Saturday, November 14, 2009
Eyes Turn To The Original Mr. Excitement
Jimmy Spencer recently had some changes in his TV assignments for SPEED. Spencer was added to This Week in NASCAR on Monday nights during the Chase. At the same time, he was removed from Victory Lane. That is the program that interviews the winning driver, crew chief and owner right after the race.
Spencer was replaced by Larry McReynolds, who changed the tone of the show by coming in with prepared questions that related directly to the events of the race. McReynolds also uses his notes to voice the highlights and update what viewers saw as the event unfolded.
Spencer now travels to the Sprint Cup Series tracks only to continue his role on RaceDay. That two-hour show is the franchise for SPEED on Sundays since the network does not carry any of the Sprint Cup Series points races.
Originally, RaceDay was a unique program that allowed for candid interviews, good humor and opinions from both Spencer and his fellow panelist Kenny Wallace. Now, the dynamic of the program has changed. Spencer and Wallace now take the topics offered to them by host John Roberts and make speeches to the TV cameras.
Over the last several years, Spencer has defined himself as someone who shoots from the hip on TV. His emotional rants are sometimes right on the money and sometimes so far off-base it's frankly embarrassing. Roberts often finds himself trying to offer a sentence or two when Spencer is finished to get things back on an even keel.
The positive thing about Spencer is that no one else on TV with the exception of Kyle Petty offers these types of outspoken comments. That is not to say other analysts don't have strong feelings on NASCAR topics. They just choose not to share them on TV without planning their words well in advance.
Currently, Petty is seen briefly on RaceDay in a short pre-recorded segment. His only other TV appearance is on a trivia show called NASCAR Smarts. When Kyle Petty finished his summertime tour with TNT, NASCAR lost a valuable TV voice that has not been replaced by anyone in the ESPN corps of announcers.
Saturday, Brad Keselowski continued his aggressive driving in the Nationwide Series by again ruffling the feathers of Denny Hamlin. TV replays appeared to show the kind of racing that rarely takes place in NASCAR's top series these days. Keselowksi continues to be a hard-charger who is upsetting the very drivers he will be racing with next season in the Sprint Cup Series.
The TV networks and the NASCAR media made the most of Saturday's flare-up and reviewed Keselowski's recent run-ins with other drivers. ESPN went off the air after the race and does not have another NASCAR TV show until Sunday morning. The analyst on that program is Boris Said. He cannot speak to this type of issue like Spencer.
With only two RaceDay shows remaining, Spencer is going to be channeling his "Mr. Excitement" personality as he wades into the ongoing discussion about Keselowski. Hopefully, Spencer will have put some thought toward this issue before the RaceDay program begins at 12:30PM ET.
How Spencer reacts on this topic and what comments he makes may go a long way toward setting him up for another Monday night TV show. This time, both panelists Chad Knaus and Greg Biffle are occupied with Chase duties. Spencer will be facing off with Michael Waltrip alone on This Week in NASCAR.
While there is no doubt that host Steve Byrnes, Spencer and Waltrip have known each other for a very long time, that certainly does not change how outspoken Spencer has been on this program. It has been a rocky road with Spencer challenging Knaus and Waltrip on several emotional issues, only to be quietly moved along by Byrnes.
Ultimately, the question is which TV program fits what Spencer brings to the table and uses his personal NASCAR experience most effectively? That may be what SPEED and NASCAR Media Group executives will be discussing during the off-season.
Where do you come down on this issue? Does Spencer's outspoken style work on TV or is the era that Spencer represents long gone? Since we have watched RaceDay for nine months, what have been the parts that you have enjoyed and what might need to be addressed over the winter months?
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