Tuesday, April 3, 2012
"Trackside" Now A Runaway Train
For years now SPEED has tried to offer a program on Friday nights after the action at the track was done. Eventually, it became the Trackside show hosted by Steve Byrnes.
As those who watch Race Hub already know, Byrnes works on the air with a simple philosophy. He includes, rather than excludes, the various personalities in the sport. Byrnes had two guests on every Trackside show while simultaneously controlling his panel of Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds. No easy task.
The result was a program that was interesting to watch. It had information for hardcore fans, but also often put the two guests in an informal light and let them discuss topics not normally heard in the standard NASCAR TV interviews. Byrnes worked hard to keep things informal and fun.
The downside was that six talking heads on the SPEED Stage was a lot for TV. Add in the Friday night fans at the track and sometimes it was just not the best mix. The bottom line, however, was that SPEED was using personalities at the track who were up to date on the happenings of the day. NASCAR fans got interviews and information.
Once Byrnes made the transition into the studio to host Race Hub, the network began a major overhaul of the entire Trackside concept. Though still using the same name and being shown in the same timeslot, the entire program is different.
The picure above is from last week's show. Trevor Bayne and Jeff Hammond got "TP'ed" by host Krista Voda and reporter Marianela Pereyra. There is now a lot of that on Trackside. Apparently, the network is trying to go after the younger fans with these forced hijinks. Whether it is Clint Bowyer in a dance-off or the on-air cast playing Pictionary, the real question is what's the point of all this?
SPEED's PR guru Erik Arneson offered recently on Twitter that Trackside ratings are up over 20% and up almost 70% with Males 18-49. The network is heavily promoting the team of Voda, Pereyra, Rutledge Wood and Kyle Petty as the "new look" Trackside.
Pereyra admitted in an interview this week that she had never been to any kind of racetrack before her Trackside reporter job came along last year. Voda is a tremendously talented TV veteran who has been working inside and outside of the studio for years in motorsports. That makes for an interesting on-air combination.
Wood began as the DJ at the SPEED Stage in a job listing he found on Craigslist in 2005. Now in his early 30's, Wood partners with 51 year-old Petty to form the new "expert panel" on Trackside. Wood admitted in a published interview that he also had never been interested in NASCAR until his job with SPEED.
All of this makes for a very interesting situation. On one hand, we hear from hardcore fans who tune into SPEED after work on a Friday expecting information and updates from that day's NASCAR activity. Instead, awkward silliness ensues.
Meanwhile, SPEED remains firm in twisting and turning this show every which way to try and make it more hip, young and fun. Unfortunately, there are no twenty-somethings among the cast and racetracks after the engines stop tend to offer fun only in the infield.
Since Byrnes and company departed there have been lots of hosts, lots of different sets and lots of different show formats but one constant remains. Trackside is just as much in transition this season as it was last year. How long SPEED will keep chasing this demographic with dance-offs, Pictionary and toilet paper remains to be seen.
This is an opportunity to voice your views about the "new look" Trackside and your opinion on this type of programming on SPEED supposedly aimed at younger fans.
Keep your opinions respectful and language polite in order for your comments to remain posted. This should be a timely topic as Trackside from Auto Club Speedway airs Friday night on SPEED with Jimmie Johnson as the featured guest.
Thank you as always for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.