Monday, March 31, 2008
"This Week In NASCAR" Goes Khaki
Steve Byrnes started This Week In NASCAR with a great review of the topics that race fans wanted to talk about. With Michael Waltrip and Chad Knaus on the set, Byrnes talked about Jack Roush's "Part-Gate," Jeff Burton's post-race comments and the Jimmie Johnson Martinsville spin.
Then, continuing to frustrate fans, Byrnes aimed the program at the upcoming race in Texas. Only a couple of minutes into this program, and with the conversation flowing, this change once again did not make any sense.
The saving grace of the Texas conversation was the evolving dynamic between Chad Knaus and Michael Waltrip. These two seem to have figured out a nice way of relating, even though they are completely different. Unfortunately, this change kills the momentum of the show and makes it tough to switch-back to current events.
SPEED has decided to lighten-up the set and apparently one way to do that is to arrange for all three on-air talent to wear khaki-colored shirts. As Michael Waltrip said, he feels like he is in his PJ's. The look was certainly interesting.
The pre-produced features about Texas continued and for fans looking for a continuation of Martinsville topics, there was nothing left. The video editing and the sound is outstanding, in the normal manner of the NASCAR Media Group. Unfortunately, these features are produced as complete segments that really do not require any additional conversation from the panel.
As the program continues to transition from the original program format to this one, the pro's and con's of the changes are becoming clear. Trying to motivate fans to look ahead first is tough to do. Even with the great video features, the action from one year ago just does not trump the race from the previous day.
It was twenty minutes into the hour when the panel was allowed to delve into the Martinsville racing weekend. Knaus and Waltrip did a solid job of talking about the highlights. Waltrip sounded like he wanted to have some fun, but Byrnes keeps the show on a relatively short leash.
Knaus has been working on speaking-up and participating, and this was his best show to date. He is good on the mechanical and crew chief issues, which works well to compliment the driver and owner perspective of Waltrip. It also makes for the fun moments of the show.
One of the best moments involved Waltrip asking Knaus if Dale Earnhardt Jr. has access to Jimmie Johnson's set-ups and car information. Knaus did a good job of explaining how the teams work together, and put a new spin on the low-key Tony Eury Jr. situation now that Eury is at Hendrick.
As Byrnes continued to work his way through the highlights, Knaus and Waltrip continued to feel free to ask each other questions about racing issues. Their hilarious description of Matt Kenseth losing his temper and spinning David Gilliland was outstanding.
This energetic discussion of the race from the previous day is the best part of the show. What a shame it is not held right at the top of the show to keep the viewers and pump the panel up for the rest of the hour. Maybe we will see some adjustments as SPEED and NMG continue to work on this new show.
The Truck Series discussion focused on the Kyle Busch vs. Johnny Benson confrontation and let both panelists voice their views. Both Waltrip and Knaus took the high road, but it was clear that everyone felt Busch's conduct was not expected from a Cup Series driver.
Dave Despain continues to lend his opinion to the show each week. This role is perfect for Despain and is a good weekly promo for fans that might not know about the wonderful Wind Tunnel on Sunday nights.
A weekly interview feature is interesting, and this week the person being profiled was Max Siegel, the executive in charge at DEI. There is no reporter on-camera asking questions, and the feature is essentially what is called "soundbites" from the subject on various topics. Even though the in-studio talent "tags" this feature, it certainly would be better to have the subject in the studio.
Byrnes keeps the program upbeat, and even as this show continues to find a firm footing, the potential for good things in the future is there. Waltrip and Knaus have worked out a good on-air relationship, but not having three panelists is still tough. It should be fun to watch SPEED continue to tinker with this show as the season progresses.
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