Monday, October 1, 2007
"Inside NEXTEL Cup" Misses Schrader And Biffle
There was no doubt that lots of former fans of Inside NEXTEL Cup on SPEED decided to give this show another try on Monday night. There were two reasons for them to believe that this episode of the long-running series would be top-notch.
Panelist Greg Biffle had won the NEXTEL Cup race in Kansas in very controversial style. Comments televised nationally by both Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer questioned whether Biffle had kept reasonable speed behind the pace car or had run out of gas. Should he have won? INC had the one man who could answer that question. Unfortunately, on this Monday Biffle had other plans.
Original show veteran Kenny Schrader was one of the key stories of the race. His decision to run three-wide alongside fellow panelist Michael Waltrip resulted in a collision that deeply affected The Chase for the Championship race. It was going to be interesting to hear what he had to say.
When Dave Despain appeared on-camera, he introduced at least two of the panelists. Seated alongside Despain were Michael Waltrip and Brian Vickers. On the seat between them was the lifesize Little Debbie display cut-out of Kenny Schrader. That did not bode well for a Schrader appearance. It seems that Schrader had other plans as well.
After Little Debbie was removed, Despain introduced David Reutimann, who would join the panel for this show. There was little doubt from the outset that Reutimann was out of his league with the pace of this program, but he held his own by using his real life good-natured attitude.
This mix proved to be interesting, as Waltrip and Despain handled the bulk of the show, and Vickers filled-in the blanks. Once again, Vickers and Waltrip seem to have mended fences, and worked well together. This left one role for Reutimann, which was to agree with everything that everyone said.
With an action-packed race like Kansas, the format of the program worked perfectly. Viewers saw all the issues and incidents of the race along with the Tony Stewart incident from practice. The panel also addressed the post-race issues raised by Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer.
Waltrip spoke plainly about several incidents, including the Dale Junior vs. Kurt Busch accident. He also took some time out to focus some good-natured needling on Jack Roush and his work neighborhood of Livonia, Michigan. Vickers once again made his way thought the show with a much more mature personality than viewers had known in the past.
Dave Despain was a bit flustered, and several times lost his place. You just don't see that type of thing on the air too often when the show is taped. As The Daly Planet mentioned in a previous article, Despain's nervous laughter is gone, and in several weeks viewers might just find out why.
Hopefully, the original panel including Biffle will be on-hand after the huge Talladega race that already has news and personality stories building five days before the race itself. The next program in this series will be huge.
No matter what the outcome, someone in management has gotten their hands on this show and put things in order. Gone is the sniping and the control issues, and back in vogue is the good-natured fun and the driver comments that add to the understanding of what happened on the track.
That feeling for viewers only comes from hearing the information from the people who lived it. Everything changes when most of the panelists just came back from driving in the race. This week, despite the two missing "regulars," all the information and experience of the previous weekend was on display in a solid program.
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