Friday, October 21, 2011

SPEED Takes Another Swing At "Trackside"

Updated: Some folks have been asking about all the changes to the Trackside show on SPEED. Here is our post when those first happened. Feel free to update or leave a comment. Thank you.

One of the most popular email questions over the last couple of weeks has been about the continuing changes to the Trackside series on SPEED. The programs over the last couple of weeks hosted by Rutledge Wood have been very different from the show format that viewers had seen for years.

The show originally had host Steve Byrnes with Jeff Hammond, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds as panelists. It featured two NASCAR personalities on each program being interviewed. When the NASCAR on FOX portion of the season was over, Elliott Sadler replaced Waltrip.

That combo changed when Steve Byrnes moved into the studio to host the Race Hub series for SPEED. It was a big change. Byrnes is a versatile on-air talent who has a long history in and out of the studio. SPEED rotated several hosts through the position in the standard format, but it was very clear things were not clicking without Byrnes.

Another change was the removal of Larry McReynolds. He supplied the serious and focused questions on the show. That often interrupted the flow of conversation and brought things back into a hardcore racing perspective. Sometimes, he got great answers, but there were times when his serious nature was a "show killer."

Over the years, all kind of gimmicks had been tried on the show to make it different. Side-sets included one-on-one interviews with both parties in recliners and ultimately lots of goofy nonsense that filled an hour on Friday nights for both the fans at the track and the TV viewers.

This season SPEED and its new management team have been swinging for the fences. As part of the effort to rid shows like Trackside of the standard questions asked over and over again, there are new faces in new places.

Rutledge Wood has been working as the host and using his rather unique style to make the show as casual as possible. Wood has been paired with Kyle Petty on many TV shows over the years and SPEED seems to think Trackside fits that bill. Wood is a low-key and almost submissive host.

Petty is a rising media star in NASCAR and he splits his time between TV, a live series and the social media outlet called Twitter. Petty keeps a running conversation going with his fans while he is on TV via social media. His following is strong and his opinions are perhaps the most pointed of the current TV personalities.

The odd man out is Jeff Hammond. Once a key part of Trackside, Hammond now sits alone in a tight t-shirt on the set surrounded by a different group of TV personalities with a very different approach to doing business on the air.

The most recent addition is reporter Marianela Pereyra. This bilingual dynamo is a rising star in the Los Angeles TV scene and a University of Maryland grad. She has been working on a wide variety of TV series, but this is her first NASCAR appearance.

Originally scheduled for only four shows, she will now continue on Trackside through the end of the NASCAR season. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that when a person is flown in from LA to appear on one show for only a few minutes as a reporter, there is a much bigger agenda at work.

This Friday, Byrnes returns as host and steps into the new format and personalities. The new Trackside is a long way from the SPEED Stage, the classic TV desk and the darkened crowd of fans. Now things are up close, personal and driven by a clear desire to inject an entertainment slant into the series.

Guests this week are Austin Dillon and Brian Vickers. Dillon is a driver on the rise in the sport with strong family connections, while Vickers is seemingly heading in the opposite direction. Vickers will be replacing Reed Sorenson in the Saturday Nationwide Series race with rumors swirling that Vickers will be fulltime in that series for 2012 since it appears Red Bull Racing will be folding after the season.

It should be interesting to watch how all these pieces come together. Byrnes is great friends with Hammond and may well be the guy to draw him back into the show and get a healthy mix of conversation going. Trackside from Kansas Speedway airs at 7PM ET on SPEED.

This post will serve to host your comments on the changes to this series and also reaction to the Friday night program. To add your opinion on this topic, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.


Bobby said...

I wonder if Byrnes will teach Pereira the ropes of being at the track; they're both Terrapins.

RPM said...

I have one criticism for Trackside. Stop trying to pretend a 2 minute live commercial for Walmart is a sidestage segment.

Bill said...

If they subdue the drunken fans behind the stage (or continue to lift it higher in the air), and keep the drivers from shamelessly hawking their tax shel...I mean "Foundations," it may one day become a tolerable show to watch. Byrne's return will only help.

starrcade76 said...

I preferred the show when it debuted and they didn't even have a live audience. Mike Joy was the original moderator and they would broadcast from some interesting places. The museum in Darlington. On the roof of the press box in Rockingham, to name a few.

