Monday, September 8, 2008

Chad Knaus Where Are You?

Several things happen when studio TV shows change on-air personalities. There have been no better examples of that than the Monday versions of both NASCAR Now on ESPN2 and This Week In NASCAR on SPEED.

Both shows have changed dramatically for the better. Allen Bestwick is steering the ship for ESPN2 and Steve Byrnes has stepped-in for SPEED. While Bestwick has a rotating panel on a weekly basis, Byrnes has a very different situation.

Stepping-in to replace Dave Despain as host, Byrnes inherited a personality-driven program that had been stagnate for years. A TV veteran, there was no doubt that Byrnes could keep order and direct the TV traffic on the set.

The crucial element to the program was going to be the personalities on the "expert panel." SPEED decided that the new show was going to feature Michael Waltrip on every episode. Instead of adding two more panelists, TWIN was going to alternate Greg Biffle and Chad Knaus as Waltrip's sole partner.

Once things began to evolve, it was clear that Waltrip and Byrnes had been friends for years and the banter between them was fast-paced and sometimes hilarious. Biffle tends to be a serious individual and his appearances often evolve into some serious discussions about racing incidents and issues. That is not the fundamental appeal of this show.

Knaus, on the other hand, has fit right in. Awkward at first, Knaus has now figured out how to deal with the energetic Byrnes and the sometimes overpowering Waltrip. The results have been exactly what SPEED had in mind.

After the rain forced changes in Richmond, TWIN found itself without Knaus or Biffle on Monday because of scheduling issues. Rather than step outside the small circle, Michael McDowell was brought-in from MWR to be the second panelist. It was a big mistake.

This program was the preview show for the entire Chase For The Championship. It deserved a full and experienced panel, if not an expanded one. Between SPEED and the NASCAR Media Group, there should have been a better selection made for this show.

One sticky issue with Waltrip is his ever-present sponsor plugs. This time, he actually brought one with him. McDowell is a nice young man, but just like a young Brian Vickers, he was completely out-of-place in this role that requires a true NASCAR veteran.

Byrnes trooped through the agenda and stepped-in as best he could to pull the show along. A great feature on the late Kenny Irwin Jr.'s parents, solid race highlights and a new weekly spot by Humpy Wheeler were good moments on the program.

Several times since this new show began we have advocated adding a third panelist. This format worked well for SPEED for over a decade and perhaps the next ten shows during The Chase deserve a little more conversation that two panelists bring to the series.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.


glenc1 said...

wow--twice I'm first, lol. I'll admit I was 'pc-ing' for the first half and only half listening. I will say this..Michael M did a much better job than Vickers or David Reutimann on TV. He's animated and much more entertaining. I enjoyed listening to him. Different perspective. I don't know if we needed to be all serious--I think some of us are on Chase overload and we really didn't need yet another show rehashing the same stuff.

That said, I still miss Kenny Schrader immensely. And we could have used more experience to talk about 'the Chase', but again--not sure I care at this point. I think maybe it's just been too much NASCAR this weekend...

Lou said...

Michael W. sure was full of excitment tonight. Good to listen to him. Did you catch the side comments on the order of the show from Steve B and MW. I think they like the review before the preview also.

Newracefan said...

I missed the very beginning but I thought MMcD did a pretty good job IMO. It wasn't the special show that perhaps the start of the chase deserves but TWIN has had worse. Kenny would have been a nice special surprise, hopefully it was due to scheduling not because they didn't think to ask.

glenc1 said...

Lou, I sure noticed that--it was funny!

Sophia said...

I was doing some prep for a deal going on and will catch the repeat at midnight, hopefully.

JD, I hope TWIN is not about the CHASE for the rest of the season. I am sick of that already. But yes, they could've gotten a more seasoned driver one would think. The obvious was missing. Schrader for a fill in.

I thought MMcD was ok..the only thing that bugged me was the smile on his face after the Kenny Irwin piece. I realize some people try to smile through awkward or sad moments, but it was the dichotomy of his boss sitting next to him.

Michael looked somber and sad after watching the piece with Irwin's parents, and understandably so. I was not watching NASCAR when he died. I did not realize he was such a good looking, personable young man...well spoken. I ached just watching this young man on my tv..and his parents, how tough for them.

I realize MM meant no disrespect of course, but the big smile just seemed disconcerting.

Will try and check the repeat if i can.

But a THIRD PANELIST is sorely missed.

glenc1 said...

sophia--I remember Kenny well. He was a little controversial, think young Kurt Busch, but I think he'd have settled in well with time. I didn't have a problem with Michael M's smile, in fact, it reminded me of how we should be happy about how this young man (Kenny) lived his life and hopefully young Michael will do the same. A favorite Kenny story of mine was that, on their way out of a race, a Kenny fan had a 'Irwin28' license plate. Kenny's girlfriend was driving out of the track with him in the back seat. She alerted him to it, and he signed the hat he had been wearing and opened the window and gave it to the guy. People saw him as cocky, but he really had a good heart. I don't know what prompted TWIN or SPEED to do the story, but it was quite nice. Michael M can only aspire to that. In some odd way, it seemed appropriate.

Dot said...


Kenny also died @ New Hampshire. The year before Adam.

Sophia said...


THANKS for the history on Kenny I. I did not know he was a controversial figure ala Kurt Bush! You can't tell by a short clip...course the young man was easy on the eyes...those were a rough couple of years for NASCAR..Kenny, Adam, Dale....

I liked your story on Kenny, though. Thanks for taking the time to share it with me.

Karen said...

I for one thought MM was excellent. He was a breath of fresh air and had excitement in his voice. I also had no problem with his smile after the Kenny Irwin piece. I, too, was smiling watching those kids at camp.
MM is a very personable young driver himself and seems to be a natural at this. He didn't have to be drawn into the conversations like some who've appeared. He did awfully well making the rounds of the talk shows after his accident.
Exactly the type of personality I wish a lot more drivers had. Don't think we missed that much not having Biffle and Knaus there tonight. We'll get more coverage of the Chase drivers than we care to get over the next ten weeks.

Karen said...

P.S. Very much liked the new Humpy segment. Now, that should be interesting in the coming weeks.

ri88girl said...

I think it should be mandetory that when Chad is busy Kenny Schreader is on set. A third panelist would be great and what if they rotated between drivers AND more crew chiefs? This would also widen the ranks of fill-ins if schedule conflicts are an issue.

ri88girl said...

JD McDuffy, Alan, Davey, Clifford, Kenny, Adam, Dale. Very rough few years.

8 said...

Neil!!!!!! I forgot Neil. Sorry

Anonymous said...

I thought McDowell did an excellent job. Maybe it's late in the season but I get tired of Mikey's droning on.

Jasper said...

I thought it was a good show, I enjoyed it. McDowell did a good job filling in at the last minute.

I was happy they "remembered" Kenny, I had always thought he was a good driver and had potential of being a star in NASCAR. Unfortunately, alot of these drivers that we have lost throughout the years, have been forgotten, and it's sad.

The Humpy section was a good addition to the format. Keep up the good work, boys.

Anonymous said...

JD you were off on your opinion of last nights show. I am sick of the Chase, and now for the rest of the season that is all we will hear and see, those 12 drivers. MM was great, they both pointed out how all the drivers are racing for different things, their first win, the chase, the top 35. Great piece on Irwin, Sophia, you were alittle harsh on MM for smiling, picky, picky, picky. That young man is a breath of fresh air, so needed in Nascar today, I get sooo tired of the whining, crying,bad mouthing, trash talking some of the drivers do, hope this young man gets a sponsor to keep driving. Great show, did not miss Chad or Biffle at all.

Anonymous said...

Actually Kenny died at New Hampshire roughly two months after Adam in an accident in the exact same turn (turn three).

Didn't get to see the show. I'm glad they still take the time to remember Kenny.

Ray in BAMA said...

I'm sorry , Ihad to turn MW off I couldn't stand his blabbering after about 6-5 minutes

glenc1 said...

I wsn't thinking about them going to Loudon next week, that would explain the timing (I try to block it out...not my favorite racing, lol.)

Just a wee bit more on Kenny--he was in the sprint cars and had a few run ins in his early days...typical of that age...his time in the 28 was a bit erratic...there was a deal where Kenny didn't get his passport in time to go to Japan for Motegi, I think Yates got impatient with him...just youthful, silly stuff. I think in the 42 car he was just starting to 'become' more of who he really was, growing up a bit. I wasn't a huge fan, it just made me sad that so many people wouldn't remember him with losing Adam and Dale in that year (I feel the same about Tony Roper--google him.) I do think TV like this does a good job at reminding people, or showing those who didn't know...*that* is one of the things they can do exceptionally if they take the time. Yeah to TWIN!

And I totally forgot to mention the Humpy section--bring him in the studio, that would be a riot!

D said...

I was prepared to be let down with the show.. I knew who was going to be on with EM DUB... (I enjoyed that line) but was pleasently surprised.... I enjoyed the show, enjoyed Michael McDowell..and as usual enjoyed Em Dub.... I thought there was too many taped pieces but did like the one on Kenny and also the Humpy feature. I grow weary of hearing about the the show was a nice break.... Good job SPEED!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 7:27AM,

First of all, the smiling reference was in the comments section.

Secondly, you have to stand back a bit and keep things in perspective.

This is a MWR employee with limited experience who is being put on a national TV show because MW wanted it that way.

Compare the manpower that ESPN assembled for their Monday show to this one.

The fact that McDowell is nice, pleasant and an up-and-coming driver is great. The fact that he is sitting next to his boss and listening to him talk for an hour is not.

Pick a name...Schrader, K. Wallace, Doug Richert, Hammond, McReynolds, H. Sadler or anyone else associated with SPEED. IMHO that is what this program needed.


Deborah said...

I thought McDowell did a good job, especially when you consider he's a 23-year old rookie with almost no Nascar experience prior to this season. He does have a lot of media experience though given all the interviews he did, some of which were with National TV media, in regards to his qualifying crash earlier this season. I don't see the harm in having him talk about things from his perspective. He was personable, positive and knowledgeable. McDowell always smiles, I think that's just something that he does.

I also thought Michael was good as well - lots of energy and enthusiasm, and no wonder considering it was such a positive race for his organization at Richmond. I didn't hear him or McDowell do an unusual amount of sponsor plugs.

Personally, I'm glad that this show was different than what ESPN did on their show. After a rocky start in which I almost gave up on the show, I think it's developed quite nicely into a show that has it's own identity.

Toni K. said...

Wow, I missed the show and now wish I didn't. The Kenny Irwin camp is in New Castle Indiana, seen very well from I-70, approx 40 miles east of Indianapolis. The Irwin family took a rundown campground and turned it into a beautiful camp that is open to disadvantaged kids and to the public to camp at specific times. As a former Hoosier originally from that area I am very proud of what the Irwin family has done. Thanks TWIN for highlighting that.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty half-assed to fill a missing host slot on a national show with "whoever we can find." A good show producer would have a list of available fill-in talent.
Asking a host to bring along an employee isn't the best way to fill that chair.

If SPEEDS wants the audience to take the show seriously, then the show producer has to do the same.

Anonymous said...

-JD Said,

This is a MWR employee with limited experience who is being put on a national TV show because MW wanted it that way.



Show me the EVIDENCE and I'm off your back.

Show me the roster (known people who were actually contacted by SPEED and confirmed) that SPEED had to choose from.

This comes across to me like you (JD) are trying to "Palin" MW.

I have a little trouble with the notion that MW "Runs" TWIN.



Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:55AM,

Between the Nationwide COT testing at Richmond and several Cup teams testing at different tracks, the veteran drivers were tied-up.

My suggestion would have been to call-in a Hammond, McReynolds Richert or H. Sadler just to broaden the show with Waltrip and McDowell.

Anon 12:15PM,

MW used his driver because he could. The Producer tried to get veterans, but as I stated above they were simply not available. This show has extended itself from just drivers into having crew chiefs on like Knaus. Grabbing a crew chief or a SPEED TV person would have been a nice touch.

Didn't you ever hear Schrader tell us that "its Mikey's show?"

Sure did turn out to be an interesting couple of days.


majorshouse said...

The sad part is that Mikey will never be Darrell no matter how hard he tries, sohe just needs to cut the clown crap and be his own man insteadof trying to be the funny droning clown all of the time.

Zieke said...

Sorry, I consider Mikey unwatchable, what with his sponsor plugs, half-witted comments, and self promotions. He and Darrell need to open a NAPA store and stay there.

Anonymous said...

ri88girl - You forgot John Nemechek ... and Blaise Alexander ...

JD - I found TWIN too hard to watch with McDowell on there ... He seemed to be kissing up to Nascar, etc more than his boss does ... Plus, his voice just doesn't "fit" his face ... It was as bad as when they've had Reutimann / Reed / Mears, et al on the show ... They just don't have the "experience" ...

