Friday, February 5, 2010

SPEED's "Trackside" Back For Better Or Worse

Some love it and some hate it. Those who love it enjoy the vibe from the live crowd, the enthusiasm of the panelists and the variety of guests. Those who hate it detest the noise from the crowd, the "over the top" announcers and the politically correct drivers.

Whatever the opinion, SPEED has returned Trackside for another full season of one-hour programs on Sprint Cup Series weekends. The first is Friday at 7PM ET. Steve Byrnes hosts the series with Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds as regular panelists. Darrell Waltrip sits in for the Fox Sports portion of the schedule and then gives way to Elliott Sadler for the rest of the season.

Trackside comes from the SPEED Stage and deals with a wide variety of outside elements. The show has originated in freezing cold weather and been done in the rain with the panelists holding umbrellas. Sometimes recorded and sometimes done live, this show normally follows a set format.

There are two NASCAR guests, most often associated with the Sprint Cup Series. It's hard for the show to get the Camping World Truck Series guys because of scheduling. While some Nationwide Series regulars appear, many of the Cup guys on the show also run in the Saturday series.

Each guest has an extended interview of several segments, normally about twenty minutes long. This follows the opening segment where the panelists talk about the NASCAR news and happenings from the weekend. This group is very comfortable with each other and it shows.

The struggles of Trackside have been with the audience, the size of the panel and the focus of the conversation. The crowd around the SPEED Stage on Friday nights can get a little loud. When they become empowered as a group, they often take the opportunity to chant driver names or sometimes more colorful sayings while the show is in progress.

What often seems to be an issue is that the crowd cannot hear the conversations of the panelists and guests. Fans constantly email as to why the panelists have their backs to the crowd. The logistics of the stage really mandate where the TV equipment has to be put. In this case, the panel sits in front of the crowd.

SPEED has used a swooping manually operated jib camera to shoot endless "bumper" shots of the fans over the years. Not once has this move been slowed down enough to allow TV viewers to read some of the homemade signs brought by the fans to the show.

Perhaps, in this year of change, SPEED might consider letting some of the signs from fans showing their hometowns or favorite drivers actually be put on the telecast so they can be made to feel a part of the show. Maybe finding who came the furthest to the race or who has the best homemade sign might even be a fun feature.

Once the second guest joins Trackside, there are a lot of voices on the stage. One host, three panelists and two guests. Six is a big number for a TV panel. Byrnes manages the program well, but often follow-up questions and lines of discussion have to end either for commercial break or to let another panelist ask a question.

In answer to this situation, Trackside has tried several different ways of allowing one panelist to focus on one guest. Who knows what this season will bring, but there often seems to be a lot of relevant content left on the table when guest interviews are over.

SPEED is on Twitter, but there have been no plans announced to allow fans to suggest questions or topics for the Trackside guests. We will update things if that changes. There is a lower level of interaction that is possible on a tape delayed program, but fans are clamoring for involvement and the TV networks have to respond.

Do you watch Trackside? What is your opinion on the topics discussed above? If you have suggestions for this series, please feel free to offer them. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.

We are a family-friendly website, so please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Richard in N.C. said...

I love the show and often record in case I might miss. The audience has never been a real distraction for me and on several occasions over the years I have noticed that DW, Larry, or Jeff have in a very lowkey, non-confrontational manner asked a guest a very probing question after he has been on for awhile and relaxed.

When Trackside was first on wasn't the panel facing the audience?

RPM said...

I've been a Trackside fan since the PIR experiment. It's a great show where the fans can get close to both the drivers and the TV hosts. I've been one of those idiots in the crowd with a sign fighting for airtime. (And I got it, too!)

It's the best fan friendly race show on TV. ESPN would be wise to come up with a competitive show.

Anonymous said...

I have always enjoyed Trackside. It never seems "corporate", buttoned down, prewritten. The opinions vary but the love of the sport always shines through. I may agree or not but these are folks I would love to have around the dinner table teasing one another and talking racing.

Cooter said...

I enjoy Trackside, especially when Larry and Jeff are being serious. They are good technicians and good historians, with much valuable knowledge.
As for their clowning around... well, that needs a lot of work.

Anonymous said...

For myself a bit more filtering of the crowd noise and no DW would be a big improvement.

Ron said...

I can'tuch more of MacReynolds and Hammond..My God they are spo proud of's almost sickening...and Rutledge Wood and Kyle Petty...where are they getting these freaks?? Mike Joy was good in the past until he hooked up with these clowns...Alan Bestwick is far and above the best on TV.

Anonymous said...

I like Trackside when they are talking seriously. Can do without the shenanigans. The crowd noise gets on my nerves. I used to watch every show, but now it's a rarity for me.

glenc1 said...

I watch Trackside...I've also seen the setup at various tracks. I thought that they said the 2nd or so year that they deliberately switched it so the audience was behind when possible, so they could show them. I read the signs all the time; not really a problem (and some are quite clever). I find the noise occasionally annoying but it's also part of the feel of being there (which is, of course, why it's called 'Trackside'...) It gets out of hand sometimes...but it can also be very funny. Because it's either live or taped live, you're going to get hits & misses. There was something sorta priceless about Larry Mac wearing a koala hat.

Incidentally, where I have seen it set up, there is also a giant screen so that you can see it even if you're behind them. I could hear it fine, but it was not Trackside so there wasn't a big crowd (it was one of Steve's NASCAR Live segments.)

Dannyboy said...

JD, I have some issues with some of your description of the show:

1)I swear that in the very beginning of the show a few yrs ago, they had the stage facing the crowd. I wondered why they turned it around with the panel's backs to the crowd.

2) I distinctly recall reading signs behind the panel in the past. Some of them got out of hand, thus it is no surprise we don't see them clearly now.

3) I have stood in the crowd during the show and you can definitely hear the show sound, which is broadcast over a concert PA system. SOmetimes the crowd gets so loud it's hard to hear the discussion, but for the most part it wasn't an issue.

4)I have seen countless times where the first guest leaves the stage after their interview, so the crowded stage doesn't happen every time.

In summary, while I almost never watch the whole show on TV - and I definitely didn't when I was at the track - I always check in and see what's up. I especially do so when DW is on the panel, though I enjoy Elliot too. The chemistry and interaction with the crowd is entertaining.

My two cents.

GinaV24 said...

I like Trackside -- I tend to tune out DW whatever he's on and Rutledge is a useless git, but I like Steve, Jeff and Larry on the show and it is nice when they focus on a guest. As a fan, I often hear things on this show (at least when I watch on TV) that I don't think the driver (guest) would answer otherwise. I avoid it like plague when I go to a track though as it is one big cluster and trying to walk through it is too crazy for me. I think it is a great idea though that the fans be able to participate a little more - your idea about the sign or fan who traveled farthest would be fun.

If I remember correctly, the panel used to face the audience. Personally, I don't like that they have their backs to them -- I'm sure it keeps them from being as distracted by some of the craziness, but it feels "rude" to me.

Daly Planet Editor said...


You are right! The experimented with lots of things early on, and decided on this presentation.

Also agree on the signs. They have to either conrol them or ignore them. Randomly showing signs about different drivers is not serving any purpose.

In the emails from fans, the quality of the sound and the ability to hear it is a constant theme. I will let you know after Daytona.

The first guest has been leaving only if there is a scheduling issue. Normally, the first guest is included in the conversation for the remainder of the show.


JohnP said...

Do I like Trackside? I guess I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with the consensus here so far. I've watched it a few times and found it not to my liking. So to answer JD's question if I watch. No I don't.

Why? Because the panelists treat themselves like rock stars. Throwing gifts into the crowd, generally ginning the croud up.

With that said, I would enjoy being there in person. Looks like a blast to attend and party with them. But to watch it on TV. No way.

diane said...

It did start with the panel facing the crowd and TV equipment between them and the people watching. I think they changed it because of the morning shows (Today, etc) putting windows behind the hosts and showing the people in the background. I personally, have always disliked that, its just stupid pandering.

As for the show I make sure to tape it when there is a guest who I know to be funny and interesting (Montoya, Ambrose). They work well in this setting with a bunch of guys being guys. I usually just fast forward through any topics or guests that bore me.

Hotaru1787 said...

Trackside- Ick, in it's current incarnation. I remember when there was no crowd, not as irritating.

Jim2 said...

Long time column reader, first time writer. TDP is nice, objective work and broadcast world insight(and, for the most part, the reader comments reflect that, although at times some can lack a little insight). Agree with many of Danny's observations. I attended Trackside Live at the Glen in its first year, when RW was a humble DJ and was checking out the crowd signs for unique & clever ones for web content at the time(wife and I made the grade with a Canadian-angle). The WGI Rolex race at airtime could be/was a bit of a is the weather there. Went back a second time and didn't enjoy it nearly as much and left before the end. Haven't been back in the intervening 3-4 years. Some well-behaved fans are often over-shadowed (and driven away from future attendance) by the folks who are in the beginning stages of a three-day bender, whose only goal is to get on-camera in any way we don't bother making the trek any more from the reserved camping area to Turn 10, and we don't even try at Texas for the Fall race (4 years running). I enjoy taping the show at home and watching Saturday a-m. I think it suffers from too many panelists trying to ask one guest 'their' question for that segment. I applaud Steve Byrnes' traffic cop routine...but often he has the best un-asked, topical question and defers to the personalities/panellists. I think they should be rotated through the season. I don't question (and very much respect) their experience, background or knowledge...but it's only a 48-minute show.

Anonymous said...

I don't care for trackside; I don't watch it anymore -- it seems to be aimed at adolescents and the bar crowd. It is just not entertaining for me. For those that enjoy trackside--well keep on enjoying.

boyd said...

I must be in the minority, but I find Trackside annoying and assinine.
I tried to get in the groove and watch the show, but it has no flow, and just can't get into it.
I did try to go and watch at TMS, but after standing back from the crowd and seeing a row of Bottoms on the stage, decided that I could do without.

Chris from NY said...

I would have to say Trackside is a good show, and it would be nice to let everyone see the fans' signs. It's interesting to see how far someone would drive to Daytona, even from a city with a legitimate airport and flights available to Orlando and Daytona.

Anonymous said...

What, no Hollywood Hotel Studio with talent listed for the Shootout?
What happened? Budget cut? or---
Did Fox finnaly figure out that Mike Joy, DW, and Larry can more than do the job with the pit reporters and save us from having to bounce back and forth to the hear an ex-did nothing crew chief-that knows nothing about modern racing - country bumpkin, run his uneducated mouth in the Hollywood Hotel.
Now that's a good team and all they need, just keep Myers around for the big voice and get rid of his redneck sidekick. He's the main reason I cannot watch Trackside as he tries to hog the show and look smart with his sprayed on tan. What a phony!

Anonymous said...

Loving racing as I do I try to watch, but DW, Larry Mack Reynolds and Hammond may be the worst TV broadcasters of any sport on TV.So I rarely watch.

Richard in N.C. said...

Jack Roush on Trackside tonight with DW? Replacement for Mayweather and Pacquiao?

The Loose Wheel said...

Trackside is an awesome show! It can have a ton of depth and some amazing interviews. That being said I don't overly like the crowd format and all that but after going to PIR this past Nov, I learned that that is exactly how SPEED wants it to be. They go out and spend the half hour before the show getting the fans jacked up. They pretty much drill into you to be excited and yell and scream and all that fun stuff. It's what SPEED wants.

