Monday, November 19, 2007

"Inside NEXTEL Cup" Quietly Walks Away


The big boys were on the studio set at the NASCAR Images building in Charlotte, NC. It was the Monday after the season had ended, and Kenny Schrader, Michael Waltrip and Greg Biffle were ready to get this show done and get on vacation. Only one thing stood in their way...Dave Despain.

All three drivers were fresh-faced and wide awake, a situation questioned by Despain about the level of partying that followed the Homestead race. Greg Biffle answered the question by saying "I only finished thirteenth."

Off to the races for one last time the trio followed Despain's prompting and lent a good focus to the events as they unfolded on the Cup side. Despain was not impressed with the race, and headed into the highlight segment with a rather deep breath.

In this program, Despain added some impromptu questions for the panel about incidents on pit road and Cup Series rookies. This non-scripted conversation was always a hallmark of the "old" INC and often led things into hilarious territory.

For whatever reason, this "new" version of INC, now several years old, has some feeling that viewers are seeing race highlights for the first time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most fans are here for the fun, having seen The SPEED Report, Victory Lane, NASCAR Now, or even SportsCenter.

The entire point of the "old" show was that having fun was the priority, and if the highlights got shown before Allen Bestwick had a coronary...that was OK too. While there are some occasional smiles, that spirit is gone and has never returned.

Schrader tries to move things in a fun direction now and again, but Despain reels the panel in quickly and gets back to the script. In Monday's program, several brief "mini-discussions" popped-up and showed the depth of experience and knowledge of the panel. This aspect is sorely missed on a regular basis.

After the highlights finished, the Toyota subject came up and Waltrip was staunch in his defense of this company's foray into the Cup side. Once again, Schrader was the voice of experience in saying that it was not where Toyota "was" in Cup at present, it was where they are going.

The rest of the show continued as normal, with some inside jokes flying between Waltrip and Schrader. Greg Biffle has become a solid member of this panel, and his serious personality fits well with the hyperactive Waltrip and the laid-back Schrader.

Throughout the season, this show has experienced highs and lows that seemed to be determined by tension among the cast and lack of innovation from the production team. The "hot seat" guest is gone, the viewer questions are boring, and there are no fun features anywhere to be seen.

It has come down to a re-hash of highlights already seen by fans in a TV show all alone on Monday nights with no other NASCAR programming support. It kind of makes it seem even more ironic that the show is from NASCAR Images, where the panel sits surrounded by thousands of hours of NASCAR footage.

In this season-ending program, there were no "out-takes or bloopers" shown going to commercial. There were no memorable moments played back or remembered by the cast. As we have so often seen from NASCAR Images this season, there was only random NASCAR footage edited into a music video. What a complete waste of time.

On that set were two drivers who have participated in this program for the last decade. In this show, they were asked about races, manufacturers and even rookies. What they were never asked about was this show...this series...the last ten years of their lives spent Mondays in the same studio.

It was great that Despain casually made the statement that the show would return next season. It would have been nice if just like the other "final" programs on SPEED, INC would have spent some time and given viewers some retrospective of what had transpired over the last ten months on the set.

Remember, there is no longer running show on SPEED than INC. In this final hour of what had been a very memorable year for a lot of reasons, fans deserved more than just Despain offering each driver thirty seconds to say what he "is doing in the off-season."

When INC returns, let us hope for several things. First, that SPEED places some additional NASCAR programming like Tradin' Paint, NASCAR Performance, Survival of the Fastest, and maybe even a live edition of WindTunnel on Monday nights. The hodge-podge of lifestyle shows likes PINKS and Payback make INC a lonely NASCAR island.

Secondly, that more resources are used to allow some additional show elements. This stripped-down version of INC that was created by an executive no longer at the network should be scrapped. Shoot a feature at the track, bring in a guest, and allow the fans to submit their questions through Internet video. Do something to dust-off this old war horse and make it young again.

The original SpeedVision Executive Producer Bob Scanlon had a simple idea. Get one driver from each NASCAR manufacturer, add a host that could get them talking, and do it on the Monday after each race.