Why couldn't they get Schrader or Doug Richert ?? Doug's been a CC in the Chase and almost won it in 2005 with Greg Biffle ...

It would've been nice IF they'd actually showed some highlights from the Craftsman Truck race and Nationwide race ... Esp since Hornaday set another record with his 37th win ... and 3rd generation driver Austin Dillon making his NASCAR debut in the Nationwide race ...

Anonymous said...

mcdowell was a breath of fresh air for sure. young, energetic, and very well spoken. hopefully he has a ride next year! he has the talent. Em Dub is like painful to just watch.

Anonymous said...

I also didn't have a problem with the smile on Michael's face. When I see anything on Adam I always smile because he was always a happy young man and seeing what's being done in his memory makes my heart happy :). One of my old jobs for Secret Santa someone got me a packet of cards and was pleasantly surprised to see one of Kenny in there :).

I was worried about Michael being on but he wasn't as bad as I feared. I definitely would have preferred a CC or other Veteran this time around and save Michael for a different show. But since that's what we had, he did a good job.

I loved the Humpy segment! Can't wait to see more! It would be nice if they continue it into next season :).

I love the idea of bringing in other CCs as well. I know back in 2K3 Frankie helped fill in many times and he was always a blast!

Deborah said...

There's an entire column written about how bad it was for McDowell to be on this show and it turns out he was on because no one else they called could do the show? Just wondering how many people they should have called before it was acceptable for them to have gone with McDowell, who was available? Given that the change in schedule at Richmond probably threw things into disarray for a lot of people, Maybe there wouldn't have been any crew chiefs or others available either - would it have been permissible for McDowell to have been on the show then? Really seems like a big deal is being made over a minor issue.

Like Jeff, I wish there were some direct quotes from some Speed producers that confirm how McDowell ended up on the show rather than someone telling us what they supposedly said which may only be part of the story.

Daly Planet Editor said...


I heard from the TWIN guys. They tried over ten drivers who would be in town but none were available. It is that time of the year. The regulars were off in COT and testing land. I would have settled for Hermie or Wendy.


Waltrip is a totally different person on this show when he has a fellow panelist or two that is equal in experience.

Knaus has hit the nail on the head with Waltrip. Biffle has not been able to do so and is not working as well in the two-man set-up.

This is the time of the year when TV networks begin to look at plans for next season, so I would just again offer the suggestion that perhaps a third panelist, even if it was an announcer or former driver, might help the conversation.

From a TV standpoint, you have to give it to Waltrip. He has changed networks, is on his third host and has outlasted every single panelist on a show that has been on the air for over a decade.

Meanwhile, ESPN is on their first season of shaking-off memories of Erik and Suzy.


Anonymous said...

JD--not speaking for all, but I think this is similar to the past arguments about Mikey (whom I have complained about repeatedly.) Many people seem to watch the show more for its entertainment value than its insightful remarks. *Particularly* this week because people are 'Chased out'...yes, the show would have been more edgy or informative with a veteran, and it's annoying that Mikey brings his own guests...but at the same time, we seemed to find Michael M enjoyable to sue us, lol! And I think many consider it a one time thing--if it were every week, it would not work, and we understand when the usual crew is not available (and of course, we have no way of knowing who else they might have asked.)

Anonymous said...

follow up...I guess now my last sentence has been answered, they tried!

Wisconsin Steve said...

Humpy Wheeler might make a good third panelist for next year, if he were willing to do it.

Anonymous said...

I thought MM did a nice job. Would rather have seen Schrader because well, I just miss him!

The Humpy segment was fun and I'm looking forward to the next one.

I loved the Kenny Irwin segment. Since I didn't start paying attention to NASCAR until 2000, I didn't know anything about him. It's a shame his foundation doesn't receive the same attention as VJGC. I hope Speedway Charities donates to the camp Kenny's folks set up in his memory.


Brian said...

I got to disagree a ton with you on this one JD. I thought McDowell was a breath of fresh air and he did a great job. I really think you're wrong on this one. I really do.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Never said a bad word about McDowell. He seems to be a nice guy and is well-spoken.

The show is the thing. It needed a lot more, especially on this key Monday.


Anonymous said...

Yes the show definitely needs 3 panelists! In this off season I'll be checking out my 2K3 tapes of the show! I wish I had kept some of the 2K2 ones! Mikey playing with his chair, Mikey being late because he was finishing up his laps at Bristol & "sneaking" in...classic! And the one when Jamie was on before we knew how serious Sterling's injury was and Mikey kept calling him "Scott".

