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Odds and Ends Around the Track: Bristol Spring

Odds and Ends Around the Track: Bristol Motor Speedway Spring

There is some sort of NASCAR-history-poetry-in-motion thing that we are discussing Darrell Waltrip before heading to Bristol Motor Speedway. Nobody had more wins there than DW, with 12 in his career and a mind-blowing seven in a row. Nothing ticks me off more than when I see a journalist take a shot at someone who has earned our collective respect. The AP’s Jenna Fryer is an amazing writer. Her job is to break the news. But sometimes, I just wish journalists weren’t as good at their jobs.

DW Deserves More R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Polarizing figures in sports never win everyone over.

Waltrip has laughed all the way to the bank by letting people make fun of his yapping since he first entered the sport in 1972. He embraced his “Jaws” nickname once he realized it would sell more T-shirts. DW has continued being mouthy from the first day they turned his microphone on in the announcer’s booth. He has never stopped being DW.

Waltrip loves NASCAR, and he isn’t shy letting us know that. Did you notice that nobody ever told Barney Hall or Joe Moore that it was time to hang it up? They were not as great in their final years as they were in their so-called primes, but who cares? I would give anything to hear one more race with Barney and Joe in the booth, Dave Moody and Mike Bagley in the corners and Winston Kelley and Steve “The Postman” Post on pit lane.

But nobody dared pick on Hall because he was the Ernie Harwell of NASCAR! I better offer a little history lesson for the young folks. Harwell was the play-by-play voice for the Detroit Tigers baseball team from 1960 through the 1991 season. Since he was no longer the hip voice management thought was needed to attract younger fans to the sport, Harwell was let go and the older fans revolted. After a year of exile with the California Angels, Harwell returned in 1993 and retired on his own terms in 2002.

Jenna Fryer referred to the Fox Sports’ style as a “Cracker-Barrel Down-Home Cornpone yukfest” with all of those adjectives used as sharp knives stuck in the back of a three-time champion who deserved better. Using DW’s trademark “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity” in the title was an even cheaper shot!

Thankfully, the Godfather of Motorsports, Dave Moody had DW’s back and removed those knives in a wonderful article that said what many of us “old school fans” wanted to say. I know I am not the target demo that NASCAR needs to attract right now, being a white male in his late 50s.

When I tune into a NASCAR pre-race show on television, I would rather see Bob Pockrass give me a report than Alan Cavanna. It’s not that Cavanna isn’t great at what he does, it is just that Pockrass is a real NASCAR reporter to me. But Cavanna appeals to that younger fan, and I understand that part of the entertainment equation.

Likewise, I understand that maybe it’s time for a change in the NASCAR booth. During my cross-generational sports podcast “Two Guys Talking Sports” on DMICmedia.com, I have learned a lot working with a 20-something sports guy JD as my co-host. I have tried to point out that just because NBA players are bigger, faster and more athletic, that doesn’t mean they are better basketball players than the old-timers.

I have also learned that sports fans have changed. When I was in my teens and 20s, I loved hearing the old-time player stories during baseball games or NASCAR races. In fact, I still do even if they are guys that were long gone before I started following the sport. Maybe the reminiscing about the history of the sport is not as popular with today’s younger fans. Getting old happens to all of us. Waltrip is 72 years old. Mike Joy will turn 70 later this year. They are both closer to the end of their careers than the beginning.

While I understand it’s the job of the journalist to break news, sometimes I wish they would just let people who gave so much to their profession have a chance to leave on their own terms with an announcement at a time of their choosing. Truth be told, I spent more time rooting against DW as a driver than I ever did for him. But love him or hate him he deserves more respect than he has received from NASCAR Nation this week. I guess some people don’t know how to spell that word anymore.

Qualifying Conundrum

When NASCAR returns to a speedway for qualifying on May 9 at Kansas Speedway, they should bring the officials to the track in a clown car.

NASCAR has managed to screw up the simple act of qualifying for a race. A few years ago, someone in charge at NASCAR got the bright idea that qualifying needed to be a show. Gone were the boring one-car qualifying runs that had been deemed to be the proper way to set the field for years in favor of group qualifying. Now, instead of watching one car at a time, we get to watch 40 cars sitting on pit lane for the first seven minutes of a qualifying session without moving.

NASCAR changed the rules before Texas Motor Speedway when all 12 of the cars in the final round failed to make it to the start/finish line to get a lap in during the session and all 75 fans in attendance at Auto Club Speedway booed. NASCAR failed to officiate the qualifying at Texas when Ryan Newman clogged up the middle lane and wasn’t called for his infraction. NASCAR officials sounded like Wile E. Coyote saying, “Back to the old drawing board.” Don’t worry NASCAR, no matter how you try to fix qualifying so nothing bad happens again, the NASCAR crew chiefs and drivers will figure out a way to screw it up. That is the qualifying conundrum we have nowadays.

Bristol Fantasy Insight

Flashback to Last Week’s Picks

Win: Joey Logano-Finished 17th

Place: Kyle Busch-Finished 10th

Show: Martin Truex Jr.-Finished 12th

Long Shot: Denny Hamlin-WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER

NASCAR really needed to get back to a short track after last week’s latest qualifying debacle. The actual race at Texas was good, so it appears teams and NASCAR are getting this new rule’s package tuned better. Now it’s back to the high banks of Bristol, and while it doesn’t have that beat-and-bang, old-style short track feel like it had years ago, it is always exciting.

It is absolutely impossible to get away from the competition at Bristol. Lapped traffic guarantees an exciting race. Kyle and Kurt Busch have a combined 13 wins there, compared to only two for Kevin Harvick, but you can count on Harvick to be up front all day with a top rating of 188. Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are the other top-of-the-ratings-chart guys for this week.

