Wednesday, December 1, 2010

SPEED's "Race Hub" Fills A TV Void

There was a time when executives at SPEED simply laughed when we brought up the concept of adding a weekday NASCAR news program. Primetime on weekdays was dominated by "lifestyle" shows that had absolutely nothing to do with real racing or sometimes any type of motorsports at all.

Over the years, the network has towed trucks in Chicago, served beer to bikers in Texas and created a phony drag racing franchise right out of central casting. Through it all, SPEED had a NASCAR news void from Monday through Thursday every single week during the racing season.

Officially, no one is saying exactly how the Race Hub series began in 2009. It was October and SPEED had just been named the official TV network of the new NASCAR Hall of Fame. The rumor was that NASCAR was not very happy with the weekday "void" we mentioned earlier.

Suddenly, from out of the blue, word came that SPEED had added a weekday half-hour of NASCAR news on Monday through Thursday at 7:30PM. In a flash, the scramble was on to put SPEED in the NASCAR news business. This was not another NASCAR Media Group production either, it was all SPEED.

Kyle Petty is fond of using the term "cluster" when things are not going well and the ramp-up to the original version of this show certainly fit that bill. Krista Voda was the original anchor along with appearances from some of SPEED's other on-camera regulars.

OK, so the make-up was bad, the sound was awful and the studio was corny but who cared? After years of being told NASCAR would not work in primetime on SPEED, there it was. Voda tried her best to make the early shows go and the series showed enough promise to return for 2010.

Once things got rolling this year, it was apparent that there were some problems to be fixed. Thirty minutes works for ESPN's NASCAR Now, but it was clear that SPEED had a lot more content available and often the shows seemed to leave a lot on the table.

Voda also split time with multiple hosts and the lack of a consistent presence was not good. The series needed a full time host who knew NASCAR and had a comfortable relationship with TV viewers.

This summer, SPEED answered a lot of these questions with one press release:

SPEED unveils its new NASCAR Race Hub set Monday, Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. ET with Steve Byrnes as the new full-time host. Byrnes, a veteran NASCAR broadcaster with more than 25 years of experience, has served as a rotating host of the one-hour nightly NASCAR news and information program that premiered last October.

In much the same way that the show had appeared from nowhere, SPEED expanded to one hour and inserted Byrnes as the host right in the middle of the NASCAR season. It took a lot for Byrnes to come off the road after many years of hosting Trackside as well as practice and qualifying sessions for SPEED.

Race Hub also added a full time "local reporter" since the SPEED studios are only a short drive away from most of the team shops. Danielle Trotta was the rookie with only limited TV experience who was thrown into the mix with Byrnes.

After a few tweaks to the set, the new line-up began to get some momentum going. NASCAR personalities now had access to national TV with only a short car ride to the SPEED studio or they could arrange for Trotta to come to them. In addition, the show had access to Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond who also live in the area.

In just two short months, Race Hub has proven itself to be a solid provider of interviews, features and NASCAR news. Very different from NASCAR Now, Byrnes has been able to build a comfortable studio environment that has seen a wide variety of guests since October.

Last week, SPEED confirmed that Byrnes, Trotta and Race Hub would be returning for 2011. The series will remain one hour in length and run Monday through Thursday. During the NASCAR on FOX weekends, Byrnes will also be returning to his pit road duties. That should make for a busy spring season.

With new management at SPEED, we can only hope that Race Hub will provide a platform on which to create additional NASCAR-themed programming. A Monday NASCAR version of Wind Tunnel, a weekly Camping World Truck Series show and an extended interview program like The Humpy Show are all ideas that have been kicked around for a while now.

Race Hub was a great first step toward turning the focus of SPEED away from entertainment programs and bringing it back to motorsports of all types. We should know exactly when Race Hub is going to return and what other NASCAR programs may be coming to SPEED before Christmas.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


RvNGrammy said...

Just now watching tonights' episode of Race Hub and really enjoying it. I was never a fan of Big E - heck, I'm a Jeff Gordon fan!! - but I am a huge Chocolate Myers fan. His emotion about his friend Dale always gets to me and today's interview was as I expected. I loved the segment about Ernie Irvin - another emotional tug at the heartstrings. The segment of the drivers telling us who their heros are was great, even if they didn't talk to Dale, Jr. Where's that darned Kleenex!! Have more Cyber Monday shopping to do....sales are still on! Happy Daze!!


KoHoSo said...

I am very glad that Race Hub is going to continue in 2011. I'm not always happy with what I see as it's sometimes overly rah-rah attitude toward and reporting of serious issues related to NASCAR but, hey, it's good overall, certainly better than nothing, and far superior to the final years of TWIN after it went into its serious tailspin (JMO...I know some of my fellow Planeteers disagree about TWIN).

Anonymous said...

I'm hopeful that Race Hub continues to improve this year. Thank God, the goofy studio set is gone. I've even enjoyed and looked forward to the segments with Spencer because of his frankness. I can't quite put my finger on it, but Byrnes has a habit of leaving me saying, " that all there is?" It's as if he's afraid he's going to be denied access if he asks a question that might make a guest uncomfortable. And these would be questions that beg answering. The one truly bright spot this year on Nascar TV coverage is Danielle Trotta. My recollection is that she had no racing background, but has blossomed into an enjoyable TV presence. She's comfortable in front of a camera unlike some of her female peers on other networks, she has a quick wit, has learned quickly and has a sense of humor. She could go far. I haven't quite bought into the role of "Miss Sprint" though. Being headquartered right in the middle of "Nascar Country" provides an opportunity to be right on top of breaking news. We'll see how they continue to handle that opportunity. I don't want them to parrot back and forth the party line. I expect them to ask the questions that are on the minds of many fans. Anything less than that wastes the viewers time.

