Sunday, July 8, 2007

SPEED's "Victory Lane" Loves Daytona Excitement

The Daly Planet has taken the time to write several articles about Victory Lane, the SPEED program that started as an after-thought, and has become a fan favorite. It was a simple idea, go to Victory Lane at each race, interview the winning driver, and talk to the others involved in the top stories of the event. Call the one hour show...Victory Lane.

This, however, required the cooperation of each track, the TV network covering the race, and the senior management of NASCAR itself. Friends, that is no easy group to get together. SPEED managed to do it, and the results have been fantastic.

This week, another great story unfolded in Victory Lane with the hard-luck Jamie McMurray winning by a nose. In the first segment of the program, host John Roberts and sidekick Jimmy Spencer talked about the race, the finish, and then allowed other drivers to speak their mind about the event. The best part always comes next.

Out of commercial, race winner Jamie McMurray sat on the SPEED set absolutely exhausted. Viewers could tell that he had left everything he had on the track. Jamie talked openly and honestly about his tough times, the fact he was still in shock, and how Jack Roush has been on his side during his entire tenure in that organization. SPEED's Kenny Wallace, also in the race, joined the team on the set.

McMurray on-camera is exactly what TV needs from NASCAR, and exactly what had been missing. After the "standard" winner interview on live network TV, the stories of the race are often really untold. On Victory Lane, McMurray described how his crew chief reminded him this was the final lap, and how he knew that Carl Edwards was either going to help him or leave him out to dry. This is just what the fans love, especially when the sweaty driver is on the verge of tears and speaking from the heart. This really is the good stuff.

Victory Lane recently started making a habit of bringing on the winning crew chief, and this has really paid off for the network. This "pit box" perspective really adds a new twist on the race, and allows Spencer and Wallace to ask questions as drivers that the normal TV hosts could never even imagine. McMurray's crew chief Larry Carter was a soft-spoken fountain of knowledge about the race, the driver, and the team. Carter's deadpan was a great contrast to the high energy of Wallace.

The program also always does a good quick turn-a-round of race highlights. This allows Spencer to use his experience, and Wallace to use his actual race information, to present the highlights in a very informative way. There is always something that Wallace sneaks in that is interesting, while John Roberts keeps the guys honest and on track. He reminds us of Allen Bestwick "herding drivers" on Inside NEXTEL Cup back in the old days. This segment also includes a full field recap, which really allows for a great overview of the event.

As usual, the big media crowd heads over the the Infield Media Center to continue the driver interviews, but SPEED hangs in Victory Lane. This part of the show has often allowed the stories not featured in the TV network race broadcast to be followed-up and explained. This week, it allowed Spencer to recall his battle to the line at Daytona with Ernie Irvan. He helped the fans to understand how and why the "side draft" once again won the race for the car on the outside.

With ten minutes to go in the show, Roberts turned Wallace and Spencer loose to talk about the NEXTEL Cup season, and the team dynamics that played such a role at Daytona. These guys were upfront in discussing Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and pointing out that Reed Sorenson was asleep at the wheel in his accident with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Kudos to SPEED for getting, and then airing, a key interview with Carl Edwards, who McMurray credited for helping him win the race. As usual, Edwards was clear-headed and concise in describing his changing lanes to avoid helping Kyle Busch, and instead pushing his team mate to victory. This really was the key to the win.

Once again, SPEED took a small show on a small stage and let the information and personalities of the sport be the star. No flashy graphics, no colored lights, and no hype. All this show presents is the actual aftermath of a NEXTEL Cup race, be it good or bad. John Roberts continues to be a key player in SPEED's success and deserves a pat on the back for his focus and calm demeanor.

If fans are looking for a good solid show to summarize the NEXTEL Cup races, the good news is that this program will continue when Cup races change over to the ESPN/ABC network group. Victory Lane is a must for the DVR, and has replaced Inside NEXTEL Cup on SPEED as the definitive NASCAR "race wrap" show.

The Daly Planet welcome comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. All email is held in confidence. Thanks again for stopping by.


bevo said...

Great post John. If Fox, TNT and ESPN would look at Victory Lane and learn from it we would all be happy campers. No flash, music or fancy sets. Just a host who knows what he's doing and keeps everything running nice and smooth.