While that idea has changed slightly over the years, the fundamental premise has been proven to stand the test of time. It will be nice to see INC return for another season, and even nicer to see it grow back into the franchise program it was for this network for so many years.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email editor@thedalyplanet.tv if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by and leave your opinion.

42 comments:

Ritchie said...

The show was fairly entertaining. The comments you made about going through the highlights as if they are brand new are on target. That is a show format that needs to be changed in the future. However, I'm not certain that the current cast is best for future programming, as Mr. Waltrip demonstrated by telling us for the 50th time this season that not being able to see through the cars is not a car of tomorrow problem. I could do without Mr. Waltrip giving us our daily dose of his version of reality.

I do have a question about this show. You have indicated before that the show is taped. Why do they worry so much about fitting commercials in and why do the producers constantly tell them to move forward on a subject? If it is taped, couldn't they just edit the show later?

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Besides Allen B., what I miss most is the "hot seat" guest - especially Kenny's annual question to Mike Helton about his income.

Daly Planet Editor said...

ritchie,

The show is taped in real time, so the running time totals need to meet the time format for SPEED. There is no regular editing of a talk show, unlike other post-produced formats.

The commercial times make no difference, the producer is just given a time total and the number of commercial "holes" to build into the show.

Normally, a one hour show has eight internal commercials and a time total that is between 44 and 46 minutes. So, every time the Despain throws to break, they stop and add up the time they have used and figure out how much time is left.

Good question, I think it might be time for another Wednesday Q&A session this week.

Photojosh said...

*sigh*

I still like INC. I guess what I really like is the idea if INC. From back when what I got to see was a casual conversation between 3 good drivers. I got information and history about racing that I didn't get anywhere else. INC made me a fan of guys like Schrader and Mikey as much as their racing did.

Speed could easily kick this show in the butt and get it going again. Find a host who wants to be there and isn't a killjoy and increase the budget to include some "features" (hot seat etc). Increasing the show to an hour would be even better. There would be plenty of time to go over the races AND goof off. But even at 30 minutes, the show could be great with little effort.

Illpolo said...

JD,

Great idea about the Q & A session for later this week. We are working on studio productions in the high school class I teach...this site not only provides topics of conversation and some really good information but also serves to motivate me to work as hard as possible to get the kids well-versed in all aspects of production.

Keep up the great work!

Crockett said...

I was a bit mystified by the serious treatment of Matt Kenseth's "problems" with tires and battery. Didn't he say in his post-race interview that he was just joking around and pulling Robbie Reiser's chain?

That said, Michael Waltrip presented something I hadn't heard anywher else -- that 2007 was the first year in NASCAR history that no driver from North Carolina won a race. I'll forgive a lot of the self-serving drivel he dishes up for that gem.

greg8370 said...

This was floated last week in another thread but replacing Despain with Schrader would be great.

Photojosh said...

I really think Schrader would be better in the "guest" seat than in the "host" seat.

Bestwick (I know he's with ESPN now), Mike Joy, or even one of the female nascar reporters. Having a gal in there could give a great dynamic that might add to the "fun" nature of what INC can and should be.

SophiaZ123 said...

Schrader as a host is a bad idea. We would NEVER hear him digress to tell a story that a spotter called him a idiot or anything. :-)

I do think the producer of this show needs to put the fun and spark back into it. I don't know about anybody else but I LOVE the opening tease and they should always use that.

I also found it interesting that nobody from NC won this year.

Also a couple weeks ago, Brian Vickers clearly stated at the end of the show "gee, we actually got this show done in an hour..sometimes it's taken us an hour and a half"..so I do think this show gets edited..either that or the boys break for coffee and donuts with the crew.

I still CLEARLY remember an opening tease with Schrader caught OFF GUARD taking a bite of a cookie and mumbling the tease (Hmmm..future Little Debbie commercial idea??)

When the show began he said something like "I didn't know we were going to start the show right now or I wouldn't have had the cookie"

:-)

still I love this show and just think extending it with hotseat guests..and call it INSIDE NASCAR.

CRIPES what is it supposed to be called NOW...Inside Sprint Cup?

