Thursday, March 24, 2011

Getting The Band Back Together (Update)


Update: Kenny Schrader will be joining Ricky Craven and ESPN the Magazine writer Ryan McGee on Monday's NASCAR Now program on ESPN2 at 5PM ET. Allen Bestwick hosting.

This is a repost of an item that ran earlier after ESPN's original announcement of Schrader and Johnny Benson appearing on NASCAR Now this season.


To many who read the recent NASCAR on ESPN media release, it was just another sentence about the network's plans for 2011. The impact on most of the NASCAR media was a resounding thud. There is a group, however, that found deep meaning in the following words.

Veteran NASCAR drivers Johnny Benson Jr. and Ken Schrader will be frequent guests on the Monday roundtable edition of NASCAR Now in 2011.

It was not lost on hardcore fans that a happy Allen Bestwick recently posted pictures of his off-season marriage on his Facebook page. That was a big departure for the formerly very private and highly-organized TV pro who has been a presence in NASCAR for decades.

Allen Bestwick's most personal venture on television began as a Monday night show on a fledgling cable TV network called SpeedVision. It was a one-hour show taped in the late afternoon that featured three local NASCAR personalities discussing the racing from the weekend. At least, that was the theory.

Johnny Benson, Kenny Schrader and Michael Waltrip became cult TV hits as Inside Winston Cup Racing hit the air. Seen under several titles, the show featured the kind of uniqueness that has now been almost wiped from NASCAR TV. Unlike the current crop of cookie-cutter shows, this one was different.

Bestwick relished his role as the ringleader of the NASCAR circus. His personality just meshed so well with the three troublemakers. Waltrip repeatedly bounced comments off the wall that just defied all forms of human logic. Benson was the straight man who tried to keep his cool and interpret Waltrip's observations. Schrader was the enforcer who kept everything in perspective, including Waltrip.

This show clicked because of Bestwick. He arrived early on taping day, reviewed the highlights and prepared the entire show format with the producer. It was clear to those who watched that it was his baby.

Instead of finding it annoying, Bestwick celebrated when the dumpster truck arrived in the middle of the show and was clearly heard through the thin walls of the Sunbelt Video studios. In the early years, so many things just happened that discussing the show with fans became a great conversation. Remember the replay controllers? Not a good idea.

As with all things in TV, change is usually awkward and forced. A new production executive swept through SPEED and decided that the network was going to go Hollywood. Among the changes was the firing of Bestwick and Benson on the spot. No goodbye show, no video memories and nothing but the awkwardness of Dave Despain trying his best to follow orders. It was miserable.

The saga of Bestwick includes his rebirth at ESPN. Starting as an entry level pit road reporter, Bestwick has risen in five years to his current status as the senior man on the NASCAR totem pole. Along the way, the network wasted time, effort and money on a ton of wannabees before putting Bestwick in the Infield Studio and as the host of the Monday NASCAR Now . The idea that Bestwick should replace Marty Reid in the broadcast booth was a popular one after Reid struggled in the Chase.

They say good things come to those who wait and Bestwick has been a patient man. This season, his influence may finally help to guide ESPN back into the good graces of many fans. The faces of Benson and Schrader, along with a bit more fun and a bit less formality, will go a long way toward bridging what we call the "Bristol gap."

With Michael Waltrip gone to the Inside NASCAR series on Showtime, the popular suggestion among the ESPN personalities to fill the final place on the Monday panel is Ricky Craven. It should be fun to watch this dynamic unfold. It should also be fun to watch Kenny Schrader at ESPN in his High Definition make-up and necktie. I wonder how long that will last?

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. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

34 comments:

Palmetto said...

JD, when does 'NASCAR Now' air? Until this announcement, I didn't see much reason to remember.

Mary said...

Awesome - and all we need now is Mikey those IWC days were magic.

Anonymous said...

Anytime I can see Benson and Schrader I will watch. Kenny is a true classic. He should be on some network's full time staff.

Sam

glenc1 said...

wow. Benson & Schrader, YES!
It will be great to get them on; at least I actually value their opinions.

Jonathan said...

This is good news :)

Anonymous said...

I would rather see Randy Lajoie on this show than to see Michael Waltrip return. Thankfully, his SPEED job makes this nearly impossible. Ricky Craven would also make a wonderful addition to the Musketeers. There are also some active drivers that would have a lot to lend to the show.

Newracefan said...

This is the best newsI've heard out of ESPN since they started using Ricky Craven. Way to go AB

Buschseries61 said...

Nascar Now has become a 'must watch'. Best news I've heard over the offseason.

Sally said...

I think this is great news. Someone, somewhere, finally listened to what the fans wanted. Having Schrader back on TV regularly is going to be great! JB is always a good balance, and AB is back in charge! Now, if he was only doing pxp, life would be even better! Thanks, ESPN, for hearing what we've wanted.

;) veri: experpig

Gymmie said...

YAY Allen, Schrader & Johnny B <3

Photojosh said...

I echo the others. Anytime I can see Schrader, I'll make the effort to tune in. In addition to being smart and good on TV, he's a hands-down real racer who has lived the modern history of the sport. Benson is great as well and the addition of Craven or Lajoie or whoever should be a lot of fun.

I'll be watching.

Anonymous said...

I remember when TNN dropped the show but did a "One Last Time" special.The round table on Mondays were good but very "stiff" in presentation.Gotta tell ya,I'm lookin' forward to Mondays now.

Anonymous said...

Bestwick, Benson, and Schrader together again!!!!!!

And no MW....

Oh, yes!!

Makiki
Honolulu

Anonymous said...

This is a show I will give a chance and watch. Sad it took espn so long to come up with this "idea". MC

Chadderbox said...

