Sunday, June 1, 2008
Benson on ESPN2, Knaus on SPEED
The dynamics of the two Monday NASCAR TV shows have been fun to watch this season. Both NASCAR Now on ESPN2 and This Week In NASCAR on SPEED have been totally changed since 2007.
Now, as these two shows begin to mature, they have taken-on even more interesting aspects. One of those is favorite panelists. Monday, viewers will have an opportunity to see two good examples of that.
Allen Bestwick has a long history with Johnny Benson. It was many years on both SpeedVision and SPEED Channel that those two shared an hour on Mondays when Bestwick hosted Inside Winston/NEXTEL Cup Racing. Bestwick's relationship with Benson was different than the one he had with the either Michael Waltrip or Kenny Schrader.
Now, Benson's TV career has been born-again on Monday nights. He has been a semi-regular on NASCAR Now sitting in the "driver" seat. This week, he will be joined in the "media" seat by Mike Massaro and in the "commentator" seat by Brad Daugherty.
This is another solid mix of three panelists that should spark good discussion and allow Bestwick to cover a broad range of topics. There is no doubt that Bestwick has integrated many elements he used in his former show on SPEED into this ESPN2 offering. What has been interesting is just how successful this program has become.
Meanwhile, SPEED and The NASCAR Media Group have combined to try and re-build the Monday night TV franchise that is now called This Week In NASCAR. Steve Byrnes has been gamely pushing this program forward with the same type of determination and enthusiasm that he uses at the track. He has not wavered in his host duties, and is certainly rolling with the punches as major changes continue on this TV series.
The show has been reduced to two panelists and one host. This has often turned what could have been a discussion into a disagreement between two people. Unfortunately, there is no third voice to chime-in this season. That has led to some sticky situations because of the personal involvement of the panelists in the race highlights.
The new favorite panelist on TWIN has become Chad Knaus. This program has never had a crew chief as a panelist and Knaus is fascinating. He works well with Larry McReynolds on NASCAR Performance because that show only "talks tech."
Knaus is being stretched on TWIN because he is often asked not only to respond to issues about other teams, but also has to deal with the hi-jinks of fellow panelist Michael Waltrip. The results have often been rather hilarious.
Waltrip also returns this Monday, and there should be a whole lot to talk about with Pocono ahead of the gang and Dover behind. One glaring issue that sits with Knaus on every show is the struggles of his team this season. There are often signs of frustration when Knaus talks about the COT and the new challenges that he has yet to handle in 2008.
Byrnes continues to tolerate the backwards format of this show, which puts the preview of the next race before the review of the past race. In fact, many readers tell The Daly Planet that they simply record the program and then play it back in the order that makes sense to everyone but the SPEED executives.
Now, with a bunch of shows under their belts and their new shirts nicely tailored, Byrnes and company might be ready to finally hit on the combination that will make for a smooth and fun hour. With all the carnage and stories of Dover, it might be a good week to put things in a new order and see how it works.
Meanwhile, Bestwick and friends will no doubt continue the huge roll they are on since unveiling this new Monday version of NASCAR Now to rave reviews. Certainly, Bestwick will not forget to remind Daugherty of the "chocolate chip cookie incident" during the rain delay at Dover.
NASCAR Now is up first on ESPN2 at 6:30PM and then SPEED follows with TWIN at 8PM. All those times are Eastern. NASCAR Now is an hour later than normal because of the continuing coverage of the French Open tennis tournament. There will be columns up on each program on Monday, so please come back and leave your comments. Thanks.