Monday, November 17, 2008

"This Week In NASCAR" Ends A Successful First Season

NASCAR fans got word that SPEED was re-working the longtime Inside Sprint Cup TV series for 2008 and would make some big changes. While the timeslot and the studio stayed the same, SPEED wanted to freshen-up the Monday franchise.

Out as host was Dave Despain and in was the NASCAR TV veteran Steve Byrnes. In was Michael Waltrip and out was Kenny Schrader. Although very popular, one reason for Schrader's departure was the "expert panel" being cut from three members to two.

Greg Biffle was the sole survivor of the faces that had come and gone from the "second guest" chair since original member Johnny Benson had been fired several years ago. This was not the end of the changes, as SPEED had a surprise to unveil.

Chad Knaus would join the panel and rotate appearances with Biffle. This was the first non-driver on the program and it was going to be interesting to see how a crew chief perspective would fit-in with the rather unique views of Waltrip.

Click here for a TDP column that talked about some of the early struggles this new series faced in early 2008. Byrnes and Waltrip worked hard to establish a relationship on this program and it took a while before it clicked. It was interesting to watch these early shows when Byrnes was still doing his best Despain imitation and trying to keep order.

Only when Byrnes finally relented and let the frequent Waltrip tangents flow did the show find an order. One big reason that worked was Chad Knaus. At first, Knaus had a classic deer-in-the-headlights look at almost everything Waltrip would say.

Then, one day Knaus started to give it right back to "Mikey" and suddenly things clicked. SPEED's version of The Odd Couple was born and the show has never looked back. When both Byrnes and Knaus just totally take whatever Waltrip throws-out in stride, the shows are great.

Credit this season also goes to Greg Biffle. Finally emerging from his TV shell, Biffle has proven to be a focused and intelligent person. He enjoys Byrnes and Waltrip because suddenly Biffle's opinion counts. That was a struggle for Biffle in the earlier version of the program with a different host.

Speaking of the third voice, the only way the final show could have been any better is if Chad Knaus was present. Several times this year TWIN has done special shows with three panelists and the results have been a much more diverse conversation.

As the program heads into next season, the suggestions have been simple. Add a third panelist and eliminate the long edited features. Scanner chatter, race highlights and a Humpy Wheeler monologue are plenty to overlay on some good conversation.

Fans were very appreciative earlier this season when the SPEED executives finally put the review of Sunday's race before the preview of the upcoming event. Several format changes were also made, including extended email questions and a review of all three NASCAR races from each weekend.

Watching the final program on Monday night revealed three tired guys who had worked and traveled hard over the past ten months. The commitment of all four personalities involved in this show should be applauded. The flexibility of The NASCAR Media Group who produce the show should also be commended.

After a rough start, it seems that SPEED has once again put together a cast of characters very capable of entertaining NASCAR fans for an hour on Monday night.

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Anonymous said...

TWiN & Raceday are the 2 shows I will miss the most in the off season. Tonight was great - lists of Top 10's, & (HUGS to TWiN) a review of N'Wide & Truck Championships.
Just a nice hour with friends I won't see for a bit. Hoping Mikey, Greg & Chad return next year, along with Steve of course.

About 89 days isn't it? Steve & everyone behind the scenes, enjoy your "time off", The Holidays, & know you are missed.

Matt said...

This was my favorite show of the season. They did a nice job recapping everything that went on this year, and had good conversation to go along with it.

As for changes next year.. agreed - add a third member, and remove the extra footage.

Would also like to say Byrnes did an excellent job this year along with the panel.

Dot said...

@ Jo & Matt,

Ditto. Best show of the season. No filler stuff. Just how we like it.

Sadie said...

Great show last night! It was a lot of laughs and just plain fun. This is my favorite show, I love you guys!

Have a great off season and a safe and happy holiday.

Dee said...

Sheesh, what will I do during the off season on Monday nights. It would be so cool if they could have a couple of off season shows to keep everyone updated as to what is going on. Either way, great show, great season, great panel. Thanks for keeping it REAL!

glenc1 said...

I doubt it'll be included in the SPEED 'marathons', lol (but if they run 101 Cars you Must Drive, check it out...)

I was mildly annoyed that Mikey 'took over' as Greg was trying to show the car that the young fan had made him but other than that, it was a good show. I still wish for Schrader back to fill out the panel...but if they can't, perhaps a younger guy for a different perspective (someone with a little more animation than Vickers...)

Anonymous said...

