Thursday, October 29, 2009
SPEED's Memorable Halloween Weekend Returns
It's difficult to describe just how hard I laughed as SPEED's Camping World Truck Series team slowly unveiled themselves in Halloween costumes last year.
The picture above does not do justice to the faces of the drivers in the garage when confronted by Ray Dunlap as Dorothy (complete with Toto and the picnic basket) and Adam Alexander in full Good Witch gear, including the wand.
This was one of the many things that has endeared SPEED's truck series TV crew to the fans over the past few years. A lot of SPEED's NASCAR programming is produced by the NASCAR Media Group. This includes the programs from the SPEED Stage and the Monday night TWIN series.
The trucks, however, are produced by SPEED's own staff and operate as a stand-alone unit. The results have been great for years. However, after a groundswell of fan support last season that began to give the trucks a solid identity and great ratings, the bottom fell out.
After the troubles with the economy, the trucks took a huge hit. Sponsors were instantly gone, teams were parked and the bottom feeders came out to fill the field. Earlier this season in a race, 12 trucks in a field of less than 40 started and then simply parked to get paid. It's now a regular situation.
Salvation for the series and a new lease on life for 2010 may come with the Saturday afternoon race from Talladega. With the Sprint Cup Series along for a Sunday race, Kyle Busch will cross over to the trucks. In addition, a wild collection of drivers from Max Papis to Steve Park will also be in the field.
As many fans have heard, Mike Wallace and his daughter Chrissy are trying to be the first father-daughter team in the truck series. Chrissy has to qualify on time, but she has ARCA experience on this track and should get in the field. Mixing those two in with fast guys like Johnny Sauter, Todd Bodine and Ron Hornaday Jr. should make for some great TV storylines.
It's been the Krista Voda show for a long time in this series. Voda puts together a straightforward nothing fancy pre-race that last week consisted of her splashing in puddles and looking like anyone else at a rainy racetrack. The fans eat it up. Instead of goofy acting or tightly scripted conversation, Voda just lets it roll.
Rick Allen provides plenty of excitement with his play-by-play call and works hard to find the racing on the track. Originally, he was joined by Phil Parsons alone. Parsons is a great historian of the series and knows the racing connections among the teams from top to bottom.
It was the addition of Michael Waltrip that really shook up the status quo. Waltrip talks a lot. Despite his connections and Cup schedule, SPEED has stuck with Waltrip on this package and it is paying off. Having a high-profile NASCAR personality in the TV booth has brought the fans in who either enjoy or detest Waltrip's on-air style.
Solid production from a TV team that does not need bells, whistles and gadgets normally results in a fun race to watch. It looks like the vast majority of the 38 trucks entered are going to try and run the full race. The different storylines should be fun to watch. Imagine Steve Park, Max Papis or Mike Wallace getting to the front. The great Timothy Peters story from last week could also play out again.
On the flip side, if ten trucks decide to park, then one big accident could leave 15 trucks driving nose-to-tail on this huge track like it was practice. This is one time that heads-up driving and an understanding of the bigger picture for the sport really needs to play a role for all concerned.
SPEED hits the air on Saturday at 3:30PM with the pre-race and the green flag should fall around 4:10PM Eastern Time. SPEED will not reveal what might happen on this Halloween, but the pre-race show should be memorable. TDP will live blog this race, please join us then.
In the meantime, please feel free to leave your comments on the SPEED coverage of the CWTS, including your reaction to last season's Halloween high jinx. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly site, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.