I think it is just another example of so many hours of programming being added on since it debuted, that it doesn't stand out anymore.

Karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

IF marinela stays, I'm GONE! Same goes for the Hub and Trotta ...

We do NOT need "pretty girls" who do NOT know anything about the sport added to the shows just because TPTB are bored ...

They've changed the cast way too much and the shows SUCK!

Carl in Alaska said...

Now is the time for the old format with the audience in the the background. If it has any hope of continuing blend less than than they have now with thee old school. At least old school with Steve, Larry, DW & Jeff you learned something about NASCAR and racing each week. Now its debatable whether it worth the electricity to record it or not. I don't dislike Rutledge or Kyle just the format or lack of it.

Anonymous said...

If I were running things, I'd remove Track Side from the air. It is and has been pure fluff for years. The proposed changes don't appeal to me in the least. I have no objection to being drunk, but it is insulting watching a bunch of fools flailing their arms to attract attention. Nascar Performance went through the same crap with the fans before they moved into the studio. The personalities mentioned do absolutely nothing to attract me. There must be 12 to 15 hours of pre-race or post-race TV coverage during the week with the same video clips, interviews and news (?). I wouldn't watch Track Side if it were the only Nascar show on TV.

GinaV24 said...

Glad to hear that Steve will be back as host this week and I'll probably watch because I'm interested in hearing what Dillon and Vickers have to say.

As for the rest of the changes, well, this is another show that used to be "must see" for me that has faded into only a marginal level of my conciousness.

I only tune in when they have a guest that I want to hear from - all the rest of the so-called "entertainment", including Wood's "funny man" and now the new "hot chick" of the day doesn't interest me.

Roland said...

I miss Larry Mac. "We work hard, WE PLAY HARD!!!" Not the same without him.

If I was in charge, I would ditch the reporter, ditch the talk show stage, and put them out in one of the campgrounds with the fans. Steve, Larry, Jeff, and Kyle would be my show, not Rut or DW. When DW is on any show, its all about him.

They took a great show and ruined it. Im just waiting on it to be cancelled at this point.

Daly Planet Editor said...


I still think DW's behavior on the show when Danica was a guest was the tipping point for me. I stopped watching for a long time after that.


w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Agree wholeheartedly with your comment re:the DW-Danica show ...DW's egotistical and non-sensical comments have ruined FOX broadcasts ...since being introduced on the SPEED side, those shows have declined in quality also ...LarryMac and Jeff might be mocked for their grammatical skills, but at least their comments were to the point, not celebrating themselves ...will give it a look with Steve Byrnes, but not for long otherwise

Zieke said...

I liked Larry Mac on the show. At least he showed he really did his homework and knew what is going on in NASCAR. Seems that KP is getting a larger following all the time. Unlike Waltrip who just blabbers to hear himself and his giant ego ramble, Kyle is to the point and works hard to make his spots interesting. Somebody should have strangled DW after his Danica smooze, which was downright disgusting.

Roland said...

JD, I remember that episode. He giggled like a school girl the whole time. Awkward would be an understatement

GinaV24 said...

Well, JD, as you've pointed out Fox/Speed has worked to make DW the face of NASCAR for its programming.

Since I turn off the programming most times when DW and his motormouth brother are on, I wonder if it is really working for them?

AncientRacer said...

JD wrote:

"This season SPEED and its new management team have been swinging for the fences"

AR comments:

"And like Mighty Casey they have come up short more often than not"

and then as is so common with AR he could not stop:

"Rut grew up in Griffin, GA and I spent my high school years in Barnesville just 17 miles away. I was stunned to learn on "Top Gear" Rut (at least it was what he said) did not know about the graveyard in Griffin they raced through on that show. I thought everyone knew about it because in my day everyone went parking there."

Having finished with his particularly gratuitous and meaningless burbling, AR shuffled back to his wheelchair....

John in Chico said...

