Sunday, November 18, 2007
Dave Despain Shows His NASCAR Disdain
Mike Joy is a talented racing TV veteran, and perhaps the most professional NASCAR announcer presently on network television. Darrell Waltrip is a former champion who is continuing to enjoy his re-birth as a TV analyst that has led him into a wonderful and financially rewarding world.
Dave Despain currently enjoys his status as the single host of WindTunnel on Sunday nights. This series is his franchise. He does not enjoy his status as the single host of Inside NEXTEL Cup on Monday nights. This series will never be his franchise.
Sunday morning Despain hosted a special live version of WindTunnel from the SPEED studios in Charlotte, NC. Joy was alongside, and DW was on a satellite liveshot from the Homestead track. It was an opportunity for Despain to vent all his NASCAR frustrations, and he did just that for the better part of the hour.
The reason The Daly Planet does not normally discuss this program is that it is not NASCAR themed. We do, however, view it each week and continue to appreciate the fact that Despain tries his best to spread TV exposure around to all forms of racing.
Despain works best with Robin Miller, when both can provide support for the other to continue to harrass NASCAR on every possible point. In this program, Mike Joy refused to play the Miller role and took every NASCAR question poised to him by Despain with a very big grain of salt.
The first question asked to DW was not done until fifteen minutes into this one hour show. In that same time, Despain asked Joy only one or two questions. The criticism of Despain is that his endless talking and control issues always sink every meaningful conversation.
DW answered some hard questions, but it was clear that Despain was there to poke the big NASCAR bear with a stick. Mike Joy tried to ask DW questions from the Charlotte studio, but Despain quickly stepped-in and took control, which included telling DW that he had ten seconds to answer a question. Needless to say, DW took his sweet time and made sure Despain understood not to do that again.
It was Waltrip that quietly raised what was perhaps the best point of the entire program. It was the contrast between the intensity and the agressiveness that we saw in the past and the current Hendrick Racing "love fest" for the championship. DW did not mince words when he said NASCAR "sucked the life out of the sport" by clamping down on the personalities of guys like Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart.
His point was that NASCAR itself had made this championship "vanilla" through their own actions with the intense and passionate drivers in the sport. His words were a big public shot across the NASCAR bow on national TV, and really made this show memorable.
Joy and Despain struggled on the same set, as both are professional TV hosts. Joy wound up asking as many questions as Despain, and each time Despain stepped-in and tried to regain control. Several times, it was not only obvious, it just was not very professional.
Once DW departed, Despain began to take viewer calls that instantly left NASCAR and went directly to Formula-1. Joy and Despain were off into Formula-1 land with a the NASCAR TV viewers who tuned-in for this special NASCAR edition scratching their heads.
It was great to see Mike Joy on TV again, and SPEED fans can only wonder what Inside NEXTEL Cup could become if Joy was at the helm. This Despain-hosted show is struggling, and fans only had to see and hear Joy again to rekindle their great memories of this TV professional.
Chip Ganassi stepped onto the show live from Homestead and addressed the success of Hendrick Motorsports. It was nice to see someone with an ego the size of Ganassi exchange plain talk with Mike Joy about the COT and the 2008 season. Gansssi was a good guest to address the influx of open-wheel drivers and he spoke plainly about the fact that most of these drivers paid their dues, just in another series.
Joy once again took control of the show and led Ganassi into a good discussion about Juan Pablo Montoya and his rookie season. Despain stepped-in and could not resist taking a shot at Ganassi about Montoya and left the interview with "Robin Miller says hi."
This "extra shot" is Despain's Achilles Heel, and it was never more apparent than when he was seated alongside of the classy Joy on the set.
DW returned to address the Penske Racing situation and talked again plainly about the tough racing with the COT, and the fact that "The Chase" should only be about five races long. He also suggested that the Cup regulars should not be scored in the Busch Series Championship. Waltrip was on a roll, and he was not going to stop.
Without prompting, he reinforced that the COT needs additional work, and Mike Joy asked him about the safety issues of the COT. Joy continued with his own beliefs about the cost-saving and racing issues with this new car.
DW summed up the fact that NASCAR is at a crossroads, and that the fan base needs some assurance that the sport will maintain the excitement and intensity that put it on the map. Despain is not a NASCAR fan, and he moved onto another question without reinforcing that the top NASCAR on Fox announcer was saying NASCAR was in crisis.
The reason Despain moved on was clear. It was his time to talk about more Formula-1 racing. Off he went to the races, talking on a NASCAR Sunday about some bizarre Formula-1 story that none of his viewers were interested in at all.
Despain was very clear that this was the biggest story of the year, but then someone said something in his ear. He was not happy, but sent the show down to Homestead so the RaceDay trio of panelists could contibute their biggest NASCAR stories of the year. Because Despain rambled on about F-1 so long, Mike Joy did not get to participate.
The bottom line about this show is that SPEED needed to decide in advance if this program was going to be NASCAR themed, or not. Because they did not, the program was disjointed and made no sense. It was as though NASCAR was being forced on Despain, and he was doing everything possible to get if off "his show."
In the end, the contributions of DW and Mike Joy proved to be valuable, and brought the content to this program that the NASCAR fans wanted to see. Despain's rant about the Formula-1 cheating scandal was mis-placed, and threw the program off balance.
This is the only Daly Planet review of this program, and there was no doubt if SPEED had committed to make this an all NASCAR show, it could have shined.
Instead, what was left for the viewers was a "mish-mash" of NASCAR experts surrounded by Despain and his unyielding Formula-1 agenda. One wonders what Mike Joy and DW could have done alone with live phone calls from fans and without all the ego and control issues on the set. Despain is a talented man, it is just a shame he cannot get out of the way on the air and let others shine.
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