Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fun Comes Back To SPEED On Monday Nights

Fans of This Week In NASCAR might have known this Monday's show was going to be a good one when the panelists and host openly mocked the program's seemingly backwards format on-the-air. A little mischief is exactly what the doctor ordered for this TV series.

Host Steve Byrnes has finally figured out that the stars of the show are the two panelists and he does not have to carry the load by himself. SPEED has finally loosened-up the on-air leash and the resulting fun is noticeable.

After an opening segment that built the excitement of the racing action from Daytona, the panelists knew that the "big switch" was about to come and made sure to express their frustration that the Daytona action was about to be put on the back-burner for thirty minutes. It was time to preview Chicagoland Speedway and no one was happy about it.

Luckily, the personalities of Knaus and Waltrip combine quite well to address the different issues associated with the upcoming events. Knaus was in the middle of several good answers to questions when he was once again interrupted by Waltrip.

This time, it was all good. Waltrip got the name of the show wrong, told Knaus how smart he was and finished by saying Knaus was a "little lengthy" in his answer. One thing was certain, the fun was back on Monday nights. The "odd couple" was on TV.

Waltrip wound-up the Chicago preview by saying the two most effective ways to win at the track are good gas mileage or running-over the guy in front of you. After Knaus recovered from his mini-stroke and Byrnes stopped laughing, Waltrip continued with a discussion of his favorite television commercials.

By the time things got to the Daytona highlights, the crew was at full speed. Waltrip had talked to Tony Stewart to follow-up on his illness and Knaus took the opportunity to address NASCAR's policy of making ill drivers start the race for points. Waltrip slipped-in a mention of his XM radio show and tried his best to get Knaus completely off-track.

A lot of credit for the recent success of this show has to go to Knaus. It was painful to watch him early on in the season, but once he figured out that it was Steve Byrnes issue to maintain control and all he had to do was have fun, things turned around. The back-and-forth between Knaus and Waltrip is just hilarious to watch.

The show covered a lot of Daytona-related topics and then used a nice piece of video that showed Dale Earnhardt Junior's early days when he first joined the NASCAR world. Waltrip and Knaus both had good and strong words in reference to Junior's character and their reflections and memories really set this episode apart.

The program is loaded with sponsored elements and Byrnes has figured-out that the best way to handle this is just make fun of it. He slowly pronounces each feature and is often echoed by Waltrip who sometimes adds his own random thoughts. Last week, he decided the picture given to a fan should be of him. It was.

Since February, fans have slowly watched this program crawl and then walk. Now, the only remaining change needs to be presenting the past weekend's race highlights and conversation first. The NASCAR Media Group producers have slowly removed the pre-produced features from the program and now have a good mix for the viewers.

It is a nice change of pace when elements like Scanner Chatter and the other highly-edited features come along. It is made all the better when Waltrip and Knaus are waiting to follow-up on them with their own "odd couple" brand of humor.

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allisong said...

About the "preview of next week's race", I keep thinking this comes off as a paid promotional feature. They are not so much previewing the "race" as promoting the "track". Are the tracks buying this time? Each week is the same - "______ Speedway is one of my favorites because _______." "The racing has really gotten great lately at _________ Speedway."

A true preview of the race would track such storylines as which teams can we expect to do well at this track? What can we expect from the teams that have been struggling at the 1.5 milers?, etc.

Other than that, the show was fun, although the time spent on the canned features could have been better spent reviewing the NWide race. (I know I'm not the first to suggest this.)

Anonymous said...

As a jr fan, I found his video placement kind of odd but thought the show was fun overall. Agree that the preview might be an infomercial of sorts.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Truly, the format is just a requirement from the SPEED guys.

I think the NASCAR Media Group will do whatever the SPEED guys tell them to do.

Maybe, we might see a change when The Chase rolls around. I really cannot see holding the video of a great Chase race for thirty minutes to talk about a race from last season.

Then again.....


Newracefan said...

Hysterical, the laughter was back. Chad has mastered how to deal with Mikey and it's even more fun to watch now. Schrader is missed (I'm still looking for the "Where's Schrader show", we got some of it on VL this time via text messages) but Chad can hold his own. The old video clip of JR was interesting (actually new for me) and the fact that Mickey had and Chad does work with him helps but I would have rather had them talk about the NW race.

TexasRaceLady said...

Now that I've quit laughing ----

This show was FUN!

Chad had me absolutely enthralled with his "lengthy" explanation. I'm learning more and more just how hard a CC's job really is.

allisong, I think you've hit on something --- it's not so much a preview as a promotion of next week's race.

This show has really become fun again.

SophiaZ123 said...

I watched the first 5 minutes and then tuned out mostly for the next 20 minute snoozefest..but the last half was fun. But after reading TRL and NRF comments, I might have to watch the entire repeat!?

