Logano Looks Like a Waltrip in Waiting

Guest column

Well, it’s true. Darrell Waltrip is waving the checkered flag on his distinguished NASCAR career.

“I don’t know if I’ll go to another race or not,” said Waltrip, the 72-year-old Fox Sports analyst. “The hardest thing to do, and most people know this that’s been in the sport, is to go to a track and not have anything to do. If you go to the track and you don’t have a team, you don’t have a car, you don’t have a job, you’re just there to show up? That’s a hard road to hold, at least it always has been for me.”

Waltrip will no doubt leave a huge void in the Fox booth. He is the Chick Hearn of NASCAR – the sport’s own Vin Scully. That means Fox will be hard pressed to find a replacement for the venerable analyst. But while no one can adequately replace a legend, there’s one idea for how the network can move forward that makes some sense – at least in the long run.

Fox Sports could slot in Joey Logano. Yes, that legend-in-the-making Joey Logano! Granted, the network would have to wait given that the 29-year-old NASCAR driver is in his absolute prime. He was last year’s NASCAR Cup Series champion, clinching the title with a win at the Ford EcoBoost 400 in Florida. He is again atop the standings this season and has been tabbed by the U.S. gambling sites as the prohibitive favorite to win the series yet again.

If the gambling odds prove right and Logano does score back-to-back titles, he will be just one short of Waltrip, who, in his day, won three total championships: back to back in 1981 and 1982 and then again in 1985. And if Sliced Bread’s dominant win at the Michigan International Speedway is any indication, the Connecticut native looks to be well on his way to another overall title.

Of course, it is highly unlikely that NASCAR fans will see Logano on the TV booth on a full-time basis, at least in the near future. Again, he is at his prime, and will likely be competing for championships for many more years. Still, Fox would do well to get him in the booth more often in the meantime. Logano is a natural, so to speak, not unlike Waltrip himself. He is confident and eloquent, with a made-for-TV smile and a palpable charm, and has even indicated he enjoys doing TV and radio work. “I think it’s a lot of fun and it’s kind of my way to give back to the sport,” Logano said after joining the crews for FOX: NASCAR and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s The Morning Drive.

No amount of broadcast booth talent would make Logano more valuable on TV than he is on the track, for the time being. However, his natural comfort with the role and the easy comparisons to Waltrip make him an interesting person to think about for the long-term position. Logano’s eventual transition to broadcasting seems like a no-brainer – and while he won’t be Waltrip’s direct replacement, he could be a spiritual successor, and a beloved broadcasting fixture, once he’s done driving.

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