Just to clarify Michael = McDowell...I always call Mikey = Mikey :). I meant to do that and was typing between calls and didn't think about it.

Anonymous said...

I liked 'Twin' last night. Sure is nice seeing Mikey (or 'EmDub')enthusiastic (as he has been all season) rather than on last year's suicide watch. McDowell did a decent job-this was the first time I saw him for more than a 5 second sound bite. He has a streak of goofy, youthful enthusiasm about him. Hope Mikey can find some way to keep him @ MW racing. Twin has improved 9000% from the beginning of the year-It is apparent thet Speed is listening. It really started to hit its stride when they finally went to reveiw/preview.(the Mikey/Chad odd couple pairing really helped also) Sorry that not everybody who watches is a Mikey fan-I became a Mikey fan because of the old 'IWC'days and still remain a fan.

Sophia said...

I hear about all these driver foundations. I had no idea the camp honoring Kenny Irwin was within a couple hours of here.

SAD it never gets any publicity that I've ever heard.

And to the person who was CLUELESS anon about the "Smiling comment" it was AFTER the little, well done tribute to KI. Mikey was very somber, with a sad smile as he remembered this young man. and McDowell had the same huge smile on his face he always seems to have..genuine or not.... I noticed Steve Byrnes was not all SMILES either as he spoke with Michael M. Just differences of handling situations.

Maybe the guy smiles all the time but there is discernment for different situations as well.

I seem to remember a national news reporter who smiled her pretty smile through some of the most sad, tragic stories on the news. She didn't last very long either as a news anchor. Just weird. She'd be delivering happy news with the SAME smile??? You gotta learn the body language vibe for tv...but whatever.

I made my point clear about the oddly timed "smile".

I know how to honor a dead person with grace, dignity and even humor...done in proper cadence. To each his own.

I do hope TWIN can find fun bits for us to watch BESIDES the CHASE. I missed the Truck race and would've LOVED TO HAVE SEEN highlights and clips of Hornaday. Hopefully this was a slip of the producers and not a new trend for TWIN.

I like a mention of the NW and Truck series. Especially since most of us are burned out on the CHASE format and it's just begun. ;-o

Anonymous said...


"I know how to honor a dead person with grace, dignity and even humor...done in proper cadence. To each his own."

And that is the problem. Who decides what is 'proper'? Miss Manners? Most of us seem to think Michael's 'that's what NASCAR is about' smile was appropriate. Smiling at kids playing...I think most of us are on board with that...too many people are caught up in 'proper' for my taste...for the sake of appearances, not true feelings. Remembering Kenny brings a smile to my face too. Nice young man.

Anonymous said...

The only reason to tune in is to see how Chads thought process works. He is the best in the none, for many years. If they could put some rigging tape over MW's mouth, that would even be better.

Anne M said...

I absolutely agree with you, JD. This was a really disappointing episode. Michael M seems very pleasant, but he didn't have a lot of information to share, and he and Michael W don't exactly have on-screen electricity. I see from your comments that the producers tried to find another person to fill in, but they need to cast a wider net. Or keep Schrader locked in the basement for emergencies...

Regarding your headline, I had hoped you were going to answer the question I've been asking since Sunday! Where was Chad all weekend? Normally, they show him on camera a lot during the race. Probably more than most people enjoy, but I like it since I'm a fan. So now I'm spoiled. This weekend, the ESPN cameras didn't cut to him even once during the race, which is not only unusual but astonishing since he WON it. No post-race interview. No interview on "Victory Lane". Was I watching the wrong channels? And did that car build itself? :)

Tracy said...

Am finally home, got to sit down and watch everything on Tivo. I liked MM - he's eloquent and amazingly polished. Give him some time, he'll really have a TV personality. TWIN was good for me.

No complaints here. Now about NN - it jumped around like a jackrabbit. Did a LOT of fastforwarding.

Regina Ellison said...

To be honest, When I tune in and Chad is not on the show that night I immediately change the channel. Biffle isn't funny at all. At the same time I'm all for Chad doing all the testing he needs to get the car right and I know he will. That's one of the reasons I like him so well. He is extremely dedicated and hard work pays off.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for editing the article to remove the acusation that MM was on the show because "that is what MW wanted."

I will take that action as an apology for bad judgement on your part.