When you’re a part of the traveling media, the traveling part can be a daunting task. Heck, one of the most famed broadcasters in the history of sports—John Madden—literally had a “hotel suite of wheels” due to his fear of flying. While that doesn’t appear to be the case with Kenny Wallace, who isn’t necessarily afraid of flying, one of the bigger personalities in all of motorsports is not exactly fond of airports.
Wallace, a former race car driver, retired from NASCAR in 2015 after driving there since 1988. After a 25-year career, he joined Fox’s NASCAR coverage and served as an announcer/analyst. He left that role in 2018 and took up dirt racing. And while it makes sense that a media career would be sandwiched in between his racing career, there’s more than meets the eye as to why Wallace ultimately left Fox Sports.
Wallace recently did a Q&A with The Athletic’s Jeff Gluck as a part of the latter’s 12 questions series. Wallace was posed with a hypothetical societal debate/dilemma and ultimately revealed what led to his departure from Fox Sports’ NASCAR coverage. Whether it should come as a surprise or not, it had nothing to do with his role, but everything to do with one of the unfortunate parts that comes with it. Here’s Gluck’s question and Wallace’s response:
So you’re at the gate at the airport and you’re waiting for your flight. Somebody nearby is watching a video and they do not have their headphones in and it’s very loud. Everybody around can hear it and everybody is looking at them. Are you supposed to ignore the noise? Do you move seats? Do you just put on headphones? Or do you say something to them? What are you supposed to do?
We were coming back from Cabo and it was packed around our gate. And this man is laying all across like eight seats with no shoes on and crusty feet, nasty toes. I took a picture of him because I wanted to embarrass him. But I really feel like this is an issue. When I want to listen to something, I put the volume real low and I put it up to my ear. But it amazes me, the etiquette. If it gets to be too much, I move because I’m not confrontational. However, we all have those moments and those days.
The reason I quit Fox Sports is because of that question. The more you go to the airport, the angrier you get. I cannot stand the airport. It’s filth. It’s a bunch of people who want their space, and you’re not going to get it because you’re all piled on top of each other. If I’m traveling every week and I’m one of the traveling NASCAR media, I’m pissed all the time. I despise the airport because everybody’s about themselves.
So I’d either move seats if I’m in a good mood, or you’ve got to say, “Excuse me, I can’t hear myself. Can you please turn that down?” And then most likely you’re gonna get into a fight. (Laughs) But this is the world we live in. It’s brutal.
Wallace made his disdain for the airport quite clear. So, his departure had more to do with the politics of being a media member and less to do with the responsibilities. It takes a lot of work to be an analyst, but that didn’t seem to deter Wallace. Rather, it was dealing with his fellow peers at the airport.
Right or wrong, Wallace (seen above during the 2016 Daytona 500) is probably not in his own boat regarding his airport opinions. Perhaps he’d still be with Fox Sports if he was afforded a “Madden Cruiser” of his own.
[The Athletic; photo from Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports]