Sunday, August 17, 2008
Robin Miller Spices Up "Wind Tunnel"
The buzz across the NASCAR chat-rooms was pretty simple. Robin Miller was joining Dave Despain on Sunday night for Wind Tunnel.
Miller, now a SPEED employee, is slowly becoming a good sounding board for a wide variety of motorsports issues. With Ed Hinton long gone to ESPN.com, Miller is now front-and-center where NASCAR is concerned.
While Despain has Darrell Waltrip as a occasional guest, it is only when Miller is on the show that Despain can pull-out all the stops and return Wind Tunnel to what it was intended to be.
Originally, Wind Tunnel was supposed to be the Larry King Live of motorsports. Despain was to be on almost every night, talking with all the big names of racing and covering all the top stories. It was a great idea that failed spectacularly.
Now, Despain hosts the only remaining slice of the Wind Tunnel pie for an hour on Sunday nights. When Miller is in the chair to Despain's right, it does not take these two long to hit high gear.
"It was just a couple of janitors," said Miller about who put the magic magnets on the Gibbs car before the post-race dyno test. "I don't know if I am ever going to be able to watch a NASCAR race the same way." Apparently, the revelation that cheating existed in NASCAR had affected Miller deeply.
He then compared JD Gibbs statements to the media to Michael Waltrip's rambling apology last year at Daytona. Miller was suggesting that nothing really happens on a NASCAR team without someone in management making it happen.
"Everybody feels like a step-child of ESPN except NASCAR," said Miller of the new IRL TV contract. ESPN took the Indy 500 and a couple of other races and left town. Miller went on to detail the pain of the IRL in trading-off the exposure of ESPN for the expanded programming commitment that the Comcast-owned Versus network brought to the table.
Miller's biggest point was that other than the exposure on The SPEED Report and Wind Tunnel, the IRL is never mentioned on TV outside of the races. RPM2Night is long gone.
"Trucks are for towing racecars," continued Miller. Despain was comparing the NASCAR title sponsorship package for the Craftsman Trucks valued at 7 million with the entire IRL title sponsorship of ten million dollars. Of course, that included the Indy 500. Miller's point was that the IRL was undervalued as NASCAR's third tier series was very close to it in sponsorship dollars.
Miller and Despain continually lament the fact that talented USAC drivers now seem to be destined for NASCAR. With the limited rides in the newly-combined IRL, one viewer asked if forming a new open wheel series was a possibility. "That is like forming a second LPGA Tour," said Miller. He suggested a couple of schedule changes and some more horsepower will fix the IRL very nicely.
Responding to a caller who was talking about the wasted open-wheel talent currently struggling in NASCAR, Miller fired a closing salvo. "I think somebody should hire AJ Allmendinger and put him in an open-wheel car because that's where that kid belongs and he wins races," said Miller. An interesting way to close what had been a very diverse hour of motorsports topics.
There are very few racing journalists left on the motorsports scene. Miller has survived some rough times and seems to have found a home at SPEED. This Wind Tunnel program could easily have gone two hours and still kept the energy high. Miller has the ability to switch between series and keep things in perspective, even while voicing his sometimes controversial opinions.
For those who watched Despain struggle through Inside NEXTEL Cup Racing for several seasons, this Sunday program was interesting. Despain was full of smiles and laughter and did a fantastic job of directing traffic and keeping things on the move. This is the Despain that first came to SpeedVision many years ago to become the Larry King of motorsports.
Robin Miller certainly should have a higher visibility on SPEED. The only problem is that there is so little non-racing motorsports programming remaining on the network that he has nowhere to go.
Outside of the SPEED Stage at NASCAR events and the three hours on Sunday nights, SPEED itself has no "good ride" to put Miller in for the rest of the season. Maybe, he can learn to drive a tow truck. That should move him to prime-time.
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