Thankfully we missed the DW/Danica show but Trackside has lost it's must see status in this house.
With todays subject it got me wondering why we don't look for the show any longer.
With Burns(y) and Larry Mac gone the show lost is focus or direction or whatever it is that it doesn't have any more. If there isn't anything on TV or I stumble upon it we'll watch but it doesn't work right now. Kyle Petty is a personality in this sport and deserves more air time, few people know this sport from all sides like KP. R. Wood is a good guy that hides his yery intelligent side quite well and KP and R. Wood obviously go well together.
But it doesn't work on the show. Why Larry Mac has been frozen out during the race weekend is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

Again, I refuse to watch anything with a DW, MW, or KW. Also, I no longer believe the media or nascar cares what I think. As long as they got their money, they could care less how many are watching. MC

George said...

Lets hope it gets figured out, I just want it to stop changing.

OSBORNK said...

If there is a Waltrip or Wallace involved and it is not the actual race, I don't watch it.

ChrisK said...

Thought the whole Australian language thing was pretty dumb, but that's the kind of thing I expect from Trackside.

Anonymous said...

When they turned it into the DW show a couple of years back we just had to give up on it. That was when it got to be just too silly and boring. Kyle Petty does a good job but they should have Larry Mac and Hammond on with him and line up some good drivers and other racing people every week to talk with and it could soon become a decent show again, especially if the gang behind them was also elliminated.

Anonymous said...

Larry Mac like to rip a couple of drivers too much. Many fans including myself just quit watching because I got mad too often. Ls

SD80MAC said...

This week's show was a snoozer! Bring back Larry Mac. Have Rutledge Wood and Krista Voda split up hosting based on their schedule of other Speed and Top Gear duties. I like Steve Byrnes, but get enough on Racehub. Keep Kyle Petty and Jeff Hammond. Ol' DW can go fly a kite.

I like some of the "entertainment" type stuff, but a little dab will do! I really miss the shows with Larry Mac because I always learned something. I they feel the need to add a cute chick, bring in Monica Palumbo, or move one of the girls from one of the motorcycle shows. They know something about racing. And last but not least, go back to the old Speed Stage with the audience behind them, and the more detailed interviews.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:05 pm makes an interesting point. I abandoned Larry Mac for the same reason. Technically, he's very sharp and I can tolerate his abuse of the English language. But it's obvious which drivers he likes and doesn't like. Some times its blatant, sometimes its subtle. He never mentions it, but his tenure with Earnhardt was extremely rocky.

The Mad Man said...

Once Trackside and Race Day started doing fluff pieces and became a platform for drivers to shill their sponsors, charities, and fundraisers, they lost my interest. When they added Mr. "You're not a real race fan" Wallace to Race Day, that sealed the deal. I haven't watched either show in several years. When they get back to their original format, I might, and I do mean might, watch them again. Until then, I'll continue to do better things with my time.

NASCAR Bits & Pieces (Bruce) said...

Wait... they brought in the "expertise" of a MAXIM girl to the stage of NASCAR?

At least they're consistent. (Thinking about their news-only net, staffed with nuthin but pretty people.)

John said...

I watched it tonight for the first time this season. It was horrible. The old format was much better.

Anonymous said...

It seems this new management knows nothing about the viewers(customers) of the shows. What little I know about racing i learned by listening to practice and these shows. Nothing on them now that I care one thing about.

They may think they are going after new viewers but I think they are badly mistaken. Who cares about this silliness? Not any young or old I know.

Anonymous said...

I will pass on having to watch a bunch of drunks holding up signs with Walmart ads on them.

Anonymous said...

Annything R.wood I refuse to watch.
As for tax shelters I take advantage of them every time I can.
I'm not a driver but I try to divert as much of my income to tax free (untill I choose to claim it) accuonts.

Chadderbox said...

I have used my DVR to record Trackside for years. When Byrnes was moved to Hub I slowly began to lose interest in Trackside. After the 1st couple races of this year I was not even watching the entire episode anymore. Since May of this year I don't think I have even watched more that 5 or 10 minutes of a recorded episode. A few times I have just deleted it without even watching it at all. That's sad.
They haven't lost me completely because I still record the show, but its not a show that I look forward to watching on Friday evening anymore.
Not really sure who the demographic is that they are trying to reach, but I don't think it's me anymore. I am 43 years old, with a wife and a 1 month old baby and I attend 2-3 races a year! I have been a Nascar fan all of my life.
I actually enjoyed the experienced Nascar panel asking questions of drivers.

