Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Greg Biffle Calls Carl Edwards Out On "Inside NEXTEL Cup"
The tale of Inside NEXTEL Cup on SPEED this season has been one of an up-and-down TV series. Sometimes informative, and sometimes way off-the-mark, this decade old NASCAR series was rumored to be on its last legs.
Monday night, as host Dave Despain welcomed his regular panel of Greg Biffle, Michael Waltrip, and Kenny Schrader, things looked to be a bit on the boring side after a single file Martinsville race that featured little racing and lots of bumping.
After the opening conversations, Despain brought-up the on-going story of Carl Edwards pushing around Matt Kenseth after the Martinsville Cup race. This was made more real for SPEED because it was reporter Bob Dillner's camera crew that captured the brief confrontation.
In most circumstances, the current INC panel has been a group of peacemakers who put the best interests of the sport and the sponsors ahead of any momentary loss of reason that may occur after a long and hot race. Not this time.
Once Despain showed the footage, and asked the panel about their thoughts, things took a very interesting turn. For one brief moment, the kind of frank and sometimes brutally honest comments that made this show a hit years ago rose from the ashes.
Greg Biffle was just back from being married, is a veteran Cup driver, and is a Roush/Fenway Racing team member. His response to Despain was fully expected to be coated in politics and cliches. Instead, what happened next was amazing.
"Carl came from a few rows back, bombed down into turns one and two, and door-slammed Matt up the racetrack. Then, to make matters worse, as they were on the corner exit ran him (Kenseth) off into the back stretch wall," said Biffle.
"If you drive like that, you have got to be able to take it," he continued. "You would expect that Carl would figure if he drives like that, somebody is going to race him the same way, especially a team mate. So, in the next corner...Matt just bumped the back of him and he lost two or three spots back to where he was," he stated.
But, Biffle and the panel were not done yet with Carl Edwards. Not by a longshot. Things were about to go from plain talk to harsh words. Greg Biffle ended with his parting shot at Edwards by saying of his actions after the race "I think the true colors (of Edwards) are coming out there." Then, in another moment that reminded viewer of the "old days," Michael Waltrip spoke-up.
"When I think about it, its disrespectful to Jack Roush," said Waltrip. "When Carl came up to Matt after the race with the TV cameras rolling and started pushing on Matt it really made me sick to my stomach. I'm a car owner now and I see it through Jack's eyes and I don't like what I saw," exclaimed Waltrip.
Kenny Schrader was to the point, as always. "They need to sit down and get over it, Carl didn't handle that right at all." His face told the story of someone who had been through a lot worse in racing, and thought Edwards antics to be ridiculous.
The remainder of the show was good, and it was good in part because Despain had stumbled across what former INC host Allen Bestwick knew so well. To get the best out of the three panelists, get them wound-up early on something they feel strongly about. Bestwick was the master at this, and he would then transition the panel into the highlights and things would take-off.
Unfortunately, Despain does not have this touch, and simply uses his monotone to read the script for the highlights, actively trying to quash all driver antics. In this show, the drivers continued to pour-out the good information, despite the repeated interruptions of Despain. He simply cannot lose "control" on TV.
The difference in this show was having Greg Biffle back on the set. On the subject of Tony Stewart, the panel again got Despain off-track and began a discussion of Tony "self policing" the Martinsville track. Said Waltrip, "there has to be somebody in charge." Biffle and Schrader were dialed-in to goofing around, and for once Despain lost his leadership position to good old INC laughter.
The panel was all over the correct information about the race, and several times corrected Despain while he was reading his script. Even teasing each other during their own highlights, Waltrip and Biffle were having a great time. Having a solid third panelist to join Waltrip and Schrader is a key to this series carrying on.
The candid comments and great information flowed better on this episode than they had in many shows. This was due in-part to Michael Waltrip keeping his head in the game for the entire hour, with no sponsor plugs and no changes of topic for reasons related to his team or manufacturer. What a difference a dialed-in Waltrip makes for the viewer.
Toward the end of the show, Waltrip stepped-up to offer the official explanation of the green/white/checkered flag finish. The panel led Despain through a recap of why and how things happened in the final three laps of the Cup Series race. Today, these guys were earning their money.
In a wonderful stroke of luck, the show came up "light," and this allowed the panel to talk about life outside of the NASCAR circle. Finally, it was clear to viewers how the personalities of these three drivers are so completely different. Waltrip talked sponsors and family, Biffle talked fishing, and Schrader said he was going out to eat later. This was the type of fun that SPEED viewers have been missing.
There are only a couple of episodes left for INC this season. After months of problems and turmoil, to see this type of free-flowing and orderly show clearly suggests that SPEED executives got involved and decided to put things in order.
If only for one night, the kind of casual and chaotic fun that allowed this show to become a hit was on display again. SPEED has not announced if INC will return for 2008, but with a fresh host and the continued support of the production executives, this franchise may have not taken its last breath.
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