Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Night Match-Up Goes To SPEED

After the tons of TV coverage during each Sprint Cup Series racing weekend, Monday brings only two programs that focus on NASCAR. ESPN2 offers NASCAR Now at 5PM and SPEED has This Week in NASCAR at 8PM.

Both TV series try to distill the information from the racing action and the NASCAR news that each believes fans want to see. This results in two shows, each one-hour in length, that basically report the same stories and show the same highlights. The big difference comes in the approach.

Allen Bestwick was first-up with another suit-and-tie edition of NASCAR Now. Bestwick took this Monday show and turned it around for ESPN after a terrible 2007. Now, the show seems to have hit a plateau of sorts with the TV basics sorted-out. The new challenge is striking a balance on the three-man panel and keeping things fresh.

It was Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree and Ray Evernham working with Bestwick this week and things were a little off-center. Jarrett and Petree work with each other on the ESPN race coverage but rarely appear on the Monday show. Evernham has been a Monday staple this season and once again having two former crew chiefs on the program did not pay dividends.

Ricky Craven has been Bestwick's regular Monday studio partner this season and those two work well with Evernham. That group has tried Randy LaJoie as the third panelist, but they really came alive when Mike Massaro was added to the mix. Having a driver, a crew chief and a journalist's point of view represented on the show really made it click.

Bestwick led the panel through the highlights and hosted a light-hearted look at Evernham and Petree dueling in the celebrity race from Saturday. The comments from all the panelists were solid and informed, but the program plodded along.

Having Ray Evernham get up to host a look at suspension and other car parts that will be changed for Martinsville was a "show killer." There was a new cutaway car in the ESPN2 studio, but with six days until the race this was a bad call. As usual, Bestwick kept it professional and wrapped it up nicely.

This week, NASCAR Now "extended the brand" by taping a segment for the ESPNEWS Network and then airing it in the thirty minute news-wheel after the program ended. While it was a good thought, the ESPNEWS anchors could not have looked more annoyed that basketball was being interrupted for a NASCAR conversation.

When SPEED launched This Week in NASCAR, many fans hoped the show would keep the format of one host and three panelists. That did not happen. As we have often mentioned, two panelists make for a difference of opinion while three make for a discussion.

This week, Chad Knaus returned with Michael Waltrip and fans were instantly reminded why this duo should be featured on the series regularly. During the 2008 season, host Steve Byrnes built an on-air relationship with both men that has paid-off for the TV viewers. This trio is the ticket.

SPEED has retained what ESPN has lost and that is simply fun. Byrnes has a wicked sense of humor and a long history in the sport. From his dead-on Sterling Marlin impressions to his frequent quotes from the late Lindsey Nelson, Byrnes brings his own personality to the show and that is the very thing ESPN squashes on a regular basis.

What SPEED has discovered once again is that a driver and a crew chief work together on the air better than two drivers. Greg Biffle has come a long way, but Waltrip and Knaus offer a ton of information to the viewers. In this show, Knaus actually texted Kyle Busch about a logo on his race winning car and then gave viewers the reply.

The edited features in this program produced by The NASCAR Media Group continue to show exactly why SPEED should allow this company to produce a weekly series based around footage from the sport.

The TWIN race review and the "sounds of the race" feature both offer footage and audio not heard during the live broadcasts of the weekend. As Waltrip remarked, he could listen to that all day.

The fly in the ointment for SPEED continues to be the audio struggles in the new HD studios. Again this week, microphone levels on the announcers dropped dramatically and then rose again in mid-sentence. The configuration of the set forces the talent to constantly turn their heads when addressing each other and that has to be a nightmare for the audio person.

Since they wear Lavalier-style mics clipped to their shirts, the large echo in the studio also plays a role in the very strange "dead zones" on the show where audio is concerned. Give SPEED the nod, they corrected the set issues, the make-up problems and even figured out the correct attire for the participants. Surely, the audio struggles will be next.

If you watched these programs, please feel free to offer your opinion. Just click the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, so please keep that in mind when posting.

Thanks for taking the time to read The Daly Planet.


TexasRaceLady said...

The comments from all the panelists were solid and informed, but the program plodded along.

You've got that right, JD. It was like slogging through mud. And, while I liked the brake explanation from Ray, later in the week would have been much better.

SPEED has retained what ESPN has lost and that is simply fun. Byrnes has a wicked sense of humor...

By the end of the first segment, I was in tears I was laughing so hard. This show is FUN with information wrapped around it.

Sophia said...

I don't watch the ESPN show anymore..on too early and too lazy to tape it. I save my tv Hour for TWIN.

Steve Byrnes was hilarious! his Sterling impressions, his smile, he had such a fun spark (he always does but the show had magic tonight)

Agree we really need this trio on EVERY WEEK. Nothing against Greg.

I did notice the music was lower volume under video. FINALLY SPEED. We want to hear the dulcet TONES of the guys talking on this show, not LOUD UGLY SCREECHY Guitar music. Comprende? COMPRENDE? :)

And I prefer to hear the car noise over videos..not LOUD music.

I want to hear the boys talk.

This show should be about conversation EVERY week. Tonight was fabulous. Loved the text from Kyle.

It was loose, informative and FUN. I am sorry I don't get 'that' feeling from ESPN.
I love the Odd Couple and Steve looked like he was having fun being ringmaster, too.

P.S. Biffle scanner: blowing up. BLOWING UP. Comprende ?? Poor Greg. :(

Dot said...

