Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Rusty Wallace Saga Continues

The NASCAR TV world has been a tough environment for Rusty Wallace. Now, that rough road has extended to his racing business.

This from Rusty Wallace Racing on Friday:

Officials of Rusty Wallace Racing announced today that the team's on-track activities will be put on a temporary hiatus. "This was a tough decision to make, but it was the prudent one from a number of perspectives," said Wallace. "We just didn't feel like we had enough sponsorship in place to accomplish all of our goals."

"I promised myself and my family long ago that if the team wasn't funded to a level with which we were comfortable, we just wouldn't run it," continued Wallace. "I've worked way too hard to put part of my life savings into a race team."

Wallace continues to actively seek a ride for his son Steven in the Nationwide Series. RWR's other driver, Michael Annett, and the 35 remaining RWR employees were let go on Friday. There will be no RWR presence in the Nationwide Series in 2012.

Click here for a Dave Rodman interview from Saturday with Wallace on NASCAR.com.

Wallace spoke to Rodman passionately about his state of the art shop and then plead poverty in the same interview. Wallace said he has made absolutely no financial profit since 2004 on his Nationwide Series racing operation, but then said his shop is really designed for two Sprint Cup Series teams.

Five years ago, Wallace was the "Great White Hope" of ESPN. He was paired with loyal ESPN soldier Jerry Punch and former crew chief Andy Petree to anchor ESPN's combined Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series coverage. That honeymoon lasted exactly one year.

Click here to read "ESPN Changes Take Many By Surprise" from January of 2008. Wallace had been moved to the infield and paired with Brad Daugherty and Allen Bestwick. Wallace would continue to appear on the NASCAR Now studio show and also fill-in on select Nationwide Series telecasts when new lead analyst Dale Jarrett was off.

Wallace had clear contempt on the air for certain NASCAR personalities with whom he had clashed as a driver. They included Sprint Cup Series drivers, crew chiefs and owners. It was clear Wallace could not step away from his past and into the new role offered to him as a network TV analyst.

Bestwick proved to be the best thing that ever happened to Wallace in his TV career. A consummate pro, Bestwick kept Wallace on a very short leash and immediately cleaned-up any mess that Wallace made live on the air. Unfortunately, Bestwick could not help Wallace with his off-track issues.

As the picture above documents, Wallace put his trust into a company called US Fidelis. Click here to read "Trouble Brewing For Rusty Wallace And US Fidelis Sponsor" from June of 2009. Rusty and Steven Wallace were featured on TV commercials that ran endlessly across cable TV networks. The Wallace duo personally assured NASCAR fans and general TV viewers that US Fidelis was trustworthy.

It all came crashing down in 2010 in a very big way. Eleven states went after the US Fidelis owners for fraud and deceptive business practices. At the core of the complaint were the misleading TV commercials done by the Wallace father and son. Tens of thousands of people had been defrauded out of millions of dollars and were left with worthless extended warranties.

Click here to read "NASCAR Fans Got Fleeced By US Fidelis" from November of 2010. Neither Wallace ever apologized to NASCAR fans and ultimately it was revealed that RWR was left with over $500 thousand in unpaid sponsor fees by US Fidelis as the company collapsed.

In January of 2011, ESPN decided to sign Wallace as a network analyst through 2014 and the end of the current TV contract. This new comfort level led Wallace to more actively promote his RWR team cars during Nationwide Series telecasts. That led to some interesting moments during the season.

"NASCAR TV's New Lightning Rod" was the most recent TDP column involving Wallace. It was published on August 2 of last season as ESPN's coverage expanded as usual to add the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races to the network's existing Nationwide Series coverage. Click here to read the column and the fan comments.

Now, Wallace begins the final three years of his ESPN contract without a race team, without his son currently driving in any NASCAR series and with the clock ticking on his expensive shop and racing inventory. It's a new perspective brought about by the current economy and perhaps by choices made in the past.

ESPN begins the network's sixth season of NASCAR coverage with the Nationwide Series race from Daytona on February 25. Rusty Wallace will be in the Infield Pit Studio as usual, although this time he will be speaking as both a former driver and a former Nationwide Series owner.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website and comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.