Would Carl Edwards Replace Darrell Waltrip at FOX?

Would Carl Edwards Replace Darrell Waltrip at FOX?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Mike Harper - SOZ

For NASCAR, it has been a tough path to gain traction in the television ratings this season. For FOX Sports, the same path has led them to experience this season three of the lowest rated Cup races dating back to 2001. Texas, Fontana and Phoenix provided historically low ratings and according to Sports Media Watch, the 2017 Texas television ratings, “tied as the lowest in the 20-year history of the spring Texas race.” They also stated the Texas race “was still the second-smallest audience for the race since at least 2001.”

I’m not sure how an industry, reliant on funding from corporate sponsors, is able to sugar coat the fact they are experiencing historically low ratings and a loss of fans, and continue to obtain generous revenues. But they have and you have got to applaud them on their efforts to survive in a very competitive professional sports market.

As a race fan I’m happy to see NASCAR and industry insiders share how well the sport is doing, but let’s be honest, on the broadcast side of the business if NASCAR on FOX were a television show and not a sport, FOX would have cancelled the show or adjusted it to make the show better. Luckily for NASCAR and insiders it is a sport and the blame for the low ratings has been easily swept under a rug found at the doorstep of the sport’s headquarters in Daytona Beach.

Looking in the rear-view mirror, ESPN pulled the plug on NASCAR in 2013 and decided not to bid against FOX and NBC to broadcast the races because according to reports, ESPN “had soured on the sport because of declining TV ratings, an aging fan base and a tough ad sales market.” TNT also withdrew from NASCAR as reported due to “NASCAR races weren’t worth the investment.”

Obviously FOX and NBC believes NASCAR is worth the investment or we would be hearing about renegotiated deals – don’t forget NBC paid big dollars to bring the sport to NBCSN and I’m sure if NBC was losing money we would begin to see programming changes. And since NBCSN is still somewhat new to the partnership, my focus is on the future of NASCAR’s relationship with FOX Sports.

The ratings decline is ugly and one must question if the responsibility for the decline should be placed solely on NASCAR’s shoulders. If their relationship with FOX Sports is truly a partnership, isn’t FOX to blame too?

One common theme we’ve heard since the introduction of Monster Energy to NASCAR is the sport wants to attract a younger audience. This isn’t a new argument…as mentioned earlier ESPN said they left due to “an aging fan base.” And if we jump to last week, a writer for the Bristol Herald Courier suggested Darrell Waltrip should retire because, “he projects a grandfatherly and overly positive approach for a sport sponsored by an energy drink maker that promotes an “edgy” lifestyle.”

The chorus from those wanting to weed out the old guard is getting louder. I’m not sure dividing the sport based on age is a smart approach especially since Monster could be gone in less than two years and NASCAR could be left holding a failed plan to dump old fans for younger ones. It does confirm my previous opinion that NASCAR and Monster want traditional fans gone. And I will add if it’s truly about millennials and their wants – NASCAR will need to do a lot more than kicking old Darrell Waltrip to the curb. They will need to overhaul the sport, the race, in a big way.

Beyond the race, NASCAR has put their trust in FOX to present the sport in a way that’s entertaining. But the facts are the facts – the decline in ratings is happening on FOX’s watch. I am not placing the blame totally on FOX. They are just as responsible as NASCAR and the drivers. And if you look at sacrifices made, NASCAR has truly taken it on the chin with each change they make. What sacrifice has FOX made? I’m sorry – removing Larry McReynolds for Jeff Gordon didn’t move the needle. If we want to be honest with ourselves Darrell Waltrip has been the face of NASCAR on FOX. He’s been the top dog since FOX partnered with NASCAR and many sit in their current roles at FOX because of Darrell. With the exception of Jeff Gordon, FOX’s main race day personalities have been the same for years and with great sadness, because I am a fan of FOX and Darrell, I admit it is time for a change.

I am not prepared to go push an age agenda as the writer did from the Bristol Herald Courier – but I will admit FOX has nothing to lose by moving Darrell Waltrip out of the booth. The ratings almost demand it. Darrell has earned his position at FOX and he may be better served operating in a secondary role – like sitting next to Chris Myers.

Would FOX consider replacing Darrell with Carl Edwards?

Carl is available and has worked with FOX before. He is really good in front of the camera and I believe he would mix it up with his opinions. FOX needs someone who will be edgy – who will not be afraid to dish out opinions, like when Darrell and his booth mates challenged drivers like Tony Stewart several years ago. I miss the battle of opinions during the event. It’s not done anymore – and this aspect of the broadcast is missing.

If FOX wants to pass the torch to Jeff Gordon, now is the time to do it. As Darrell had the opportunity to surround himself with his racing friends, Jeff should be given the same opportunity. He may not want to work with Carl, but plenty of talent is currently on the bench waiting to be called.

FOX must begin to look at the future and try to assist NASCAR in reversing the continuous decline in the ratings. I found this interesting – a FS1 commercial for the Xfinity Series Bristol race (this weekend’s race) used Rick Allen’s voice…yes, NBCSN’s Rick Allen, who left FOX at the end of 2013.  Does FOX not have someone who called an exciting finish of a race after Rick left the network? Not a good moment for FOX.

The fans have been asked to weather the storm of changes in NASCAR, while some in the sport have sat comfortably in their seats without the need to make any sacrifices. It’s time for NASCAR on FOX to share ownership of the ratings situation.

It’s time for fresh voices to mix it up and entertain us again.


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  1. Ken says:

    I’ve long thought that 25% of the drop in TV ratings are due to the Waltrip brothers. I think they should leave but I’m not sure Carl Edwards is the proper replacement. I think he might not fit well because he would be outspoken and tell the truth which is not what Fox allows.