Dumb name...sorry, even if they do pay the big bucks..what about the other Sprint series????

Sandie said...

@richard in n.c.--I know! I LOVED the 'Hot Seat' a few weeks ago I was watching tapes from the 2003 season and man alive the difference was even more than my memories had!

@crockett--Yes I didn't even realize that until Mikey said that! Here's an article about it: http://tinyurl.com/2x3wxx

I'd LOVE to see Mike Joy, Steve Byrnes, Wendy or Krista host it as well! I think they'd do great! They all have a rapport with the drivers and from their vantage point can bring in their thoughts as well! That's something else I loved about Allen. Sometimes he'd say what he saw from the booth or the guys would ask him what they were thinking in the booth while whatever was happening on the track. Even when NBC/TNT wasn't covering races, Allen was at the track for whatever his other job was. Because I know I have on at least one of my 2003 recordings him mentioning that he conversations with crew members on the way back from the track due to something wild that happened during the race.

Short of the famous August Bristol race where Happy 'splained to Da Biff up close and personal why it was bad for his health to wreck him in his brand new ET car. The boyz were all like "Yeah yeah, we know there was a race but can we get to the fight already!"

The October '03 Martinsville race where Steve and Ryan got into each other! All 3 of them saw some part of it about to happen so they were able to tell what they saw that preceded the event.

What happened with the live audience? I kept hearing that they were going to allow folks to come and watch the tapings.

vroom! said...

I wonder why Speed execs prefer Pinks versus Nascar type prgramming...who watches Speed?

SallyB said...

It's been sad to see this show degenerate into just a bunch of talking heads doing yet another 'race recap'. They definitely need a new host who actually likes Nascar and has some rapport with drivers and team owners. It used to be fun to hear the drivers get off on a tangent for something silly. Mikey's role as the 'official shill for the Nascar party line' has gotten old. It seems impossible to remember that they even had a special show in 2001 to recap the season and discuss, on a personal level, the loss of Dale Sr. I hope they haven't 'jumped the shark'.

jfs-va said...

Having Waltrip and Schrader there livens the show for sure, but Waltrip sure can get annoying with the NAPA plugs (not spark plugs, lol). Then again, sponsor plugs are what NASCAR is all about.

J.D., I agree that there should have been some sort of season wrap-up. It's a long season and it's easy to forget what happened in Feb and March.

RH said...

@ vroom.
Add rates are set by ratings. Speed is a business. I think you can reasonably infer then that they get better ratings for those other shows or that the cost to produce a show like Pinks is less vs. the income from ads. Shows like Pinks are watched by race fans in general, thereby making them more attractive to advertisers than shows only watched by Nascar fans.

Anonymous said...

Oh what shall I do on Monday nights now that INC is off the air for a few months. It would have been nice to have shown some bloopers from the show, but they pretty much kept the same format as if the show would be back next week. Love Mikey, Biff and Kenny, not sure about Dave, his start off talk about how they all looked great, he expected them to be tired from parties, hmmm what parties, Kenny didn't race, Biff got 13th and Mikey missed the race, Dave is clueless sometimes. Maybe a new host would help, hey NAPA has done alot for not just MWR, they sponsor alot of race related stuff, so who cares that he mentions them, its funny, he probably does it to see how many will notice that he does it, bring back more of the humor.

Anonymous said...

A fan of this show for years I've seen several changes in the cast of the 3 drivers - some worked well, some didn't - the current "regular" 3 of Biffle, Mikey and Schrader have a nice chemistry. Vickers is a good fit when one of the other 3 can't make it. The move from Bestwick to Despain was a huge mistake in my opinion. Bestwick had the perfect blend of keeping the 3 in line and letting them wander that made for a very entertaining and usually educational show for the hard core NASCAR fan. He also knows and loves the sport and it's history. To me it appears that for Despain it's just another forum for him to "be the man" and show the world just how cool he is. What has made this show great in the past is the chemistry of the group - Despain is not a good fit there and SPEED should look at finding a new host for next year - someone who blends in a bit instead of needing to be so much "the star" - let the sport and the race be the star of the show like it used to be when Bestwick hosted.