Anonymous said...

I'm thrilled Race Hub will return in 2011!

Vicky D said...

I was really glad when Steve stepped up to Hub's host. I also like Spencer's segment those crying towels are a riot, like I have written before. I watched last night and there was Steve with a long sleeve shirt and JJ was bundled up in a jacket and kept his hands in his pockets so it must have been cold there. Great segment on Irvan & Chocolate too. Looking forward to 2011.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, Twin devolved into a parody of itself the last few years. Waltrip was clearly out of control drowning out the other guests and Byrnes either couldn't or wouldn't rein him in. Race Hub has a real opportunity in 2011 to be the 'go to' show for Nascar happenings. It's getting there,but needs a little fine tuning!

GinaV24 said...

Best show on Speed! Really really glad to hear that it will be back next year.

Steve has done a wonderful job and has had a lot of great guests on the show along with giving the fans a look into the human side of the sport. An hour works because the show does offer such great content. Heck I enjoyed DW's visits to the set. When he's relaxed, DW can add a lot and Jeff Hammond's "show and tell" segments are something I enjoy, too. I like to know what goes into the cars themselves, but I don't want the race broadcast interrupted with it. For me, it works on Race Hub.

Last thing, I don't have to "chase" Race Hub around on the schedule. I know when it will be on! Awesome, awesome news.

Zieke said...

Hope the show continues. I agree Danielle is a great fit. Doesn't hurt to watch her either.

51 yr. fan said...

I agree that Race Hub is the best,
however I would like to see a little more in-depth reporting of
some of the issues.

When situations arise, there is a great opportunity to get some fan input. Let them call in and have their comments recorded for the next evening's program. I think the fan's input is the thing that makes Wind Tunnel great. I had
rather hear fans than a pompous Spencer.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of the Network or program, several things just drive me nuts about Nascar racing on television. One is interviews and footage that we've seen 17 times. The other is the obvious political correctnesss where you just don't say anything controversial about Nascar, Goodyear,the drivers,team owners, track, etc. It comes across like a "Good Ol' Boys" network where you just don't make waves or rock the boat. I always told the folks that were part of my organization that there's a nice way to say anything. In my opinion, the talking heads have an obligation to the viewers to address head-on the questions and issues that are obvious to most everyone viewing the program. To dodge those questions/issues is a sure-fire way to lose viewership. I'm to listen to these folks opinions for hours and then when something significant occurs, suddenly they're non comittal???

FloridaMatt said...

I'll credit Speed both for starting RH, and for following through on making improvements. I would prefer the Tue-Wed-Thur shows to be a more compact half-hour.

I'm really appreciative of the consistant air time -- I've long since given up on the "Nascar Now vs the dvr" excercise in futility. Frankly, I'd love to see Ray and Ricky jump ship to Speed.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Race Hub fills a niche very well, their location is perfect, hosts and guest are great. I just wished Race Hub had a segment that legitimately discussed nascar issues. I would love to see JD on a panel discussing tv issues, for example. nascar/espn/fox will not change until the media loudly and consistently present an opposing view. All I am hearing from nascar/espn/fox is to have patient. The fans will eventually come over to their side. Really?

Anonymous said...

Agree Grammy! Loved Chocolate & Ernie :)!

Glad to hear it's returning! It would have been sad to cancel after all the hard work Steve did. Not to slight the others, but when Steve became the FT host it really gave the show it's identity.

When they had the other news show they were TRYING to fix it until they turned it into a tabloid show after Jim got the boot. And that opened the door for the T&A shows.

Ginny said...

I've enjoyed Race Hub from day one, even the old set where early on guests would bring artifacts to add. Never liked Nascar Now, partly because it was the same stuffy old analysts with ties on and partly because when I went to watch it on the DVR, it would be some other "sport" like poker.

I think Steve has done a great job and am glad it's coming back next year. I watch daily and wish it would continue during the off season. There's a weekly show called Raceline that's on at midnight on weekends, and they said they're going to continue every week. Race Hub is far better and I would really enjoy seeing more in depth features on different racing personnel while waiting for Daytona. The ones they've shown this week have been great.

Anonymous said...

I admit I have a warped sense of humor, but did you see Spencer deliver the "Jimmy Awards" last night on the Hub? Absolutely hilarious. A really valid point was just made regarding consistent show times. Espn programming has got to be the most exasperating experience on TV.

Vicky D said...

Anon at 5:04 AM. We watched Hub tonight and the music was way too loud to hear anything being said on the show.

Donna DeBoer said...

Just want to add 2bits for RaceHub, I've loved it from Day 1 and it's the best NASCAR support show because ITS ON AT ITS ADVERTISED TIME!!! I can't remember it ever being preempted without ample warning of a different time. It will be my main regular NASCAR news show next year. Thanks so much SPEED!! I really like NASCAR Now but I am DONE chasing it, ESPN.