MONTE DUTTON – D.W. UNDER FIRE
Ye gods. I reckon I’m going to have to write about Darrell Waltrip.
I like him. He’s a charming man. Back in his heyday as a driver, he was viewed by many in the media in almost the same way they later saw Jeff Gordon, now a partner of Waltrip in the Fox booth.
Waltrip, even though he was Southern, homespun and folksy, had media savvy, and it wasn’t just the simple friendliness of Richard Petty. D.W. would stir things up. He’d play with other drivers’ minds. He was good copy. In his early years, he was far better liked in the media centers than the grandstands.
I have often used D.W., not to mention Larry McReynolds, as the butt of my social-media jokes. At various times of races, he’d adopt 10 different drivers as his pick to win. At some point, he would express his hunch that this might be Dale Jr.’s (i.e., “Junebug”) week. Given Waltrip’s methods, I could easily become a meteorologist, particularly since many of them use those methods, too.
“I just got a hunch it might snow.”
“Nope. Not a chance. It might rain, though. I don’t like the way those clouds are looking.”
Among the critics, Waltrip has gone from Thoroughly Modern Darrell to Old Man Yelling Get Off My Lawn.
This happens to people as they grow older. This happens to me. At least, D.W. is still at the track. At least he’s one of the last dinosaurs. I’m one of the ones that went extinct out on the vast speedways of the land.
I’ve never particularly liked Fox’s coverage, though. I find it a bit condescending. D.W. on TV reminds me a little of one of those hillbilly comics who used to show up on the syndicated country-music shows of my boyhood. It’s not exactly Hee Haw. It’s more the Porter Wagoner Show or the Wilburn Brothers Show. Those half hours used to occupy the programming windows now filled with Andy Griffith reruns on Southern television.
They all laugh way too much at each other’s jokes and a little too much at their own. D.W. has been an awful influence on Gordon, who tries. Lord knows he tries.
If I had anything to do with who stays and who goes, though, I’d put another Waltrip out to pasture. Darrell might be past his time, but Michael isn’t even interested in it. He seems to take pride in being unprepared, resting assured in the defining belief that stupid is always good. Sometimes I turn the channel and watch a few minutes of Lawrence Olivier as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights just so I can avoid Mikey’s Track Stalk.