I've only watched the show for the past two seasons (I've only been following NASCAR for that long) . What bothers me most is how the show constantly cuts off its own discussions. Highlights are shown, but it's several highlights edited together and it's the editing that dictates how the panelists can comment. If someone wants to talk at length about one specific incident -- too bad, the highlights just keep rolling. Often, the panelists are seeing the highlights for the first time. I'd enjoy hearing more of their reactions and comments, even if it meant seeing less highlights overall. As things are now, the pace stifles discussion rather than encouraging it.

But Steve Byrnes has developed into an incredibly wonderful host. It's a little weird that he looks down at a script to read copy but that's a nit. He's made the show a lot of fun.

Finally I really, really miss Kenny Shrader. I'd love to see him back on that show.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to tell Waltrip that the show is not about him and that he needs to stop talking over people. I would have loved to have heard his explanation of how Reutiman ran in the Top 5, and Waltrip ran at the back three laps down. Biffle has improved throughout the season. As host,Byrnes needs to get more focused and take the reins for the show. Given a choice on Monday night, Nascar Now wins hands down.

Ziggy said...

Fortunately I do not have to choose since NN & TWIN are not televised at the same time.

Two totally different programs. My choice is TWIN since I find NN a bit to "stuffy" with the "buttoned down" appearences.

I prefer the more relaxed "lets wing it" approach to conversations found in TWIN.

Keep up the great work JD.
Looking forward to next year's shows.


speedangel said...

The guys on TWIN certainly came together nicely from the beginning of the season (so did the format). I still prefer them over NN, though I watch sometimes watch both. I'm hoping for the slight changes that others have already covered: less canned pieces, more NW & Truck coverage, maybe a third panelist (but I don't know if that would help or hurt the chemistry). Thanks for a great season to all involved.

Have a wonderful off-season everyone!

Deborah said...

I agree with those who said that last night was one of the best shows all season! The show flowed really well and there was some good exchanges between Michael, Greg and Steve. As the season has gone on they've gotten a lot more relaxed and that has made the show a lot more fun and enjoyable to watch. I would still like them to get rid of all the videos that aren't race highlights from that past weekend's races, but otherwise I think the show has really developed very nicely.

Anon at 9:26, someone needs to tell Michael the show isn't about him but you wanted to hear him say why David was up front but he wasn't? A little contradictory to say the least! That always seems to be the way - someone complains that Michael isn't asked questions about news about his team(s), then the next person complains that Michael uses the show as a platform to promote his interests too much. There really isn't any winning. But seems whether they like him or not, agree with him or not, everyone pays the most attention to what Michael says and does so he certainly has continued to be a draw for this show.

Anonymous said...

per Anon 9:26 am:

""Someone needs to tell Waltrip that the show is not about him and that he needs to stop talking over people.""

Heartily Concur. MW=Total Boor.

glenc1 said...

oh, BTW--Greg totally got Michael back with the trading card--that was hysterical...

Anonymous said...

This is the most-improved show of the year, and definitely the most fun to watch. They did have Kenny S. on twice this year -- once in the studio when he and Waltrip had fun teasing each other, and once again in a three-person panel they did where he really didn't speak up much.

Great show. Never miss it, even when the format was "backwards". I hope they bring the show back mostly intact, maybe adding fewer pre-packaged montages and more discussion, perhaps even with a third driver (Ken, we need you buddy!)

Tracy said...

Greg certainly isn't afraid to speak his mind - refreshing change from all the Nascar PC Mikey gives us. I do wish last night Greg had asked why, if Mikey respects Jack Roush enough to ask his opinion about the cancellation of all testing, his team "liberated" a Roush car part earlier in the year.

LOL about the trading card. What a hoot.

It's a refreshing show now that the order is correct (last week before next week's race, especially after all the carefully staged stuff we get on other channels. Well, channel.

Chad Knaus really came into his own and handles the whole freewheeling format with grace and ease.

Kenny, my man, wish you were there.

Tracy said...

Oh, forgot to add, Steve is a miracle worker. He manages to keep his equilibrium in the midst of (sometimes) complete chaos. You can tell he likes everyone, genuinely.

Rosemary said...

TWIN has shown great improvement this year and I hope it returns next year with the same crew. One more panelist would be nice, and to see Ken Schrader back once in a while would be a real treat.

Would also like to thank TDP for being a great source of information about NASCAR on TV.

Newracefan said...

Great end of the season show I will be having withdrawl next Monday and may have to replay the DVR I have of the last show. Speed listened to our concerns and changed around the format hopefully they'll decrease the unrelated video clips for next year, especially those chase drivers ones.

Anonymous said...

AS long as M. Waltrip is on the show , talking over people , blabbering on endlessly, this show will always have problems. without him it could be very good, Simple as that.