Just one big problem. Why wasn't it shown live? Why wait till the next night? This would have been a great way to end the night.

David said...

I have to agree yet again. FOX, and SPEED have the package put together perfectly. Their pre-race show is tops bar none, and Victory Lane caps off the event beautifully. Spencer is a love or hate character, more often then not I tend to disagree with his view on things but he still adds a good element alongside Kenny Wallace. Great show!

Anonymous said...

I'm a new fan of NASCAR this year and I watched Victory Lane for the first time this weekend. I've been watching Inside Nextel Cup regularly and didn't realize this other show was on. I definitely enjoy learning how things work, like the whole side drafting thing.

It only makes sense that they get a bit more in depth with stuff like that because only serious fans are going to tune in to this type of show. Kudos to them and to Jamie on his win.

Only one bad thing to point out. That rug on Spencer's head looks horrible. :>)

GinaV24 said...

This has always been "must see TV" for me. Since INC has gone so far down that it is on life support, this show and RACEDAY are about the only NASCAR coverage I watch. VL has always been a great chance to see the driver and crew chief up close during the celebration. It was excellent as always. Good job, John Roberts. Spencer & Wallace make me crazy sometimes, but it's too good a show to let that turn me off.

Anonymous said...

Great article about a great show. Victory Lane is always a must watch for our household, even if the winning driver is not one of our favorites. The three hosts always bring to light something we missed or did not understand at the time. I was thrilled last night to hear Spencer (whom I would have gladly strung up last season when he said some of those things)admit to being hard on Jamie last season. They all seemed to be really happy that Jamie had won. Since he's "My" driver, needless to say I've not stopped smiling since Saturday night. Congrats, Jamie!

Prospector said...

Agree with everything in the article. The other networks need to take lessons not only on style, content, but also personalities.

I crossed INC off my list long ago. Because of Ken, Johnny and Alan I was able to stomach "Jaws II". After Johnny get canned the pendulum swung to the negative side and I havn't watched since.

John Roberts does a weeks worth of work on the weekend. I enjoy him as a real person with no fluff or pretenses.

Prospector said...

Sorry Allen, got you mixed with my B-I-L Alan.

Anonymous said...

Victory Lane is great. But in contrast to many other major sports, NASCAR shows seem to lack the ability or interest in getting 15 or 20 driver interviews. They could tape most and show the 20-30 second clips through out the post race show. Of course I want to hear from the top 5 but there are 43 other racers out there with their own tale to tell or shall we say tale to spin. Sometimes I imagine those guys battling for 15th or 16th might piss one another off and might have some great sound bites for us fans. Like or hate Tony Stewart, he gives us emotional responses that are almost always interesting. It just suprises me that the producers for these shows many times would prefer to hear the studio host talk amongst themselves instead of hearing reactions from drivers back in the pack. Lets hear from the former champions like Labonte and Elliot, can't they sacrifice 2mins of face time to show the fans what the other drivers are thinking. Even if the Green Bay Packers lose , we get to hear from Brett Favre. Or when Arod was playing on the last place Texas Rangers a few seasons ago, we got to see and hear about him. We see NASCAR everyday on espn's NASCAR NOW, why these TV producers think we need more before the race just amazes me. Between Race Day, NASCAR NOW and TNT's prerace show, plus Countdown to Green & Tradin Paint, this is all before the race on Sat. A solid three hours at least, phew, I'm a fan but I can't do it, not all of it. Race Day gets to alot of drivers before the race which is alright but once again, I personally would sacrifice most of those for a 60min post race show. Go through the points more in depth, show taped driver interviews, show the some of the media center interviews. INC with Despain is painful and I don't even bother to Tvo it anymore. Waltrip isn't somebody I enjoy watching, he doesn't take the gig seriously, never has. Always been amazed by his popularity. The whole bunch act like it's a wake. It needs people like Scrader and Kenny Wallace who really enjoy all aspects of nascar and they don't seem hung up on themselves. On espn's Nascar Now is fine if you are a Jeff Gordon fan but I will say this, Espn will beat a good story for a solid three to four days which is okay with me but alas they fail to share much of anything new as far as post race interviews.