Reading your comments about the old IWC days reminded me that before the era of my DVR - I actually would take the time on a Monday night to sit down and watch a 1 hour show with Bestwick, Schrader, Waltrip and Benson. Although the show could be rough around the edges at times, it reflected the true spirit of Nascar racers and culture without the Hollywood approach. I think bringing in Benson and Schrader is a good thing in the sense that they are sort of old school Nascar.

51 yr. fan said...

Great News! Now if the Bristol
folks would realize that less
formal attire is appropriate for
sports announcers.

Maybe by the time ESPN race coverage comes Johnny and Kenny can get some booth time also.

GinaV24 said...

Good news at last! I cannot say how much I have missed the dynamic that was Inside Winston Cup.

So Benson & Schrader will guest on the Monday night ESPN NN -- awesome news. That gives me a reason to try setting up the DVR for the show -- Now if ESPN can figure out how to keep the show in a regular timeslot, that would be really good.

Sue said...

Yeah! So excited. I loved watching them and it hasn't been the same since they left. This is a great move for NASCAR media!!!

Scott said...

Now if only we could find a way to see Benson and Schrader on the track, too...

The way I remember it, they rotated out drivers from the panel as they exited the 'Winston Cup' circuit. Schrader, Benson, Wallace... as they lost their rides and moved to other series, were replaced by Biffle and others.

Personally, I felt at times like Bestwick wasn't enjoying what the rest of us watching at home were enjoying. But there's no denying that the show lost its magic over the years.

KoHoSo said...

It has been a long time since there has been some truly good news on the NASCAR television front. This will definitely make whatever else happens this season much more bearable.

Now...how long before we all start telling ESPN to move these three into the announcing booth on Sundays? ;-)

Anonymous said...

WOW
and what, it only took 10 years for someone to figure out what a brilliant show this was on Speedvision.

Hope they bring back the same producers too. They certainly understood racing

Dannyboy said...

The whole dynamic that was IWC was due to the warm friendship and chemistry between the panel. Only good friends could say some of the things that MW and Schrader said to each other. While I'm elated to hear the JB and KS are back on TV with AB, the sleep-inducing, buttoned-down atmosphere of ESPN/NN will have to be loosened up a whole lot to make proper use of those assets.

I sure hope someone figures this out. And kudos to Anonymous for suggesting Randy LaJoie, who was an occasional fill-in on the old Speedvision show.

Anonymous said...

Kenny would look weird in a suit and tie - I hope they go casual.

One and a half thumbs up!

AncientRacer said...

So someone somewhere actually made a good decision. That's nice.

Marylee in Richmond said...

Great news. But, comes at an awkward time in my day, and with the newer TV technology, my old VCR doesn't want to tape! I know, but I'm just technologically challenged and not afraid to admit it.

Vicky D said...

And one thing you forgot to mention JD, when there were rumors that Speed would cancel the show, Michael & Schrader suggested we write to them to keep it on the air and we did and they kept it on the air! What a super show and great panel. When they removed AB and put DD on, that's when it went down hill.

Anonymous said...

Ryan McGee tweeted last night that he & JB are doing some shows together and that they'd need nametags so people can tell them apart. lol

Anonymous said...

I feel if the networks got some talking heads that did't talk about what they did 25 years ago more people would tune in.Just talk about the race in front of you.

Andy D said...

i would love to see Schrader in the booth but I know that he'd rather be racing every weekend.

Speed was foolish to break up the IWC gang, they were the perfect team. they shouldn't even have booted Benson after he lost his ride.

i'd like to see Bestwick doing play by play. he knows the sport as well as anyone. He needs to be partnered with a free spirit though because he can be a little too officious. Again, Kenny and Johnny would be terrific in that spot.

leave herman out of the mix though. I can deal with Michael but Kenny Wallace isn't my style.

The Mad Man said...

Now if BSPN would just listen to some other fan suggestions about their broadcasting.

Vicky D said...

And there's a article on yahoo this morning about the best & worst National Anthem singers. Hoping the singers are better this year also and they are actually chosen for their singing. Even LVMS had auditions I wonder who won and if they'll be better than previous renditions.

Anonymous said...

My reaction to this is mixed. I love the combination of JB, Schrader, and Mikey. Yes, I like Mikey and miss him now that he's not on regular cable. I wish he could be included in this plan.

However, I can't stand ESPN coverage and I can't stand suits covering sports. It just doesn't make sense, and it looks uncomfortable. If these guys are wearing suits, *I* will be uncomfortable.

Also, NASCAR Now has never shown up properly on the TiVo schedule. For whatever reason, it's just a generic description, with no episode number or date, which means even if I tell it to record new showings only, it will record both the regular and late night repeat. And half the time neither recording is NASCAR Now -- sometimes it's poker! No other NASCAR show does this. I'm assuming it's laziness on the part of ESPN not to provide any details.

Since I can't stand suits or ESPN, and it's a nuisance to keep deleting incorrect or half missing shows, I simply stopped recording and watching NASCAR Now last year. And I didn't miss it a bit. Not even Mondays.

If they stick to their plan to have JB and Schrader as frequent guests, I might consider manually setting up a Monday recording. We'll see what they come up with. I'm not holding my breath though.

Anonymous said...

So now all the ESPN suits have to do is nothing. No gimmicks, no production, nothing. Just let Bestwick (who knows more about racing television than anyone else at ESPN) do his thing and great TV will happen,

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Glad to hear the 'old gang' will e getting back together again ...AB is the consummate ringmaster in this setting ...JB and Schrader are a great fit and Ricky Craven is a great compliment ...now, I wonder if enough time has passed in Randy Lajoie's rehabilitation for his return ...great broadcast from IRP when Lajoie and Craven were getting out-of-hand and Marty Reid was sticking with the race call ...those were the days
Walter