Monday, April 7, 2008

Monday Night Match-Up: This Should Be A Good One

Every week after the race, another kind of race begins for the NASCAR TV partners.

Both ESPN2 and SPEED have been working hard to capture the Monday audience of NASCAR fans who want more information about the racing weekend once the dust has settled.

Both networks offer their own versions of a one hour wrap-up show. ESPN2 is up first with NASCAR Now at 5:30PM Eastern Time. This week, host Allen Bestwick welcomes Lead Reporter Marty Smith and veteran pit reporter Mike Massaro to the Bristol, CT studio.

In another stroke of luck for this program, the third panelist on the show will be Randy LaJoie. This former Busch Series champion is now a well-known safety expert and runs a company that makes racing seats for NASCAR and other series. It was a seat from The Joie Of Seating that was in rookie Michael McDowell's car when he crashed at Texas.

LaJoie is also a part-time analyst for ESPN2, and he will be returning this season to select stand-alone Nationwide Series races. His candid on-air demeanor is a hit with fans, and he works well with Allen Bestwick who is a long-time friend.

Both Smith and Massaro have finally been given an opportunity to shine this season, and have both responded well. Smith moved-up to cover the "hard news beat" at the tracks and his reports and interaction with the drivers and personalities has been outstanding. Massaro has finally been able to let his voice be heard on this Monday show, and has proven to be an experienced and opinionated panelist.

Bestwick is having the TV year of his life, and continues to be focused and organized on the air, which is his trademark. Working both at the tracks and in the studio, Bestwick has provided the anchor for the NASCAR on ESPN team that neither Jerry Punch or Suzy Kolber could provide last season.

This Monday program with LaJoie has the potential to force the ESPN "stuffed shirts" to let the NASCAR guys loosen-up and have some fun on-the-air. ESPN's formal high-fashion approach might work for the NFL and the NBA, but it is simply out of place in the NASCAR world of polo's and khakis. We can all watch as this program continues to evolve.

SPEED has decided to start-over on Mondays, and they did not provide host Steve Byrnes a whole lot of help. He anchors This Week In NASCAR, the network's one hour program that airs on Mondays at 8PM. Leading into this program is Pass Time, a drag racing show and after TWIN is the very British Super-Cars Exposed.

The network has downsized the panel from three to two, apparently because they have added a ton of video and features to the show. Byrnes gets a break this week because he is joined by Michael Waltrip and Greg Biffle. Once again, both panelists were in the Texas race and it was Waltrip's young driver Michael McDowell who was involved in that nasty practice crash.

For some reason, SPEED has chosen to force the show to preview the upcoming race that is five days away during the opening segments. Instead of chatting about the events of the weekend and finishing off all of the pending topics that fans tune-in to see, Byrnes finds himself talking about last season's race at a track that currently sits empty. This format change is simply tough to take.

The rotating panelists on this show are supposed to include Kenny Schrader, but viewers have not seen him this season. Chad Knaus is also a panelist, and he has been solid in his on-air relationship with Waltrip. Having only two panelists sometimes makes it tough for Byrnes to get the good humor flowing, but he certainly tries.

There is no doubt that the NASCAR experience of the on-air personalities of TWIN is solid, but the challenge is to put that knowledge in a format that works for the viewers. Even with the outstanding video edited by the NASCAR Media Group, it is the conversation and tidbits from the weekend that viewers want to hear.

As with ESPN2, SPEED has continued to tinker with this program from top-to-bottom and just last week changed the on-air talent into long-sleeved tan oxford shirts. Waltrip said he felt like he was still in his PJ's. Tan is not a primary color that you see on TV a whole lot.

Monday should bring some new twists and turns with both NASCAR Now and This Week in NASCAR. TV viewers should once again be able to see two very different networks talk about the same subjects in two very different ways. TV is always interesting.

The Daly Planet will have columns about both programs immediately after they conclude, but your comments about the series so far this season are welcome on this post. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the instructions.


Anonymous said...

Having been a NASCAR fan since the early 70's. Oh wow, I did watch INC for years(speedvision). It hurts to say this, but ESPN has accomplished a better deal on Monday eveings in 2008. And is a show I look forward to watching live as that I record TWIN and watch it if I have time. I wish both networks read this and adjust accordingly.

jfs-va said...

Fans of TWIN who like seeing the next race previewed first are probably the same ones that told Rusty they loved the draft tracker and are lining up to purchase Digger shirts.

batchief said...

I don't like the order of topics presented by TWIN, wish I knew their rationale doing it this way, but I do like the show and think last week's was the best to date.

Tripp said...

I wonder if the programming heads at SPEED asked themselves if they wanted their Monday night show to be the last recap of the previous weekend's action or the first to cover the next race. Given TWIN's current format, recapping the last race would make it look like cold NASCAR Now leftovers.

The alternative isn't much better, but it's a place viewers might get information they hadn't heard over the weekend. So far, it hasn't served up anything particularly special.

SPEED might be smart to look into a new approach to TWIN... something that hasn't been done before, which is getting increasingly hard to do. Also, sooner would be better than later because we all know what happened to INC as last season wore on and it assumed the trajectory of a lawn dart in the waning stages of its flight.

For me, TWIN is no longer "must TiVo" NASCAR programming. By the time I get around to watching it, I've often exceeded my weekly quota of NASCAR. Too bad because the old IWC was so very good.

Andrew S. said...

It's kind of a waste of breath, or typing but when will the geniuses at Speed realize that people like me are not watching their show without Ken Schrader on the "expert panel"?

Even if he wasn't in the race, just the interaction between him and Mikey will generate some laughs. But maybe they are taking Rusty's advice and making the show more serious?

Ritchie said...

JD, you wrote..."Byrnes gets a break this week because he is joined by Michael Waltrip and Greg Biffle. Once again, both panelists were in the Texas race and it was Waltrip's young driver Michael McDowell who was involved in that nasty practice crash."

JD, I know what you are thinking, but I am not sure if this will be as interesting as you think. Waltrip does own the car involved, but he also tends to take advantage of these situations to push agendas. I'm afraid we won't learn anything new, just the same old Waltrip.

It would be nice to have other car owners on this show just to hear another point of view. Knaus' crew chief point of view is so refreshing.

Anonymous said...

Mikey was on Geraldo (satellite) this weekend talking about McDowell's crash. Wonder if he'll mention that.

Anonymous said...

I hope someone brings up Chip Ganassi calling his teams "pathetic". This could provide some great discussion on why a team owner, who wasn't even present this weekend as he was with his open wheel teams, would throw his crew members under the bus in front of the media. How stupid is that?

Richard in N.C. said...

I really do enjoy Allen B's NASCAR NOW & always try to tape it just in case I cannot catch it when broadcast, and I do enjoy all the panelists scheduled for tonight. However, I do find that having a past crew chief on the panel - such as Andy P or Ray E - adds a dimension to the show not provided by the drivers or media members.

SophiaZ123 said...

Richard, I agree.

I am sorry but tonights show did not do it for me. I am sorry Marty's father is ill and wished they could've gotten a third party. Show was ok just not as snappy.


They showed some common sense by ENDING the show with talk of the NEXT RACE in Phoenix.

Still glad I caught this show.

Lisa Hogan said...

Enjoyable show.

Sending thoughts to Marty and family.

Anonymous said...

Even though things worked out, find it scary that MM was using a 5 year old seat made for DJ in the 00.

Newracefan said...

I learned more about the seat watching wind tunnel last night hopefully they can tape a video piece soon with Randy that actually includes the seat. His focus now is with local racers many of who do not have safe seats. Todays NN was OK, missed Marty and hope his dad is improving.