Monday, September 22, 2008
Waltrip Repels The Bowyer Curse
Nothing solves a problem like success. It has been a while since Michael Waltrip could say that about his NASCAR career. Monday on This Week In NASCAR, he made the most of it.
Series host Steve Byrnes knows how to handle the panelists regardless of their good or bad days at the track. This week, Byrnes had Chad Knaus coming-off a fifth place finish and Michael Waltrip still over-the-moon about a top ten at Dover.
One of Waltrip's top TV assets is the ability to poke fun at himself. Several weeks ago when ESPN made extensive use of Clint Bowyer's derogatory comments about Waltrip's driving ability, Byrnes let Waltrip talk about it on the show. The results were hilarious.
This week, Waltrip closed that circle by relating the fact that Bowyer had approached him after Dover and said "maybe you can still drive." That really put the ESPN hype in the correct perspective. What a smart way to put that to bed.
One key issue in this TV series continues to be too much pre-recorded content. This week, it was a feature on Jeff Burton's career comeback and then his weekend in Dover. Ironically, last week this "Chase" feature was on Bowyer.
While this may fit a broader agenda of exposing The Chase drivers to casual fans, viewers watching this program know all of them and would have been better-served with other content.
When the SPEED executives grudgingly allowed TWIN to flip the program format, they could not have imagined the impact it would have. This episode was a good example. After letting Waltrip and Knaus get warmed-up with a discussion of Dover, the transition to a preview of Kansas resulted in some great conversation. Both panelists contributed observations from their own unique perspectives without missing a beat.
Humpy Wheeler continued with his stream-of-consciousness feature that is often strangely fascinating. Recently added to TWIN, Wheeler just shows-up in a pre-recorded feature and talks about something. This week he talked about The Chase in a monologue that ran the gamut from barometric pressure to world peace and somehow...it all made sense.
The only national NASCAR series carried on SPEED is the Craftsman Trucks. It is no secret that this series is in deep trouble. There has been no sponsor announced for next season, Dodge has withdrawn factory support and on Saturday night in Las Vegas there was a field of only 31 starters.
Sooner or later, it is going to occur to someone at either SPEED or The NASCAR Media Group that devoting more time on TWIN to the Truck Series is perhaps a good idea. This week the trucks once again had a side-by-side duel to the finish line that resulted in veteran Mike Skinner getting his first win of the season.
TWIN did not have one moment of a winner's interview with Skinner. The video highlights consisted of Johnny Benson hitting the wall and then the final two turns of the race. Coupled with ESPN's horrible treatment of the trucks on NASCAR Now, what chance does this series have without the exposure of two of NASCAR's "official" TV series?
This is the first stretch run for This Week In NASCAR and with some small changes it certainly can continue to keep the momentum high through November. While fans might have been disappointed that Greg Biffle was not added on this episode as a third panelist, perhaps SPEED might consider heading in that direction for 2009.
Biffle will return next week with Waltrip and Byrnes as another episode of TWIN hits the air Monday at 8PM Eastern Time.
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