Fox Sports 1 ignores Waltrip’s involvement in Controversy

While normally as chatty as can be during a broadcast of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Michael Waltrip fell noticeably silent in one segment Friday night during the series’ race at Chicagoland Speedway.

The segment in question had announcer Rick Allen recapping the most recent developments in the week-long controversy surrounding the Sprint Cup’s regular season finale at Richmond Saturday night.

The week-long head ache for NASCAR started with Michael Waltrip Racing being fined a record $300,000, all three of his teams being docked 50 driver, resulting in Ryan Newman making the Chase for the Sprint Cup and Martin Truex Jr. getting the boot.

It climaxed Friday afternoon with NASCAR President Mike Helton and CEO Brian France announcing Penske and Front Row Motorsports are being placed on probation for the rest of the season for attempting to make a deal to get Joey Logano in the Chase and that Jeff Gordon was being given a 13th spot in Chase “because several different circumstances ‘could have altered and given him a disadvantage.’ ”

“This is an unprecedented set of circumstances. I’m extremely happy for this. We’re proud to be in it,”  Gordon told USA Today. “An incredible set of opportunities now lie on our shoulders to show we belong in the Chase.”

It’s arguably the worst scandal to hit the NASCAR, at least in my lifetime (not counting the dark cloud that surrounded the death of Dale Earnhardt). So can you blame Waltrip for not giving his two cents when the topic came up Friday night?

I do question Fox Sports 1, the fledgling network that rose out of SPEED last month, for having Waltrip in the booth to give his color commentary. While Clint Bowyer has been the face of the controversy that started when he may or may not have spun intentionally in the closing laps at Richmond, Waltrip has been the mouthpiece for the team, which has competed in NASCAR’s top series since 2002.

Waltrip has been adamant this week that the actions of team manager Ty Norris, who was suspended indefinitely for ordering Brian Vickers to pit in order to benefit Truex, were  “not immoral (and) not irresponsible.”

If they were not, then why isn’t MWR appealing the punishment? That in and of itself would seem to be a passive admission of guilt, though Waltrip says he doesn’t believe Bowyer’s spin was intentional.

Networks involved in airing NASCAR events are no stranger to owners being part of their broadcasts. Besides Waltrip, who is present on FOX’s pre-race show during it’s portion of the Sprint Cup season, Brad Daugherty, an ESPN analyst, is co-owner of JTG Daughtery Racing which fields the No. 47 car driven by Bobby Labonte/A.J. Allmendinger this year.

I and everyone who cares about the seemingly diminishing integrity of NASCAR this week should take issue with Waltrip being present on the Truck series broadcast. It signifies to the audience that Fox Sports 1 is okay with the fact that their own employees possibly went to extreme lengths to alter the narrative of the sport for their own benefit.

It’s called a conflict of interest for a reason.

Can you imagine Kirk Herbstreit pulling strings to ensure Ohio State won a game he was calling for ESPN?

It’s supposed to be a rule that journalists or anyone resembling one should never get involved in a story, let alone be the subject of one. Aside from Danica Patrick winning the pole for the Daytona 500 and Kyle Larson’s terrifying Nationwide wreck at Daytona, this weeks events have been the only time the sport has crossed over into mainstream news coverage this year. NBC Nightly News devoted a segment to it Friday night.

If anything FOX should have removed Waltrip from its Truck Series coverage for this one race to help put to an end to one of the longest weeks in NASCAR history.

But they didn’t and besides going silent during one segment, anyone somehow not aware of the week’s events would have believed everything was business as usual in the world of Waltrip.

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About Daniel McFadin

Writer for NBCSports.com. Former Sporting News intern. Graduated from IUPUI in Indianapolis with a master in sports journalism in 2014 and from Arkansas State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. Originally from Lewisville, Texas, now in Fort Worth. Ask me if I like Star Wars. I dare you.
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