Busch Series Fan! said...

We enjoy this show very much and will miss it in the off season. Dave Despain needs to be replaced how about the Pemberton who was on Tradin' Paint was that Robin? He would be a natural on this show. It really needs another Nascar related show afterwards - I hate hate hate that show Pinks and Payback or whatever it's called. Aftern INC there used to be a Busch Series Show similar with AB hosting that we liked to watch since INC doesn't show nearly enough of the Busch/Truck series race recaps to suit us. Biffle has gotten so much better since he started in that seat although I miss JB - he seemed to be the go-to guy when they had technical questions about the cars. Overall I'm looking for a better show next season.

Anonymous said...

I was a fan of this show going back to before there was a SPEED channel, and for years I rarely missed a show. I kept watching after they hosed Allen and Johnny. This year, though, I might have caught 2 shows. The Magic is gone.

Since Sirius put on their own NASCAR channel, SPEED has become irrelevent. Tony Stewart Live has the fun, the insight, and the interesting guests that INC used to provide.

Five years ago, I probably watched 20 hours of SPEED per week. There was always something on. Now, other than F1, I don't watch at all. Dumbing the channel down with all the game shows may have gotten them more viewers, but it is insulting to race fans.

JD, what do you think about the correlation between SPEED's program list and Cup's ratings decline?

It's not a real stretch to see that as ESPN and SPEED have stopped showing racing during the week, the ratings for the weekend have gone down as well. The less fans think about NASCAR during the weekdays, the less they think about it on the weekends.

Joe from Philly said...

I still think you're being a tad over the top on your Despain critique.

I see an uncomfortable guy. Not a Nascar hater. I don't believe he's well suited for this show and needs to move on but I really don't believe it's because he has some kind of disdain for Nascar.

I've watched MANY great interviews with Junior, Gordon, Johnson, Stewart etc. where the interviewee is clearly comfortable. I just don't see how these guys would be as comfortable if Dave were a 'hater'. He's not the most personable guy in the TV world and he's certainly not a true blue Nascar fan, but I'm OK with that on WT. That show wouldn't work otherwise.

I think the host role on INC as it stands right now stinks. AB always got on my nerves with the whole "we have to move on" thing. IMHO, those darned highlights shouldn't the main purpose of the show. They should simply be the catalyst of discussion. I don't care about the highlights. I've already seen them! Let me know what those guys think!

Change two things at least:
1. The host (Krista Voda would be great)
2. The show's agenda.

Of course, the only way Speed changes the show's agenda is if they free up some time for other Nascar shows to "pick up the slack".

Anonymous said...

Just how many hours of pre race-post race programming is needed?NN added 2 1/2 hours last week to cover the 3 J's,Jimmy,Jeff,andJunyer.A 10 minute story at best.INC used to be an entertaing show,but it's become just another high lite show.Dump D.D.and get it back to what it was,insid info with humor,not another race recap

Garry said...

Just an FYI, and then I will comment on INC-
On Sportscenter last night,
Kenny(I hate NASCAR)Mayne had Jimmie Johnson on,face to face no less, and proceeded to ask very juvinile questions, including "How does it feel to get paid just for driving around?" And Jimmie quickly added, "You mean in circles? We get paid comparable for our sport as other athletes get paid for theirs." Priceless.
As far as INC, if they are going to bring it back, keep Shrader and Biffle, but Waltrip has wore out his welcome with his daily axe to grind about fans who have opinions.Bring in a new host, say a guy named Allen, and return the hot seat guest, and start having the top drivers of the weekend make an appearance for God's sake. The funniest moment when that happened was when Jeff Gordon was on, and Shrader reminded him,"Remember all those cars you tore up in your rookie season?" I about fell out of my chair laughing!I know Shrader doesn't race full time anymore, and probably will retire soon, but his knowledge and humor is what this program needs. They have DW in the booth and he doesn't drive anymore, right?

Anonymous said...

