Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The crowds are always great. The fans are always colorful. The guests are better than ever. The panelists are NASCAR all-stars. The resulting TV show is a mess.
Trackside on SPEED is a one-hour program that wraps-up a long day at the track. Steve Byrnes hosts with Larry McReynolds, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond as his panelists. The program features two guests who answer questions and offer comments on NASCAR topics. The formula has been around for a very long time.
During this part of the season, all four men on the show are also on the air during the day. Waltrip and McReynolds handle the Cup telecasts with Mike Joy. Byrnes and Hammond work on the Nationwide Series coverage. By the time Trackside rolls around, it seems there are often some rather exhausted guys trying to get themselves through a final hour of TV.
Trackside was the source of a tremendous amount of email, comments and tweets recently after an appearance by Danica Patrick. Instead of treating her like another veteran driver, Waltrip turned into a swooning teenager. Byrnes did his best to control him with Patrick eventually changing seats to move away from Waltrip. Hammond could later be seen sitting next to Waltrip and telling him to be quiet. It was all very strange.
Last weekend, Carl Edwards was suddenly added as a "special first guest" on Friday's Trackside. Kyle Busch and NASCAR legend David Pearson were originally scheduled. Edwards touched all the political bases he had already run earlier in the week with the media. His appearance was never explained, Brad Keselowski was not on the show and nothing new was said.
Kyle Busch arrived only to begin by hawking his own line of sunglasses. Byrnes tried to steer things in the right direction, but sometimes Waltrip seems to believe that he is the star of this show and not just a panelist. Waltrip now speaks overtop of the host regularly and that is tough to watch. Byrnes is a patient man.
Once he settled down, Busch handled himself quite well and spoke about topics that would not otherwise be discussed on TV. That is the point of Trackside. Showing fans and TV viewers another side of NASCAR personalities. On this Friday, however, it came with a price.
David Pearson, the Silver Fox, was on the set and ready to go. Pearson was in Bristol to participate in a Legends charity race. After the Edwards public relations interview and the Busch sunglasses promotion, Trackside had five minutes for Pearson. SPEED slightly extended the program time and Pearson got out some classic one-liners, but ultimately he got the short end of the stick.
These days, fans rarely see or hear from the legends of the sport. Trackside had a perfect opportunity to let Pearson show the rough and tumble background of NASCAR through his personality and comments. It never happened.
Trackside changes when Waltrip is present during the FOX portion of the season. His on-air antics are increasing and his disrespect of his fellow panelists and the host are tiring. Byrnes, Hammond and McReynolds are often interrupted by Waltrip. It is a credit to their professionalism every time they calmly wait out another outburst from "Ole DW."
Monday, Waltrip's famous #11 car was unveiled as being in the new NASCAR Hall of Fame. Waltrip was there and looked like he belonged. He gave good interviews and reflected on the sport from his veteran perspective. That is the Darrell Waltrip that needs to show-up on Trackside next week.
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