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Kenny Wallace: “Fans Don’t Know What They Want”

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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Former NASCAR driver-turned YouTuber and dirt track racing driver, Kenny Wallace, went on his namesake YouTube show to give a little bit of advice to FOX Sports, speaking as both a former employee of FOX Sports, a retired NASCAR driver, and now, just a fan.

So, what did he say and what do I think about it? Let’s talk about it.

I fully recommend the video Kenny Wallace posted above but let’s break down what it’s all about.

Kenny Wallace, who was employed by FOX Sports for fifteen years, should know the ins and outs of the business as well as anyone. Now those ties are gone.

In the video, he states that he’s still friends with many of those FOX Sports executives and he speaks about them fondly while also giving them a little bit of friendly, respectful advice. He states here that “NASCAR fans don’t know what they want”. He also correctly senses that there’s a lot of disagreement amongst fans in the form of fighting online.

NASCAR is experiencing a lot of growing pains right now. The fanbase is changing. Many traditionalists who loved the sport back in the ’90s and early 2000s have fallen away or, frankly, have died off. And as the gap of differences between generations continue to widen, NASCAR has sort of found itself at a crossroads.

There are two things younger fans seem to really enjoy over everything else and that’s road course racing and short tracks. At least, that’s what NASCAR has as their conclusion as they continue to attempt reaching out in their direction. There are 7 road courses on the NASCAR schedule and plans to convert Auto Club into a half-mile short track was announced towards the end of 2021.

By contrast, though, the few older fans that have remained largely dislike road course racing and…just change, in general. To sort of compromise, they brought back North Wilkesboro, something many older fans never thought they’d live to see, to host the 2023 All-Star Race, they created the Clash at the Coliseum, and now there’s going to be a street course in downtown Chicago. Any and everything different to attract a broader fanbase.

But older fans, they hate the Clash being at the Coliseum. They hate the music, they hate the atmosphere, they had the whole culture of L.A. and I don’t think that’s something NASCAR is going to be able to fix. Even younger fans described the racing at the Coliseum this year as a “demolition derby” with the inability to pass without drivers running over top of one another.

Newer fans no longer want Auto Club to be reconfigured and many question if the race in downtown Chicago might bring bad publicity to the sport if it fails. You know what not many NASCAR fans are complaining about at all? Bringing back North Wilkesboro. That seems to be a common ground amongst the older and younger NASCAR fans.

To parallel that, the only complaints I hear around the Nashville Fairgrounds is the load of Karens making their ignorant pleas to the Nashville government to keep NASCAR out the backyards they built, knowing there was an active racetrack right there that had sat right there for over a hundred years.

In his video, Kenny Wallace points out that NASCAR on FOX cannot control the mind-boggling changes NASCAR makes even from a week-to-week basis, let alone during the off-season in the December and January months. What they can control, however, is their own broadcasts and how they’re presented.

Kenny enjoyed the NASCAR on FOX program this past weekend at Richmond. He enjoyed the return of the classic elements–three announcers in the booth: the host (Mike Joy), the driver (Clint Boyer), and the crew chief (Larry McrRynolds). This kicked off the theory in his mind that NASCAR needs to just get back to basics. He made the argument that FOX Sports needs to have a consistent lineup for their broadcasts and that the broadcasts need to have a single host (in Mike Joy), a single driver (in Clint Boyer), and a single crew chief (in Larry Mac) calling these races.

Is this the fix? Will this fix all of, if not most of, all the problems NASCAR on FOX is having connecting to modern-day NASCAR fans? Does a little bit of that old school magic need to be resurrected in the FOX Sports broadcast?

Here are my thoughts: I’m a younger NASCAR fan. I was born in 1995 and started watching the sport casually through 2001 and ’02 and fulltime in 2003. I think there is something to be said about the whole classic lineup.

When I was growing up, FOX Sports was far superior than NBC and later ESPN in their NASCAR coverage. They had a regular on-air host (still, Mike Joy), a driver to explain the driver’s perspective (then it was Darrell Waltrip), and a crew chief to give the other side of the story (it was often either Larry Mac himself or Jeff Hammond).

Kenny is right in saying that there was a little nostalgia there on Sunday. I certainly felt it and, as a 27-year-old, I imagine a lot of older fans felt it too…or, at least those that are left. What I do not enjoy is a constant rotation of drivers because that creates a hit-or-miss element in the broadcast the network could do without.

I like Tony Stewart and I think he’s an okay commentator. I don’t care for Danica Patrick’s commentary at all. Kurt Busch is good in that area but he is rarely there. Personally, I don’t think he’s ready to retire yet, which is probably why he’s not in the booth more regularly than he is. So, yes, I agree. A more consistent booth is needed.

Where I disagree, though, is who the lineup should be. Mike Joy, yes, keep him. He’s a legend and can still get the job done. The problem is, though, he is older and NASCAR on FOX needs to be developing someone new to slide into that spot who is just as good if not better for when Joy eventually steps down.

Larry Mac, I like him too. I don’t have a problem with him being in the book. BUT, it’s sort of the same situation with Mike Joy–NASCAR on FOX needs to have a retired crew chief ready to go and just as good for when Larry Mac just can’t do it anymore.

And then there’s Clint Bowyer…look, nothing personal, but I don’t like him in the booth. He had great chemistry booth with Tony Stewart but that’s seemingly the only person he can work with who can counteract his clownish antics.

With Kevin Harvick slated to join the FOX Sports booth next year, I’d like to see Bowyer go the Jamie Mac route and be one of the hosts of Race Hub while Harvick showcases his broadcasting talents on Sundays. But hey, that’s just my opinion.

I think that Kenny Wallace’s hopes that bringing back a more consistent FOX Sports lineup will somehow bring back the “good ole days” of NASCAR broadcasting will ultimately leave him disappointed. As I said before, fixing the broadcasting issues will only really fix the broadcasting issues. Maybe it will influence the rest of the sport but I doubt it to the degree Kenny thinks it will. But he is right about one thing and maybe it’s the biggest thing of all: a more consistent broadcast might bring back that classic race day feel and experience for the fans watching at home while NASCAR continues to test and figure out just what it is that NASCAR fans, as a whole, want.

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
All Posts