INC used to be my only "must watch" tv program, but I left when they kicked Allen off. I haven't watched it since, and, from what I read in this column, I haven't missed a thing. I can't stand Despain - and I do believe he despises NASCAR. I read once a quote of his where he claimed that NASCAR had "sucked" the life out of other racing series - as if we fans have no minds of our own, as if we can't decide on our own which series to watch. I used to love the interplay among Allen, Kenny, Johnny, and Mike; Despain is such a wet blanket. I won't watch as long as he's on.

Sammy said...

I know Speed Tv is a resource for all things racing, and it certainly shouldn't revolve around only NASCAR, but they need to get back to showing more live racing from ALL series. No more Unique Thugs, no more Stinks, and no more Playback type programming. Keep INC on the air, keep Wind Tunnel on the air, but don't blend them with the same host.

Richard in N.C. said...

Besides his talents and the obvious chemistry Allen B had with Kenny, et al, I am convinced that Allen's having been at most of the races contributed greatly to the "old" IWC/INC. I think Dave D. is probably handicapped by not being at the races - he's almost like an "outsider" to the drivers on the panel. I think Robin Pemberton or Matt Yocum would be super. Maybe ? even Eli Gold since I believe his Tuesday MRN radio show may now be done from Charlotte.

What SPEED really needs is a half hour each week of Eli or Mike Joy talking with Barney Hall.

Martin Vincent said...

richard in n.c., I think you're thinking of Randy Pemberton, not Robin.

crockett, the stat about having had no winners from North Carolina had been updated by Jayski probably 2 to 3 weeks before season's end.

Anonymous said...

Inside NASCAR Racing should be the name so it wouldn't matter who the series sponsor was. AB would be great to see return to the seat but it should go to Steve B. He has a great rapport with the drivers and crews and has shown he can handle just about anything that's thrown at him.

Kevin in SoCal said...

Martin Vincent is right. You guys need to read jayski.com. He's posted about the "no winners from NC" thing for the last couple months. I've always thought the questions of the week on INC were pretty elementary stuff about NASCAR, but I guess there are people who dont read everything as much as I do.
I still like the show and I am glad to see its going to come back next year. I hope Speed puts Dave Despain on a 2 hour Wind Tunnel on Sundays, as I enjoy his opinions there. ISC needs to have a true NASCAR person hosting the show.

Jo said...

Dave Despain is good on WT not on INC - he seems not only uncomfortable but has a "lets get this over with" attitude.I love Kenny, Bif is good Mikey - well he has his moments, too. A host change is definately needed. And I would love to have a different driver on - pref. one of the "non star" types too. They have fans too. Any thing to spice it up. I was surprised no year end re cap, of those we lost, benchmarks set, bloopers - would have been a great way to end the year. How the producers are in the thinking cap mode and the show gets a spruce up!
JD - a great idea for a Q&A session I got several Q's ( noanswers tho')

Anonymous said...

Now that Jimmie Johnson has won 2 championships, will they finally change the beginning of the show that still shows Tony Stewart as "the champ"?, or is their budget too small?

Steve L said...

I know it's a very long season for NASCAR racing but every year it seems like anyone involved in the sport can't wait for it to be over. "Last lap, quick! unplug everything, pack it up, and let's get home!!" "Wait, something fell off the truck! Don't worry about it, we'll just get a new one next year!"

I feel like a fan sitting in the stands right after the checkerd flag and I looked up to see I was the only one in the whole place. "Where'd everybody go?!!"

It won't hit me too hard until around Friday when I'm not scurrying around to get my work done so I can watch practice or qualifying on television.

Speed: at least give us some re-runs of some of the shows we missed like 'survival of the fittest' or whatever it was called, and others we could not find on our sets during the regular season. Even re-runs of INC would fill the empty racing gap in our hearts. Re-run the races, I have a short memory, I forgot who won most of the races by now anyway. Give us something!

At least we have JD to help get us through it. Thanks!
Steve L.

Anonymous said...

I used to look forward to this show every week.
I've only seen it a few times since the format changed.
I just didn't enjoy the show anymore.

SophiaZ123 said...

Steve

Your comment about short memory made me laugh!! I am the same way.