Win: Kevin Harvick-Super consistent here but hasn’t won in the daylight here since 2005

Place: Kyle Busch-Seven career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins at BMS

Show: Kurt Busch-Please God, don’t let it snow this weekend

Long Shot: Jimmie Johnson– (25-to-1 Odds) Give me Johnson at 25-to-1 any track any time

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About Dennis Michelsen

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Dennis a.k.a. DMIC has been covering NASCAR racing since 1998. After spending 23 years as a professional weather forecaster, Dennis still didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up, so he started covering auto racing full time. He is the moderator of the Race Track Business Conference - an all-day educational seminar covering the business of speed - and is the owner of DMIC Media & Marketing where he spends his time mouthing off about all kinds of sports. He is also the play-by-play voice for the professional Ultimate Disc team the Chicago Wildfire of the American Ultimate Disc League. Dennis can be heard every Saturday on The Final Inspection on 105.7FM The Fan in Milwaukee, Wis. talking NASCAR, and you can listen on the Radio.com app.

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13 comments

  1. Avatar

    Does anyone else reconcile the new NA$CAR qualifying rounds to the F1 model? It’s working out a little better.

  2. Avatar

    DW was a good announcer when he first got started in the booth. Unfortunately, “Jaws” took over later on and he dominated everything. While I do agree that it is time for him to retire, I agree with you that the disrespect shown is not correct. This man is a multiple time champion and long-time driver in this sport and deserves respect.

    I kind of like sb’s idea. I would watch the heck out of a show or podcast that would have him, or drivers like Dale Jarrett, Mark Martin, etc., talking about the history of the sport. Unfortunately, we might be in the minority. With NASCAR aiming for the younger crowd now, not sure just how many of them would be interested and if it would be enough to justify it.

  3. Avatar

    The classier way for DW to exit would be for him to realize it’s time for another chapter in his life. He’s a GREAT storyteller…but the booth during a race is not the place for it. Maybe Fox need to give him a podcast with other veterans and keep track of the history of the sport we are losing as those who began with Nascar pass on. At least he has acknowledged that his hair is grey!

    • Avatar

      SB,
      The fact DW is stepping aside after this season is one of the worst kept secrets in the garage area right now, which is why I thought he should be allowed to gracefully exit instead of seeing an article such as the one in the AP.

      Thanks for the feedback!

      DMIC

    • Avatar

      THIS is what the pre-race show should be! Get Ned, DW, Petty, etc. to sit down and chat about crazy stuff that went down “Back in the Day” – Hey! There’s the title for the show! Years ago I bought DW’s book, and some of the stuff he mentions in there is hilarious and quite interesting (things they tried to get away with, mishaps, and so forth). IMO these stories need to be told and kept alive as part of the sport. NASCAR is more than just the last 5 years… I would actually tune in to pre-race to watch this! (can I make that last sentence BOLD UNDERLINED AND FONT 36 so someone at FOX/NBC might see it?)

      To be fair, I’m sure the more “recent” retired veterans (like Martin, the Wallace, Burton and Labonte Brothers, Dale Jarrett, Irvan, etc…) all have some interesting stories as well. Keep them in the mix too! If things get boring, bring in Kenny Schrader!

  4. Avatar

    Thanks for this article, Dennis; I think you are spot on. I am a relatively new NASCAR fan, but in the same age demo as you, Dennis. I’ve always had some interest in racing, but actually became very interested when Danica Patrick was in the sport. That being said, I enjoy listening to the older generation of racers, including DW, and hearing about the history of the sport. I agree that it is probably time for a change in the booth, but there is no need to disrespect or belittle a man who has contributed so much over the years. I think it’s just a sad commentary on the age we live in, people seem to have such a mean-spirited mentality. Grace and class have exited the building.
    I always have a soft spot for guys like DW; let him go out with the respect he deserves. We’ll probably miss him when he is gone. He was a true racer, and I love his enthusiasm. I will also say the same for Michael Waltrip. Say what you will about the guy, he LOVES racing and I think he contributes a lot to the truck series. He’s goofy, yes, but so what? I enjoy some goofiness, some personality! I don’t want cookie cutter boring commentators. Again, we will miss the Waltrip brothers when they are gone, you can bet on it.
    As for qualifying…… NASCAR, please go back to single car qualifying! : )

    • Avatar

      Thanks for the kind words Lynne. I have learned in the past few days that the concept of RESPECT is old fashioned and I am honored to be considered OLD FASHIONED.

      DMIC

  5. Avatar

    I did audiobooks with Ernie , and Barney with Richard . You would love them. The storytelling was amazing

  6. Avatar

    Sorry Dennis, I am in the same demo as you and DW has been a pain. It is all about him that is all. Just like the end of his career where he hogged the champions provisional until they changed the rule. It was embarrassing to watch him trod out there. Boogity boogity was dated when he first uttered it, it was a 1970’s reference. His brother is worse though. He adds nothing. Sorry to disagree with you. Been reading you for years but regarding this I disagree.

    • Avatar

      KU,
      It’s OK to disagree with me heck I often can’t stand what I say!! I just feel there would have been a classier way to do write what Jenna Fryer wrote and a classier way to let the man exit. DW has never changed maybe the times have changed and that is sad. Maybe today’s fans wouldn’t enjoy Benny Parson and the running gags or Buddy Baker and his story telling. Maybe that is called progress or maybe I am just getting old less gracefully than you. Thank you very much for your feedback! DMIC