Anonymous said...

West Coast Diane said:

I haven't watched for ages, but did so last night to see Matt K (not a Ford/Roush fan, but for his sense of humor on Twitter) and Samantha Busch (again not a KB fan, but again because of Twitter I enjoy following her. Oh, old enough to be her!

Have to say did not like the format, fast forwarded through most of it. Just not into the goofiness or Marinela. Side note...I think Danielle Trotta is improving and appears to be more than a "social" reporter.

I like the original format. Mixed it up between serious & fun.

Bill, with all due respect, the drivers foundation maybe be a tax advantage but they do great work raising money for great causes. Jeff Gordon's has built a pediatric cancer wing at a hospital. Others support Make a Wish programs, or like Bobby Labonte, home for kids without parents and many programs for our wounded soldiers. Numerous other charities benefit.

Sophia said...

While I am glad Steve Byrnes is home more to see his family, i'm guessing, once he left Trackside, the show changed.

Then there were major shark jumps. The latest goofiness is a waste of time & I never even attempt to DVR. Stupid games? I complained about this one night on twitter to KyleP & RW and they said, don't like it? Change the channel. Well, duh, that's what I've been doing all year anyway due to drunken fans but would record if driver I liked was on.

Now it's not even really about racing. Just a showcase for more drunken fans to wave fans & talk on cell phones on tv.

I prefer the in studio shows of NPerformance or Hub to the carnival like atmosphere of outdoor shows promoted by Home Depot or Walmart.

Then again my interest in NASCAR has waned a lot this year due to lousy camera coverage of the races so I only watch religously Wind Tunnel on Speed and try --again and again- to tolerater Speed Report but AA's continuing to be allowed TO YELL HIS WAY THROUGH THE SHOW? I can't take. Ray E is a great addition, let him host the show alone a few times.

Would record RH but hour is just too long and it competes w other shows being taped in this house.

Steve Byrnes can't be everywhere but his being taken off the road has affected all the SPEED shows sorry to say. Not to lay the burden on one guys was just great chemistry with he and the guys.

Don't need to add younger female types.

But I don't fit the demographics so nobody cares.

Tight in Loose Off said...


Talking about the Race at Dega and Dancing Partners. KB says

"Yeah it is sorta like 2 AM and the
bars are ready to close..."
Nice touch Kurt ..Somebody has to
instruct these guys who can drive
fast ....Teach some PR and manners

Marylee in Richmond said...

Hadn't seen Trackside for a couple of weeks until last night. Was really disappointed and, might I say, shocked. Rutledge Woods started out with a commentary on the death of Dan Wheldon and then asked his "stage mates" for their thoughts. One of those was Kyle Petty, who, not so many years ago, lost his son in a track accident. I thought the question was crass and unfeeling. Sort of how I feel about most of Wood's antics. Had to wonder if Kyle had ANY IDEA what was going to hit him.
Uncalled for. Insensitive, Get rid of Rutledge!

Buschseries61 said...

JD, I saw the last few minutes of Trackside today. Matt Kenseth looked soo uncomfortable while Wood & Petty goofed off.

Wood, the set, the reporter, and questions asked seem to be aimed towards the 18 to 25 yr. old crowd. But as someone in that group, it looks like it will be a hideous failure.

They should aim towards the NASCAR hardcores, they will be the only people considering SPEED Channel at that hour in the first place.

Vicky D said...

I watched Trackside because my fav was on but I still really dislike those folks in the background and didn't like the wife that was on.

Vicky D said...

One more thing, I do like Rutledge I think he can really ask great questions. I wonder if he ever goes to the BIG plant in Griffin, GA????? Surely he knows what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised by the Twitter comments that Trackside was so different this week than usual. I had taped it so I was able to watch it tonight. SPEED has the same personalities/reporters on so many shows and the viewers need a break. If Chris Berman was on every Golf Broadcast then I would have to quit golf. Speed has a problem that their personalities all tend to be around the same age, from similar areas of the country, the same race, and they tend to have the same viewpoints on most things. I am a wee bit younger but otherwise, I am just like them. I enjoy the new Trackside much more today. They should probably lose Jeff Hammond and hire someone new that isn't a Waltrip or Wallace or Sadler.