Sunday, August 5, 2007
Venturini Scores Robby Gordon Interview For "RaceDay"
RaceDay continues to be the best NASCAR pre-race show on TV. As the NASCAR TV partners covering the NEXTEL Cup Series have come and gone, viewers have seen all kinds of pre-race activity. All along, SPEED has left RaceDay alone to develop into a mandatory weekly pit-stop for fans.
As ESPN stepped into the mix, SPEED chose to put RaceDay in a timeslot that matched it up head-to-head with ESPN's pre-race show called NASCAR Countdown. This was a move that ESPN was absolutely unprepared to counter. Now, for one hour, both ESPN and SPEED have their live shows on the air from the same location, and their garage area reporters chasing the same stories. All the action is now not only on the track.
Sunday, Wendy Venturini continued her solid performance as the fan's choice for credibility and personality as she got Robby Gordon to agree to a live interview. Gordon was both apologetic and defiant, and Venturini handled him well. She allowed him to offer his side of the story, and drew out his feelings about his own mistake in ignoring NASCAR's black flag. Once again, RaceDay had scooped the big boys.
Host John Roberts also welcomed Tony Stewart for a live interview with the panel, making another statement to ESPN. Stewart answered all the questions, gave another friendly poke to ESPN, and recapped his excitement about winning Indy. Its clear that like most drivers, Stewart likes the welcoming atmosphere on the RaceDay set, and the antics of both Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace.
This season, Venturini has also been preparing a weekly feature called The Real Deal. It has been a success for the show because Venturini uses her background in racing to make the interview subjects feel comfortable. This week, Reed Sorenson discussed his rise into NEXTEL Cup and the challenges facing him this season.
Venturini got this very young man to talk about himself, which he rarely does. She finally brought out some comments that show more of Sorenson than the public has seen so far in his brief career. She then "tagged" the story live with Sorenson's crew chief, and allowed him to fill-in the gaps about their performance this season.
Spencer and Wallace have their act down pat, and this time brought Mark Martin into the mix and immediately asked him a ton of good questions that really brought out his feelings on DEI, his Army sponsorship, and the rumors of his return to full-time racing. Martin really gave viewers the low-down on the Ginn lay-offs, and explained his personal role in saving jobs at the now "shuttered" racing operation.
Each week John Roberts gives Spencer and Wallace a little more leash for one segment and allows them to talk about one topic. This week, it was single car teams and the guys were interesting in their opinions and predictions that the NEXTEL Cup garage would soon consist of eleven owners who all owned four car teams.
The balance of this show is best when Venturini is providing the infield details, and the panel is playing to the crowd and handling the group interviews. Over the last several weeks, SPEED has tried to integrate a comic element with two "characters." NASCAR.com's Ricky Rachtmann and SPEED's own "clown" Rutledge used to have a role on this show, but now the race-related content has pushed almost the entire two hours absolutely full. Viewers are better off without them.
SPEED can keep things light, and both Spencer and Wallace love to poke fun at themselves just as much as others. This mix of the serious and the hilarious has proven to be a winning formula for SPEED. As the season rolls-on, and the mood turns even more serious, the challenge for RaceDay is to continue to provide for fans the most NASCAR information of any show on TV today.
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