What, exactly, are we about to see at Bristol?
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend sounds like it’s either going to be a complete disaster or a fantastic success.
With the new high downforce rules package in place along with an increase of 200 horsepower from last week’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, the racing there is going to be complete madness.
With these rules I’m expecting it to be three and a half to four G’s,” Brad Keselowski said a couple of weeks ago after winning at Martinsville Speedway. “which is just going to completely rip your arms apart, and if you’re ripping your arms apart, you’re ripping your car apart at the same time.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions and conversations about probably needing to build a special car for that race, but being that we’re in a spot where we’ve won two races, I don’t think we’ll probably do that. I think we’ll just probably run the race and try to survive. But it’ll be a big, big test for the teams and for the drivers, for Goodyear, because the pace should be somewhat outlandish.”
So really powerful race cars with a lot of downforce motoring around a little bull ring like Bristol? That sounds a lot like a sprint car, so look for drivers who come from that background like Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to make a big splash on Sunday.
But, of course, the favorite to win this weekend is Kyle Busch. Busch is going to be looking at turning it around after crashing at Texas, and he just so happens to be heading to one of his best (and favorite) racetracks on the calendar.
What will Darrell Waltrip’s legacy be?
It’s not very often in sports that there’s so much talk during the week about a potential retirement in the booth, but yet here we are.
It began in earnest last week, when Jenna Fryer of the AP noted on Twitter that Darrell Waltrip, the longtime NASCAR on FOX broadcaster and Hall of Fame driver, may be leaving the organization following this year. Adam Stern of Sports Business Daily would later tweet that Waltrip was “considering retirement”.
➖ Announcement could come in next couple weeks.
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) March 29, 2019
This week, after a few more days of speculation, FOX Sports finally revealed that 2019 will be his final season in the booth. Waltrip ends his announcing career after 19 seasons with FOX, and next year will be the first the broadcaster will not have the Kentucky native call any races.
Honestly, it was time for Waltrip to go. He hasn’t been in a race car in competition since 2006, since 2000 if we’re talking about Cup. At one point, Waltrip was a great announcer. But those days are long gone, and it’s just tough for him to talk about what the modern driver is doing in a racecar when we all know he never had to deal with it back in his day.
It might just be me, but it also seems like Waltrip has been just not as enthusiastic as he used to be recently. Can’t tell you how many times he’s started making a point but then started to trail off in the middle of it. And I think a big reason for this has been the phasing out of old buddy Larry McReynolds from the booth and the addition of Jeff Gordon.
But there needed to be changes. The booth of McReynolds, Waltrip, and anchored by Mike Joy needed a new voice, somebody who had competed in the sport in the past 15 years. Gordon was able to solve that, but created another problem by having two drivers in the booth.
Ultimately, however, did Waltrip ruin his legacy by spending ten years being an old announcer? Honestly, maybe. Waltrip used to be the coolest driver in NASCAR; the Waltrip we see today is a far cry from the 70’s version, where he’d brag about coming to NASCAR to beat Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough. Waltrip was the first real “villain” of the sport, somebody who has inspired a number (Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Kyle Busch for just two) of drivers since.
That’s on top of being one of the greatest drivers in the sport’s history, the master of being able to pace his equipment and get the most out of it. That’s why he was so dominant at short tracks and the Coca-Cola 600, races that are very demanding on the race car.
But people don’t think about that with Waltrip. My generation thinks of him as some old guy who yells “Boogity” and contradicts Gordon on a near weekly basis, and that’s an absolute shame. I only hope that once he leaves the booth for good, we can starting learning about and remembering “DW” the driver and not “DW” the announcer.
So, who will FOX promote?
FOX Sports employs a number of different talents that could fill the hole “DW” will leave in the announcer’s booth. Obviously nobody, probably not even FOX itself, knows who will go up there and sit between Joy and Gordon. I’ve complied an entirely-too-early-list from the most likely to least likely names that might get the call-up:
A top current crew chief: With McReynolds having a noticeably reduced role this season, it might be high time for FOX to go to the NBC route and lure an active crew chief away from their current job. Chad Knaus in particular should be a huge target for FOX to try and grab; he’s done with Johnson and does a great job with FOX already in studio.
McReynolds: The safest option. McReynolds has years upon years of experience broadcasting, and it would be interesting to see the dynamic he’d bring without DW. At the same time, though, he’s been around forever and sometimes he doesn’t seem to be fluent in the English language.
Michael Waltrip: A Waltrip for a Waltrip? Michael is basically a younger Darrell, just less outspoken and without the credibility of being a Hall of Famer.
Jamie McMurray: Of all of the people on the regular FOX payroll, McMurray has the most recent Cup experience. But didn’t really seem to wow in the booth last year for some NASCAR Xfinity Series races.
Ricky Craven: Did an okay job when he was covering some NXS races for ESPN, but he seems like a better fit in studio.
Bobby Labonte: It would be strange if Gordon and Labonte ended up being in the same announcer’s booth after beginning their Cup career in the same rookie class.
A media member without racing experience: Unless Joy is retiring, there’s really no need for it. What could they really bring to the coverage?
Phil Parsons: Having a former owner in the booth would be a new take to say the least, but is it really a take anybody is interested in?
Kevin Harvick: Harvick has already denied that he’s interested in it.
Nobody: Just Joy and Gordon would be interesting to watch, but honestly there’s too much going on-track for a two man booth to work in motor sports.
Digger the Gopher: April Fool’s was Monday, right? Just making sure.
What will be the fallout to the latest episode of “The Young And The Qualified”?
Last week, this column pointed out just how dumb of an idea it was for NASCAR to paint single car qualifying as this boogeyman that nobody wanted for no real reason. After yet another disastrous qualifying session at Texas, NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell finally admitted to Sirus XM on Monday that yes, the sanctioning body might have to go to single-car qualifying on intermediate tracks.
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) April 1, 2019
Continuing to blame the drivers and the teams led to this response by Harvick on his radio show:
.@KevinHarvick reacts to Steve O'Donnell's comments on #TMDNASCAR and offers his perspective on qualifying and what happened at Texas #HappyHours @StewartHaasRcng @KHIManagement #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/CX9Puylzci
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) April 3, 2019
So, once again, NASCAR is trying to shift blame for their terrible decision to continue to try and put a square peg into a round hole while filling the square peg with Play-Doh. And the sad thing is that there are still people in the media and on social media who think the sport will be in a worse place by going to single car qualifying on these big tracks.
Here’s a good question to ask: if you’re still, for some reason, in support of group qualifying on intermediate racetracks, where drafting means everything and the last car out is probably winning the pole, why are you not in support of group qualifying at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway?
Because, at the heart of this issue, both track types have the exact same issue when it comes to group qualifying. So, why isn’t NASCAR pushing for group qualifying again at Daytona and Talladega? Why did they test a similar high-downforce rules package to what we have now at Michigan and Indianapolis in 2015 and went to single car qualifying in those events? Nobody will answer these questions because there is no logical way to do so.
Now, with all of this being said, should NASCAR do single car qualifying at all racetracks? Personally I feel so, but it wouldn’t be a smart business decision to do so. Drivers, fans, and teams seem to like it, as do the tracks. Group qualifying is like ketchup. There’s some things you shouldn’t put ketchup on, like cereal. Milk, or single car qualifying, would be a better alternative there.
But you shouldn’t throw the ketchup out entirely, because the rest of your household wants to use it to put on burgers or hot dogs. And nobody is arguing to do so, unless your family is just kinda weird like that.