    • Joe Crisco says:

      Both Waltrips need to go, Rick Allen sucks and was never deserving of the golden throat award bestowed upon him by France and he has a vote for the hall of fame too which sucks since he’s clueless to the deep history of the sport. His over dramatic pronunciations make me wanna gag as well. Edwards may be an answer, but do you need two drivers in the booth?

    • Joe Bacon says:

      Both Waltrips need to go, Rick Allen sucks and was never deserving of the golden throat award bestowed upon him by France and he has a vote for the hall of fame too which sucks since he’s clueless to the deep history of the sport. His over dramatic pronunciations make me wanna gag as well. Edwards may be an answer, but do you need two drivers in the booth?

  2. Bill B says:

    Excellent idea. I’d be fine with Carl in the booth. And if Darrell was moved to the Chris Meyers’ Hollywood Hotel, the best part would be that Michael Waltrip would be moved out totally (ideally). With the declining ratings you’d think Fox would try something to move the needle. Unless Fox gets tons of positive feedback regarding Darrell (which I find hard to believe based on the comments I see on websites)I don’t understand their reluctance to make huge changes to their broadcast team and approach.

    • Mike Harper says:

      I would not be surprised if a change is announced before the end of the season – not FOX’s season, but the end of the 2017 season. Daytona 2018 may look different.

  3. Chris Lanko says:

    Getting D.W. out of the booth would probably boost ratings up at least 50 %. And dumping his lame brother would push the ratings thru the roof. Those two are the reason Fox is losing viewers with their inane “Boogity ” and even dumber “Gridwalk .” D.W. has had his moment in the sun ,time to move on and give us fans a break.As for his brother , he’s overstayed his welcome. He does not bring anything to the table except his annoying twang. Just go away !

  4. Sander R.Taylor says:

    Fox (And Nascar too) needs improve the product they broadcast. Not only getting rid of old glorys like Larry Mac or DW, they must show better the track action. These long lead-car-only pictures are too boring. Show more pit lane action. I remember the Kyle/Logano brawl. Fox show almost nothing. Instead, Jeff Gluck with only a cell phone can show every detail.
    Although, if the track action is boring, there is little that Fox or whoever can be done.
    Sorry for my poor writing. English isn’t my language. I’m a Nascar fan from Argentina.

    • Mike Harper says:

      Hi Sander – hello to Argentina! You are correct – FOX missed the beginning of the brawl. I blame the producer for it and from what I heard FOX was not happy with what happened. My hope is when FOX sees the race is boring or slow they do more in car coverage or do a double frame with the race and an entertaining feature…like in car audio. Race Hub’s radio sweetheart could be used during the race – they need to open up the box. Thanks for reading!

  5. Robin Cox says:

    Monster wants the traditonal fans gone? That really hurts my feelings and difinitely will cause me to stop drinking monster drinks, which I picked up when they took over the sponsorship of Nascoar. Shame Nascar!!!! As far as the annoucers go, yeal DW and MW are getting old, will Carl make a difference, I doubt it. If Gordon stays, they need to get him trained to not give so much extra to Hendricks, he talks so much better about that group than anyone else. Fox and NBC need to get better coverage of all the cars, racing, falling out, and pitting. They mostly only cover the leaders, but a lot of fans like some of the back markers too. Give all the drivers equal coverage.

    • Mike Harper says:

      Hey Robin – sadly yes…NASCAR and Monster want younger fans. As documented in our columns here on RTR it’s changing times in NASCAR. It is sad – but I hope NASCAR will not put all of their eggs in Monster’s basket because they could be gone in 2 years and they will take their fans with them. Best!

      • Robin Cox says:

        I am sure they want younger fans, but why would they not care about the old gaurd? If not for those of us still supporting them, there would not be a nascar now.

  6. Joe Jacalone says:

    The Waltrip brothers at the very least have been a major contributor to the loss of long time fans, and I doubt they do much positive to attract new ones.

  7. Charlie says:

    I have had Nascar fans tell me, we don’t get FS1 or NBCSN,so they have lost interest over the years, therefore when a race in on FOX or NBC they aren’t watching since they aren’t as glued to the sport as they once were. For me personally I like some announcers better than others, but that’s not going to determine if I watch a race or not. I’m fortunate enough to attend 5 races a year normally and never miss watching on TV when I’m not at the track.

  8. Bob Hudson says:

    I have the sound off when I watch NASCAR races Waltrips the reason !!

  9. Ross Fries says:

    Many of my racing friends and I believe that a lot of fans are leaving nascar due to two major problems with not only Fox but also the Hub, they are #1 The waltrups and #2 The same sponsors for the last few years,you know them by heart and they have became very annoying, causing us to turn them off. This has been our connection to Nascar and we are watching other programs

  10. ron caron says:

    I listen to MRN or PRN and they follow the race as it evolves. No sponsored plugs or scripted programing. I suggest fans listen and you will be pleasantly surprised.

  11. Kathy McClellan says:

    I have been a nascar fan all my life. I think it would be a huge mistake to replace the Waltrip bothers. I love them both. I think it is wrong to even think about replacing them. We may be old timers but we need to keep the older generations. Most Young people have no interest in racing if you lose the the older nascar fans there will not be a nascar. DARTELL AND MICHEAL WALTRIP YOU ARE THE BEST OF BEST

  12. MrD says:

    Please no. Edwards and Gordon in the booth would be redundant. At least DW and McReynolds have some personality–the ratings were through the roof when they were in their prime–they are not the problem! Gordon is almost as bland as Burton, and Edwards isn’t much better.

  13. Michelle says:

    I agree with you. Since not has been on NBC I have lost interest. I still watch it but the announcers are very boring and monotonous. I love the crew they have on Fox. And the guy they have running around on NBC he is annoying I like MW gridwalk. I look forward to it.

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