I’ll fully admit that I am in a lot of pain right now after a fall at St. Louis Lambert International Airport Monday after covering the NASCAR race weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
Additionally, I unfortunately cannot give you all that much in regards to behind-the-scenes TV content from Gateway. Didn’t really see much of the TV personalities from FOX Sports, with the exception of Michael Waltrip, who I saw running down pit road after his Grid Walk before running up the stairs to the booth.
Having since watched Sunday’s broadcast of the Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter in the NASCAR Cup Series, two specific things stand out.
One was the inclusion of Kenny Wallace into the broadcast booth for the entirety of stage two.
The other was the complete lunacy that was the Denny Hamlin–Ross Chastain–Chase Elliott spat(s).
In Wallace’s case, he was already at the track hosting a one-time revival of SPEED’s old Trackside show with John Roberts. He lives nearby and likely would have been there anyway, of course.
As we all know, Wallace is an excitable fellow. That’s always been the case, even before he ever did television. That’s probably why everyone likes him so much. He can be off the wall at times, but you can tell with him that everything comes from a good place.
On paper, Wallace was supposed to be a guest in the booth, but in practice, he was more like the guest analyst for the time he was there instead of Waltrip. I honestly couldn’t tell you why Waltrip was the guy in the booth for this week. It’s as if they drew straws for last weekend and he was up. On the other hand, perhaps it was just because he would have already been there for Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event.
With Wallace in the booth, there was no reason for Waltrip to be there. He can do anything that Waltrip can do — and better. Wallace also likely works better with Clint Bowyer than Waltrip does. They’re both off the wall at times, but Wallace can be a bit more measured in his zanies. Then again, Wallace is 58 now. Perhaps he’s slowing down a little (this is his final substantial season of dirt racing).
Wallace confirmed that he was going to do the Trackside stage show months in advance of the race. I’m pretty sure that FOX Sports knew that as well and used that knowledge to ask him to come up to the booth. It should have just asked him to do the whole dang thing and let Waltrip fly back to Charlotte after Saturday’s race.
But in regards to the aforementioned complete stupidity, Wallace more or less took the lead with that. He talked about how drivers that he raced with, such as the late Dick Trickle, described such situations. Of course, Trickle wasn’t really talking about racing in the Cup Series most of the time, rather his barnstorming days on midwestern short tracks when you needed a level of cooperation in order to have the best possible races.
You could definitely argue that some of the antics that you saw Sunday is an extension of drivers who generally don’t have to pay for or fix anything they wreck. Trickle was not one of those guys, and neither was Wallace when he was coming up through the ranks. He had to help fix his own stuff more or less until Felix Sabates bought into the NASCAR Xfinity Series team he was driving for in 1992.
After the Elliott spin, which wasn’t even really Chastain’s fault (I agree with the broadcast on this one), the whole thing devolved into roller derby … or wrestling infused with roller derby. Hamlin was like a big beefy blocker against Chastain’s jammer.
And before I go on, yes, I watched RollerJam when it was on TNN. For the sake of this argument, Hamlin is Tim Washington (No. 17, Enforcers) in this clip. His desire is to do the mechanical equivalent to Chastain of what happens to Tony Santiago here.
That has to hurt.
Now, that didn’t happen during Sunday’s race, but Hamlin has effectively pledged retribution at some point. It could be this weekend in Sonoma, later this summer or in the playoffs, but he’s going to try it at some point.
The booth found this whole thing ridiculous. Which it was. This whole retribution stuff drives me nuts. My understanding is that seeing Cup drivers doing ridiculous stuff on TV leads to stupid stuff on the local scene. Things are getting out of control, and I don’t believe these Cup drivers realize the amount of power that they have.
Overall, there was a fair amount of racing for position. The early part of the race (effectively all of stage one) was rather boring; there wasn’t much of anything going on. As the race continued on, it seemed to get better.
I found that even outside of the time that Wallace was in the booth, Waltrip just didn’t bring much to the broadcast. He’s not particularly used to being on the Cup broadcasts these days other than the Grid Walks, which really aren’t stellar. It says something that Hamlin dissed him for some of his past ridiculousness during the Put it Out segment (all in gest, of course, since Hamlin and Waltrip are basically best friends).
FOX Sports 1 did a decent job covering the stupidity that was the let’s-gang-up-on-Chastain stuff going on. Hamlin and Elliott taking swipes on the restart reminded me of what happened to Dale Earnhardt after he won The Winston in 1987, but this was under green.
There was nothing intentional about what Chastain did, but his driving is wearing on his opponents. The only time that it wasn’t good was a directorial decision to completely cut away when Chastain dove to the inside of Hamlin entering turn 3. It almost looked like Hamlin was going to turn down on him and give Chastain the right rear treatment. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
Post-race coverage was split into the final battle between Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, along with the aforementioned shenanigans. The interviews with Chastain and Hamlin came after they had already talked about the topic at length with the assembled media.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Camping World Truck series will travel to Sonoma Raceway for a weekend of action. It will be the first time the latter has raced there since 1998. The ARCA Menards Series West will be there as well for its 200-kilometer event that often generates a sizable entry.
In sports car racing, it is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the biggest race of the year for the FIA World Endurance Championship. New cars for the future are being revealed this week. BMW on Monday was first to unveil its new LMDh car.
The NTT IndyCar Series will be at Road America, while Formula 1 takes to the streets of Baku in Azerbaijan. TV listings can be found here.
Now that I’m back from St. Louis, I’ll have critiques of the Cup and Truck races from Sonoma for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday. For the Critic’s Annex, I’m going to cover Saturday’s Pacific Office Automation 147 from Portland International Raceway. Three hours at an average of just under 49 mph. Jeepers.
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