The format is still annoying but the guys are having fun. and mikey was quiet the last segment but I did not catch what he said as they went off the air..I even turned on the cc quickly but it did not catch it.

I also caught the KS text message to KW on VL.

Stricklanfan raised a good point about the shows format...after Homestead, are they gonna talk about next years DAYTONA??

Brian said...

I really enjoy this show. It's obviously not the old days with Allen, Johnny, Schrader, and Mikey.

This is fun though, when Greg is on... it's good, but when Chad has been on, like others say, he's mastered how to deal with Mikey, and it makes things really funny.

They had me laughing just about the whole time, this thing is a TON more enjoyable than it has been the last few years. Definitely a job well done, like it has been.

Anonymous said...

Chad clearly isn't used to working with a driver who says whatever's on his mind, instead of pre-planned speeches. He is having a lot of fun reacting to Michael's off-the-cuff remarks, and it makes for a fun show.

wdstump said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
wdstump said...

As a long time fan of the IWC/INC series I was aggravated when they removed JB and then Alan, but the most frustrating thing was the structured scripting that Dave was forced to enforce.
This year, the name change and Steve, who I have spoken to several times at the track and I like, was uncomfortable and it showed.I nearly quit watching, but as of late, it has improved so much, we actually watch religously again.
Chad and Mikey are great and Bif is also funny as a contrast to Mikey.
Mike's Strategy Or Wrecking to win was priceless as was Chad's reaction.

Anonymous said...

Great show last night! I don't think that I have laughed so much during the show this year. Chad was priceless when he was long-winded and said he was WAITING for Mikey to interrupt him. It was nice to see the three of them having fun.

Anonymous said...

I still cannot understand what this show is supposed to be.

The original formula of Bestwick Schrader< Mike and Benson was brilliant, and this mish-mosh still loses me in the first 10 minutes. Its unwatchable.
FYI, there is a big story in the NY Times today about the severe impact the economy is having on NASCAR, its teams and tracks. Brian France is quoted in a way that makes him sound as though he's Nero and Rome is burning. I think the bigger point is that the producers of this program reflect the same arrogant attitude that pervades NASCAR- which is too bad.

Bray Kroter

Renata said...

First off, that show was off the wall -- in a good way.

I see TWIN as the 'The Daily Show' or 'The Colbert Report' of NASCAR. The main topics have already been covered formally by so many outlets that it's entertainment first.

Anonymous said...

JD, don't you think that if the format changes to what you want, TWIN would be the exact same thing as NASCAR Now? I mean the format is what makes twin different and is the only thing that keeps me from feeling like I just saw this show a few hours earlier on ESPN2. What say you?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 1:22PM,

That is a great question but the answer is no. SPEED and ESPN are completely different in style.

My opinion is that by using the memories and comments on the previous weekend's race, SPEED would be able to make themselves different because of the casual attitude and the Waltrip brand of humor.

The observations of Waltrip, Knaus and Biffle as a set panel are going to be very different than Bestwick trying once again to lead a brand new cast of characters through a pre-determined agenda.

That is why I keep hinting that maybe NASCAR Now needs a regular or semi-regular cast down the stretch. Some of the shows with three folks meeting for the first time on-the-air have not been up to the normal Bestwick quality.

You give AB Massaro or Smith, Benson or Jarrett and Petree or Evernham down the stretch and he will absolutely make it sing.

Two shows, two identities, same content. Isn't TV fun?


SophiaZ123 said...

I think by pushing the PREVIEW until the end of the show, and SHORTENING that portion, we could have more conversation AND time to briefly review NW and Truck races.

As it is, the first 25 minutes of old videos is boring to me even if the comments are good from Mikey and Chad. The left over momentum of such a huge race at Daytona, being broached, and then suddenly making a U Turn for the next race, still kills the energy of the show imo. Even though the boys poked fun about it last night, it's a backwards premise. Keep the energy UP by talking about what happened-FRESH on the viewers and drivers/cc minds..then wind down in the last segment for the preview.


p.s. LOVE this Odd Couple photo as well.

Anonymous said...

I love TWIN, but the theme music sounds like it was written by Inya. Horrible. Very "un-NASCAR-like".

savannah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...


You are welcome to return and re-post without the team reference. This is a TV blog. Thank you.


Vicky D said...

I thought Mikey was a hoot last night and we enjoyed the show.

dannyboy said...

I agree with JD as to the difference between the two shows. Here you have a show (NN) with one-half the old IWC cast, and yet it's nothing like TWIN, or even the old IWC.

I happened to have no spare video tapes on which to record NN while I watched TWIN, so I flipped back & forth: NN is a good show but it's often just going over stuff we already heard on the pre-post race shows.