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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