I just watched TWIN. Funniest one yet.

NN was OK. Ray did look funny with his suit on at the cutaway car.

I liked seeing the Celebrity clip of the race that we didn't get to see on Sat. If they have clips, does this mean they filmed the whole thing? If so, will we see it in its entirety? I was disappointed that we only saw the one race. Yeah, we know who won already but it would be a good show for ESPNCL. If they could squeeze it in between vintage boxing and five year old poker tournaments.

Anonymous said...

From his dead-on Sterling Marlin impressions

That's one thing I miss about Totally NA$CAR and Sterling being a regular driver. I think it was Thursdays during College Football season that they'd have a Sterling segment where he'd do his picks and Steve would do his impression :).

I loved TWIN tonight! Luckily my friends at Justin were streaming it! It was an awesome show! I still don't like Chad but with each show, he tries to get me to like him a tad more.

Steve, Mikey & Chad have some great chemistry going on.

Great to see the Martinsville video collage and a young Mr. Morgan! I hope with Happy's, Smoke's and the others help he'll get back to VL in N'wide! He so deserves it! <3

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

NN didn't seeming plodding to me because I think Dale Jarrett is always worth listening to. And Ray Evernham did have interesting insight into the Tony Eury Jr situation.

Anonymous said...

NN apparently I enjoyed more than some of you. Not their best, perhaps, but still a solid show (I missed the first 20 minutes). I enjoyed watching the car segment, sorry. Yeah, I get that some people think Monday is too early to preview Sunday, but it was toward the end of the show. Just didn't have an issue with it.

TWIN I had on PIP so I missed a few parts, but what I saw was funny & informative as usual. Michael wasn't overbearing this week, at least on what I saw. I hate this time of year...too much TV to keep up with...

Anonymous said...

Love NASCAR Now roung table, never miss it. Never watch This Week In NASCAR, can not stand to watch Michael Waltrip.

Ziggy said...

I do not watch the "Stuffed Shirt" show, too formal too technical. (why do they need another cutaway car in the studio ?).

TWIN, with it's laid back casual atmosphere is much more enjoyable & I get the feeling that I'm part of the "inside" crowd. Alot of information coming from Mikey & Chad that you would not hear on any other program.

MW's comment about "Beatin the Buschs" was classic.

Anonymous said...

Fun show, as usual.

Tracy D said...

Loved Chad asking Mikey, "Can I get a copy of that?" and Mikey saying "Nope," LOL, like he loved having one up on Chad, and Chad going "Alba? Can you get it for me?" Real people, real conversation. Nice dynamics.

Anonymous said...

I as always loved TWIN. I rarely watch Nascar Now unless I know that one of my drivers (aka MWR) are going to be on there.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that it was Michael that had Kyle Busch on his cell phone and texted him and then handed his cell phone to Chad.

I loved the segment when they were discussing why Kyle had "satisflying" on the side of his car and they went to show it over Michael's head. Then Michael decided to come into the camera's view and have some fun with all of us.

Michael just had Chad laughing alot last night. The mood just seemed really loose and enjoying.

Newracefan said...

TWIN was hysterical, I LOL through most of it. It was Chad's phone which he had given Mikey to read so Mikey told us and then handed it back to Chad. I even knew who Chad was talking about/to when he asked for the same type of info that Mikey was getting. We met her on a ESPN/Nascar show and maybe even on TWIN. Mikey busting Chad about having to edit his audio clip of the pit stop problem was priceless but then Chad got him back when asking if NAPA would take a Carquest hat in trade as part of their new promotion. This is why I love this show I'm listening to 3 guys talking about their passion and having fun right along with them. NN was fine but not fantastic. I love all the guys but it just wasn't as much fun Andy VS Ray aside. I liked the piece Ray did but perhaps they could have used it Wednesday and just talked more about the races or something, I think that might be what threw it off for me. Don't get me wrong it is light years ahead of where it's been TWIN was just better this week, they even got Greg to give us the scoop of how his weekend went.

red said...

didn't watch either but i have a question that's been nagging at me all weekend: how, exactly, did steve byrnes hurt his ankle? as i recall, jd, that info was promised on monday night's show . . .

Daly Planet Editor said...


Turns out it was a toe and nothing really worth mentioning. Fox told me he broke his foot, emailers told me he broke his ankle and Steve told me to get a life! Hehe..


red said...

thanks, jd! best laugh i've all day at work! tell steve that fans even obsess over the broadcast teams in nascar -- little wonder "the juniors" can't catch a break, eh?

Regina Ellison said...

Absolutely Love Chad on this show. Thought Mikey saying they probably had to edit Chad's audio from Bristol was hilarious. Nothing against Greg but I wish Mikey and Chad were on together every episode. The audio was better from my end this week too.

Anonymous said...

I heard Steve B say on some SPEED show that he dropped a weight on his toe.

I did not get to see TWIN, but I thought N-Now was pretty good - maybe not memorable, but interesting. I did notice that they stayed away from all economy issues other than the #28 sponsor issue.

Anonymous said...

Richard, I believe it was Trackside; I saw it too.

Anonymous said...

where else will you get to hear a discussion on chad's footwear? now ahead to further action in the 4th quarter...

Anonymous said...

By far TWIN is better. I too was laughing so hard I had tears. I like Knaus on this show. He too has a pretty sharp wit and he can laugh at himself. When Waltrip said that he bet Chad's audio had to be edited. That was great. So glad this show is having some fun.