Saturday, July 28, 2007
"Trackside" On Friday Was Just What Indy Needed
On a dreary Friday in Indy, NASCAR was absolutely stalled at the gate. The clouds were overhead, the rain was coming, and everyone knew that the on-track schedule was going to be out the window. It was the first day of a big three day racing weekend, the first day of a seventeen week stretch, and the first NEXTEL Cup race on ESPN in seven years.
Somebody had to step-up and inject the fun back in this day. Something had to get race fans back to being excited about this race. It had to be someone who can poke fun at himself, play well with others, and keep a sense of humor under any circumstances...including a day of rain.
This situation called for the one man who has quietly established himself as a NASCAR TV favorite among both the fans and racers. Someone who perhaps will be seen a lot more on NASCAR TV in the future. That man is Steve Byrnes, and his show is Trackside on SPEED.
Unless you have been living in a basement without cable TV, you should probably still be laughing from the Chicagoland version of this show. Panelist Elliott Sadler, who is an outstanding athlete, threw a fastball to "batter" Jeff Hammond to show off his major league arm. Unfortunately, even in full protective gear, Sadler's pitch beaned Hammond like a Nolan Ryan fastball.
In typical Trackside style, Hammond opened the Indy show with half a baseball pinned to the back of his head and still complaining of a headache. Larry McReynolds and Byrnes could not get enough of this one. The best part of this show is the fact that these four guys work well with each other, and each one is given an opportunity to shine in their own right.
Steve Byrnes has been hosting Trackside, along with NASCAR Live, for the entire season. Like any good host, he builds on the stories and experiences of the previous race. Watching Trackside is a double whammy. Viewers get the current news and information while also looking back on the past races and keeping things in perspective. This has been a tremendous struggle for other NASCAR TV partners.
No one evokes more eye-rolling among the NASCAR TV gang than Kenny Wallace. "Herman" has countless jokes out there about his ability to talk non-stop until the people around him beg for mercy. On Trackside, infield reporter John Roberts gave "Herman" a chance to talk, and the Trackside gang took full advantage.
Nothing was funnier than seeing Hammond, Sadler, McReynolds, and Byrnes pretend to be asleep on the SPEED stage while a "Kenny clock" runs on the screen. Without being able to see what was going on, Kenny kept talking and talking and talking. It was hilarious. This is why fans have come to enjoy this program on a regular basis. They have fun.
On this one show, the panel welcomed Casey Mears to talk about his Indy connections and his family history. Then, Kasey Kahne stopped by to talk about his year and the Evernham team's progress. He also took a good-natured ribbing for his now famous "Yak" commercial. Finally, Max Siegel from DEI stopped by to explain the DEI/Ginn merger and update the fans on why and how things took place.
What more could viewers want on a dark, dreary, and rainy Friday from Indy? On stage was Larry McReynolds, the savior of the TNT race package and NASCAR guru. Jeff Hammond always has a good opinion and a solid race perspective. Elliot Sadler has turned out to be a good TV personality, and his gaffs including falling off the stage in Charlotte and beaning Hammond have been hilarious.
Finally, the heart-and-soul of the program is Steve Byrnes. He has moved himself up a notch in the NASCAR pecking order, and now finds himself poised to step-up to a play-by-play role on a regular basis after his hosting of NASCAR practice sessions on SPEED. His versatility in the studio, on the infield stage, and in the broadcast booth have made him a sought-after property for next season.
If you haven't seen Trackside, its a good program to put on the DVR and view before the race. Its also a blast to watch live, and contains a lot of the good-natured fun that SPEED has captured in their RaceDay program. As SPEED and ESPN continue to share the NASCAR spotlight for the rest of the season, Trackside is a home run for the network and a blast for the fans.
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