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.
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