I can remember the lyrics to the theme of the Addams family tv show, but can't quote chapter and verse about things this season.

i would love reruns of INC and TP among others..beats the primetime dreck SPEED shows.

And while I LOVE NASCAR, why doesn't the station show OTHER FORMS of racing more during the week? It's a shame they show such TRASH like that NOPI show whatever that is about.

I agree SPEED...rerun some shows for us to help with withdrawal.

dr nick said...

having a host who interacts with the drivers would be best.an alan bestwick type personality would be better than killjoy dave.could spencer pull off being the host? with alan it seemed as though the show took on a life of its own.these guys having free reign made it uniquely funny.thats what made it different. my wife even watched to see what they would say next.i cant tell you when she last watched.mikey kisses nascar's butt so much he should be sponsored by chapstick. bring back the hot seat. the show is, (or soon to be was) inside nextel cup, not nascar busch series or the craftsman truck series show.

Anonymous said...

They need to bring back Kenny Wallace and get rid of Waltrip! Kenny Wallace, Ken Schrader and a different "guest driver" each week! Lots more fan questions and get rid of Depain, John Kernan?

Newracefan said...

I enjoy INC every week and will miss it greatly. I was glad to hear DD say they would be back next year as I was worried it would be cancelled. Hopefully it will come back with the same drivers, Biffle has greatly improved as the year progressed and I actually like Vickers too, their explainations are detailed enoughto make the point but not so complicated that I don't understand. Michael and Schrader bring in the fun and that's the best part. I say bring on the laughs, that's actully the "Inside" part as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps a different host and a few less video highlights would help bring back the fun. I only saw one or two of the shows with JB and AB as it was early in my Nascar fandom so I have nothing to compare it too but it sounds like from other posters it was less structured. Maybe Speed will rerun the shows during the off season to help with my withdrawl symptoms.

Anonymous said...

Without Michael Waltrip, this show would be great. I learn so much more when he's not there.

He talks too much and he's become NASCAR's yes-man and cheerleader.

I'd like to hear what the other panelists have to say, but MW makes that impossible.

Anonymous said...

The show would be immensely more informative if the panel consisted of drivers who were in the race.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why everybody complains so much about INC. It's great. Could it be better? Maybe - but it's still the only NASCAR programming on Monday night so I'll watch it no matter who is hosting and who is on the panel. It's my favorite show just about every week although RaceDay keeps getting better and better!!!!!

Don G said...

My favorite show is going down like a rock! We need Allen back and we need the self serving Waltrip gone. Can't believe he lasted even one season. Shrader is great and Biff adds serious insite as he is the only real serious racer in the bunch. They better change the show or it will be gone after next season.

Don G said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I love the Mikey, Shrader, Biffle crew, they just need a new (Previous-Alan) host... They need to go back to the old format... when they tried to cover all three races and the viewer questions and the hot seat... we watch the race we don't need a lap by lap recap.... I'm not as disappointed with Despain as I once was...perhaps if they lightened up on the format it would fix the Despain issue too. As for the comment about bringing in Kenny Wallace... a little Kenny goes a long way... Sunday is enough...he has a gig with Spencer....

Matt said...

I miss the old format so much. This used to be my favorite show because of its humor.

One of my favorite moments was in the 2004 Rockingham recap when a car got on its side (I don't think it was the Carl Long wreck.. it was a different crash that looked similar) and there was a question of when the caution had come out. Allen cues the slow-motion replay and carefully points out when the caution lights came on. Then Mikey says, "Hey Allen, you know how else to tell the caution is out? See that car in the background on its side.." I laughed so hard haha.

I just watched an old episode where Schrader opens the show and he says something like, "..so come watch us review the race with the expert panel... and Allen." Then Allen glares at him, haha I love it.

And remember when they gave the panel the remote control to replay the replays? They would constantly rewind, fast forward, rewind, etc.. it was hilarious.

The "new" format really sucked the life out of the show. The first week that Despain took over, I stopped watching. There was nothing wrong to begin with, so I had no idea WHY they would change it.

SPEED, please bring back the components that made this show what fans remember it to be.