The commercialism of the show and loud as heck crowd does take away from what the show was when it started...but the interviews still make that show special in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy trackside. I remember the early days of being in offices and other rooms at tracks before they did the traveling stage.
One year Smoke was on & they were talking about the licensing issues between Henson's company & the Chi-town track. The muppets couldn't go in the track but were still allowed on the cars. Smoke didn't have a muppet & he was more pissed than anyone!
Most weeks the noise doesn't bother me but there are weeks where I'm straining to hear :(.
The over the top "get me on TV" gets distracting.
I like simple interviews some of the games the past few years have been annoying & dangerous. Luckily Elliott's stage dive & Hammond getting beaned weren't more serious.

Palmetto said...

I sometimes watch it on the tube and have seen it live a couple of times. In both cases, I preferred it when the panel faced the audience, not away from them. On the tube, I find the audience distracting. Save them for 'bumpers'; if they know they're not on during the interviews, maybe they'll quiet down. At the track, I want to see faces of those on stage, not the backs of their heads.

glenc1 said...

anyone notice the teddy bears are back, lol...?

Jim2--I think we've used up *more* than our share of rain allowance. I missed going to Trackside at least once because of it, and often, we want to watch the sports cars.

West Coast Diane said...

I used to always watch. Now it depends on who is on. It's a shame, because you can find out some interesting, new and maybe even inside info. I like the "boys just talking" aspect of it. However, crowd noise drives me crazy. Also, not sure why they are including Rutledge. I'm sure he is a nice guy, but any time he is on it is fast forward time.

Sophia said...

detest the crowd noise on TRACKSIDe. put it in a studio, and I'd love it.

just because somebody thinks adding the crowd is a good idea, doesn't make it one. Then again, I never enjoyed Animal House the movie with idiots running amok. I OFTEN feel that is the fans standing around yelling so we at home can't hear the hosts/guests.

so, it's iffy if I will watch this show this season. Love the panel but too much minutia and LOUDNESS.

Not a fan of the waving signs either. If I want to watch a show for the hosts and the guests, HEARING said hosts and guests is of importance to this house.

but I hardly expect "suits" to get it, especially if they are hyping up the fans to get them "jacked up" before the camera's roll.

Then again, I'm still depressed TWIN is gone.

I LOVE STUDIO shows without noisy backgrounds. :(

Vicky D said...

Well, I don't like Trackside, I don't like the screaming fans, I don't like the signs, I don't like all the folks on the stage talking at once and asking questions at once. I did watch it tonight since BK was on and he's one of my favs.

Stefano said...

From the left coast here. There's no other show like it. While I do get annoyed by the fans waving there all important signs, the host and guest that are what keeps me watching. The show is upbeat and spontaneous.

Stefano said...

While it is very annoying to watch all of the back ground hoopla, the host and guest that appear every week on Trackside are great. There is nothing like it. The access that us fans have to the tv shows at the track are unparalleled.

carcar said...

Its why NASCAR is fading. All major sports have to be professional. and took it up a notch. Nascar refuses to break away from the hillbilly announcer. What sport other than NACAR would allow a Larry Mac to be a lead spokeman. He can't speak english. Would a top newspaper print misspelled words on the front page? Its a joke.

sidney said...

my sign was not only features in the opening for...oh....5 seconds.. the announcers actually all commented on it! "I named my puppy lightning sadler"

Donna DeBoer said...

Simply put, this is supposed to be fun!! I like Trackside's near chaos, I like the panel and I watch every time they have on someone I like. Alot of times someone says something unexpected and that's cool. This is one show most guests feel pretty at ease, and most questions are good ones. I like that guests can plug various charities and stuff.
Looking fwd to another great year of Trackside. If I want a totally serious discussion, I'll goto ESPN.

Anonymous said...

carcar is 1000% correct. His points are ones I've been trying to make for a long time.Larry and DW are terrible at their jobs and it's not their accents that I'm talking about, as two very good TV people, Ned and Buddy had accents, but did a good job.

Anonymous said...

Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond are announcers for FOX. They get to speak the English Language on FOX, representing FOX.

Wonder why the TV ratings are DOWN.


300 million Americans who speak the English Language and we have to listen to Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds.