Monday, August 6, 2007
Pocono's "Victory Lane" Shows Busch In A New Light
NASCAR continues to make good on a promise that SPEED's Victory Lane program will continue as normal despite the change to ESPN on the NEXTEL Cup TV coverage. At Pocono, with ESPN still on-the-air, the trio of John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer, and Kenny Wallace were already recording their show.
Out of the public mayhem of RaceDay, both Spencer and Wallace get an opportunity to talk more about racing, and play less to the crowd. This has led to some interesting insight from two drivers with two very different perspectives.
Spencer was in his glory at Pocono, being a Berwick, PA native. He kept a good perspective on the stories of the race, including the Dale Earnhardt Junior shock change and his subsequent run to second place.
The Kurt Busch that was in Victory Lane was quite different from the old version of a spoiled rookie. Spencer was excellent in asking questions of his old nemesis, and treated Busch in a professional manner. Spencer actually handled the vast majority of the questioning, and his behavior went a long way toward ending any question of lingering animosity.
Busch actually thanked Tony Stewart for pressuring him into a situation where he had to "go" at all costs. In this interview, Busch gave credit to others including new Crew Chief Pat Tryson for both race strategy and team dynamics.
Unlike his stammering Winner's Circle interview, Busch looked and sounded like an adult. It would have been easy for the panel to pick-on him, or bring up the problems of the past. They did not. As The Daly Planet mentioned in a previous column, this show has finally come of age.
Pat Tryson was next-up, and this is one of the things that other networks still struggle with, that its not all about the driver. Tryson was low-key as usual, and gave his opinions in a good-natured interview. Spencer was on-the-mark with his review of Tryson being released by Roush, and then hooking-up with Penske.
After the race, Spencer and Wallace really work hard to keep the excitement going, and Roberts is still one of the best at hosting "from a distance." That is to say, he "directs the traffic" while the show is on-the-air and let's the other panelists talk openly. This is such a plus for a host at the track.
SPEED offers a nice timely highlight package of the race, and allows Spencer and Wallace to voice-it-over, as opposed to simply using the host. This allows the panel to include in the highlights the information that the winning driver and crew chief has passed along in their earlier interviews.
Bob Dillner has taken his lumps, but he has hung-in there as Victory Lane's single reporter and done a good job. At Pocono, he had the tough task of interviewing Dale Junior, who is not his biggest fan. All went quite well, and Junior explained both the shock change and the flat tire that affected his day. It was quite clear from this interview that Junior is dedicated to DEI this season, and along with Busch, seems to also be a full-fledged adult these days.
Roberts is also good at letting the two "driver-panelists" talk about one subject in the last segment of the show. This time, it was Watkins Glen and the increased importance of the road courses in "The Chase." Spencer pointed out the motivation of Robby Gordon after the Montreal fiasco, and Wallace brought up the extensive road course testing that the teams had been doing at Virginia International Raceway.
Once again, Victory Lane was a nice little package for NASCAR fans. Let's hope the network keeps this show steady for the rest of the season, the only thing that would be better for viewers is repeating it following Inside NEXTEL Cup on Monday nights.
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