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.

17 comments:

Photojosh said...

Last year's haloween truck series race is STILL the only race I really wish I could find a copy of. I was really bummed to have missed it. And with ESPN lulling us all to sleep with their boring broadcasts, the truck broadcast crew is like a breath of fresh air.

David said...

JD, the competition may not be as good as its been over the last few years, but the series is still drawing pretty respectable ratings from what the data has shown.

Seeing that it is a plate race, start and parks should be at a minimum.

Looking forward to SPEED's product. Last year had a great race, this year should be more of the same I would hope.

Really enjoy this crew!

Sophia said...

Photojosh

I am sorry you missed that race.

I will never forget the unexpected delight and fun that show was. Ray as Dorothy was a scream as was Adam as Glenda the Good Witch! Seeing guys in dresses always cracks me up! Then again, "Some Like it Hot" is one of my favorite movies. :)

Can not imagine how SPEED will top last year. Such a classic on a CLASSIC.

Tripp said...

SPEED's really going to have to do something special to top last year. But you know what, these loony tunes (and I mean that as a term of endearment) could just pull it off.

Krista, Ray, Adam, Rick, Phil and Mikey bring a level of fun to their broadcasts that no one else can. (I will say that TNT this year came close.) I think they do it honestly because it's how they feel about their jobs. How in the world can that ever be bad?

Why do we go to the track to see a race? Why do we go to the ball park or anywhere else to see a sport we love? To have fun. Full stop.

In a series where most of the drivers, especially the veterans like Crawford and the Onion genuinely appear to be having fun, it's a perfect match for the like minded SPEED crew.

I won't care if it ends up being a 15 truck parade, I'll still be watching because there will be fun to be had by all.

Gymmie said...

Yes that was the best thing ever! Everyone had a blast and played along nicely!

Can't wait to see what they do this year!

I saved the pictures and they make me smile when I see them.

Vince said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vince said...

Last years Halloween prerace on Speed was definately a hoot. And the look on the drivers faces as they were interviewed by Ray and Adam was priceless. BUT I hope I never see Ray or Adam in dresses again! I gotta tell ya, I'm still having nightmares about that! Those guys have some really big stones for doing that! Can't wait to see what they come up with this year.

kbaskins said...

I still have the image of Todd Bodine amorously nuzzling Good Witch Adam's neck stuck in my head. It's gonna cost me a fortune in therapy to remove it.

--KarenB

Sophia said...

I seem to remember "Glenda" stepping over a wall like a guy in her fancy dress or something...oh, my! And Didn't Ray skip?

yes, they put the bar pretty high last year!
:-D

Gymmie said...

LOL! Karen yes that is one of my favorite images too!

darbar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vicky D said...

Last year's Speed race was memorable and I have to give it to the guys for dressing up in women's clothes. That was something. Hopefully, this weekend we'll see some more great costumes. The truck series always has great racing I wish they could get more money into it and then the trucks won't have to S&P. Hope our guy doesn't get caught up in the big one either.

Anonymous said...

I started watching the truck races and got hooked. These folks clearly love racing and make the racers, the teams and the race itself so much fun to follow. This is what the cup broadcasts should be! Love that Chrissy is racing this weekend along with her dad.

Donna in FL said...

I love the Trucks! Everything from the telecasts to the people to the racing itself is great. I don't mind MW in this role at all. Wish all NASCAR series could again be like this, I think some of the Cup drivers have the most fun with the trucks. Can't wait to see!

GinaV24 said...

I love the truck racing, but count me as one of the fans who can't stand Mikey in the booth. It is probably the #1 reason that I am NOT a regular viewer of what is one of the best series in racing. I'll grit my teeth and try again this weekend - probably with the sound off!

Last year, the costume party was absolutely awesome and then there was a race, too!

Martin Vincent said...

JD wrote: "Chrissy has to qualify on time, but she has ARCA experience on this track and should get in the field."

@JD - Chrissy Wallace is entered for Saturday's race in SS Green Light Racing's #08 truck, which does have a guaranteed starting position. Chrissy had previously been announced as driving a Rick Ware Racing entry, but they will use the #08's owner points to get in the race automatically.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks for the update MV!

JD