book, a board game, a charitable organization and a part of modern American culture. Bacon has referred to it in several movies and made several hilarious TV cameos where he quickly tied himself to all those around him.

A while back, rumors spread that Michael Waltrip Racing was done. Out of money, over-extended and doomed to the same path other teams have walked down to their ultimate demise.

Instead, TV viewers find his name everywhere from ESPN to Formula-1. He is calling the Truck Series race for SPEED on Saturday, racing in the Cup event on Sunday and appearing on "his TV show" on Monday. He has just announced a new crew chief and a new director of race engineering for next season.

In Kenny Wallace, Waltrip has one of the most popular NASCAR TV personalities doing RaceDay in the morning, driving an MWR car in the afternoon and then interviewing the winner for SPEED's Victory Lane on Sunday evening.

The only way this game could get any easier is if Waltrip actually won at Talladega with Wallace and David Reutimann pushing him across the line while Rusty and Brad whooped-it-up on ABC from the Infield Studio. Perhaps, infield host Allen Bestwick might join-in as well.

Didn't he used to host a TV show on SPEED with.....

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Craftsman Trucks From Talladega On SPEED

Krista Voda starts the coverage of the NCTS from Talladega on Saturday at 3:30PM. SPEED enjoys this race, but the low count of Trucks in the event may put a whammy on the excitement.

Voda handles a thirty minute preview show called The Set-Up and then turns things over to Rick Allen to call the action. Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will be joining Allen in the booth to analyze the race.

Down on pit road will be the NCTS regulars Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander. Viewers get a positive surprise this week as SPEED has added a third pit reporter. Yep, it's Krista Voda. This high-speed race features some experienced veterans up front and some inexperienced drivers in the back.

Joey Logano is racing, as is Scott Speed and Mike Wallace. Regulars include Ron Hornaday Jr., Todd Bodine and Johnny Benson. The action at the front of the pack should be good. Keep an eye on how many trucks drop out early, there are some Nationwide Series "start and parkers" in this race. That series is off this weekend.

SPEED has presented a no-nonsense approach to this series for years. It goes "old school" with the focus on the action and the teams. The network has tried very hard to make the viewer feel that the NCTS is a family atmosphere. They work to introduce the new young drivers and also to continue the storylines concerning both the race win and the season championship.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Craftsman Truck Series on SPEED from Talladega. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks again for taking the time to drop by The Daly Planet.

Sprint Cup Qualifying On SPEED

Another challenge awaits the SPEED crew as they will try to time-shift qualifying from Noon to 1PM on Saturday afternoon.

The Petit LeMans sports car race is live on SPEED until 1PM, so it will be a pre-recorded Steve Byrnes who hosts the Sprint Cup qualifying. Byrnes will be joined by Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds to call the action. Veterans Wendy Venturini and Bob Dillner will be handling the interviews from pit road.

This should be a rather straightforward session, with Talladega and the restrictor plate making the qualifying simply an exercise in safety for the Top 35 teams.

This post will serve to host your comments about the coverage of qualifying on SPEED. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy directions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.