Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 offered up all the thrills, drama and fairy tale ending an avid NASCAR fan could want. Time could be spent discussing how much fun it was to watch the cars fly into the air, bang into one another, out brake the corners and slide off course. However, what we’re all talking about is Smoke. Tony Stewart took an ordinary kind of car and performance, added a little bit of luck and ended up with his 49th career Sprint Cup race win. And our world of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram went crazy with images of Victory Lane and the No. 14 burning up some rubber.
However, what I’m left with after the last race of the year shown on FOX is that I wish Tony Stewart would consider joining Jeff Gordon in the broadcast booth.
The DW and Larry Mac show has been grating on my nerves for about half a decade now, so I’m sure some of this reaction is due to an overdose of overenthusiastic commentary. But when it comes down to it all, I simply don’t connect with Waltrip. I’m not sure I ever have. As time has gone by, my perception of Jabber Jaws has diminished the more he clung to the persona provided to him by the network bigwigs at FOX. Watching DW is like viewing a plastic, packaged comedian concocted in an animation studio. It’s….painful.
When Tony Stewart takes the stage the sheen of corporate approval is missing. Age may have tempered this tongue over the past twenty years, but certainly not the threat of a family friendly network owned sponsor. The soon to be retired veteran clings to his bad boy image and is willing throw it back at an interviewer with a big grin on his face. He’s honest.
I can believe that Tony rolls up his sleeves and gets dirty down in the garage from time to time. He is determined, sensitive, talented and fallible. He has decided to wear his humanity on his sleeve and let the world decide what to make of him. He is comfortable in his skin, especially when things are not going exactly as planned.
Overall, he is the poster child for NASCAR as a sport. Its history is based in the bawdy and illegal world of bootlegging. Over the decades it has grown out of the backyards and weeds of elbow grease laden shops. Winning has never been accomplished through finesse and soft manners. NASCAR is now an aging sport that has been trying to shed its blue collar image and in doing so, is losing its unique audience.
Now, picture a race where clean cut Jeff Gordon and a slightly rumpled Tony Stewart sat down together and just chatted racing while the laps ticked down at Charlotte. Throw out the fancy graphics, carefully timed sponsor shout outs and just let them react to the action on track. Okay, we’ll let Mike Joy stick around. And we’ll provide the booth with a fair share of adult beverages.
NASCAR Nation would be the lucky recipient of listening to a pair of old frenemies picking apart the competition in a knowledgeable, pertinent and relatable manner, while the viewers laughed on their couches.
That is what the Waltrip and McReynolds show was intended to be when FOX rolled out their NASCAR coverage years and years ago. However, the rust and uncertainty was polished off the pair over the years leaving us with a brand only a suit hiding in a glass tower could concoct.
It’s time to bring the broadcast back to the roots where the enjoyment of the racing trumps the ad schedule and some paranoid perception of what the unobtainable demographic really wants to see in a retired personality. Since Tony Stewart has built his reputation on ignoring what the establishment wants or approves of, he is perfect for the job.
There was a NASCAR race at Gateway on Saturday night, and a hockey game broke out between JWT and Spencer Gallagher. I selected this particular video because the background reaction of the individual recording the race perfectly reflects my own. I’m sure NASCAR will hand down the fines with a huge grin on their face.
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