Tuesday, September 15, 2009
This Week in NASCAR host Steve Byrnes told viewers the news right at the top of the show. Not only was Jimmy Spencer going to be a panelist this Monday in place of Michael Waltrip, but Spencer was going to join the program for the rest of the season.
While that is the information he included, it is what Byrnes did not say that has rumors flying. There have only been two panelists on TWIN this season. One school of thought is that Spencer was simply an addition for The Chase.
The other is that this is an audition for a permanent change. While Greg Biffle and Chad Knaus are going to continue in their NASCAR roles next season, there is a big change coming for Waltrip.
Earlier Monday it was confirmed that Pat Tryson was hired to be the new crew chief at MWR. He will be leading new driver Martin Truex Jr. in the #56 car as Waltrip steps back into the role of fulltime owner. While Waltrip may drive in the Daytona 500, it is very clear that this transition is complete.
This may not affect Waltrip's role working on the Camping World Truck Series as an analyst, but questions remain about Monday nights for next season. It's not really an issue about simply driving, as drivers retire each season. The real issue on the table is having a fulltime multi-car Sprint Cup Series team owner on TWIN.
It might shock fans if they tuned-in and saw Richard Childress or Jack Roush on the program talking about the ups-and-downs of the other teams. But, this is Michael Waltrip and he has been the franchise for this program since it began over a decade ago.
Waltrip brings his unique personality and sense of humor to the show. Names like Benson, Wallace, Schrader and Vickers have come and gone. Through it all, Waltrip has remained. This year Steve Byrnes replaced Dave Despain who replaced Allen Bestwick as host. All of them have had to figure out how to work with Waltrip.
Information from SPEED indicates that next Monday's show will consist of Biffle, Spencer and Waltrip with Byrnes hosting. The network also indicates that NASCAR President Mike Helton will be making an appearance. Veteran fans may remember that each year Helton used to drop by and spar with Waltrip and Kenny Schrader.
With the new changes on this program, it may well be Spencer who picks up the tradition of asking Helton how much he makes...just for information purposes.
On this Monday, Spencer was outspoken, Knaus was informative and Byrnes appeared nervous. The program format also changed, with the hot topics and several other elements dropped. It may be that viewers are seeing SPEED begin to tweak the show in order to make a decision about next season.
Next Monday, Biffle will look over to see Waltrip and Spencer alongside of him. It should be interesting to see if the show continues to allow the panelists to finish their thoughts or if Spencer and Waltrip struggle to strike a balance on the air.
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