Sunday, July 6, 2008

Monday Night Match-Up: Waltrip/Knaus vs. Evernham/Said

There have been few things more interesting this year than watching the two new Monday night NASCAR TV shows. Now, halfway through the season, both programs are really coming into their own. This Monday, after the action from Daytona, both shows are going to be put to the test for very different reasons.

NASCAR Now is up first on ESPN2 at 5:30PM for one hour. Host Allen Bestwick will be joined by the very interesting panel of Ray Evernham, Boris Said and Marty Smith. This returns the show to its original make-up of one driver, one crew chief and one reporter.

Smith and Bestwick are the only two on the panel not currently involved financially in a Sprint Cup Series team. So, Bestwick as the host and Smith as the reporter are going to be put to the test. While Evernham has been subtle in his team references, Said has often been over-the-top.

After all the controversy and the rough driving in the Daytona Cup Series race, it should be interesting to hear both Said and Evernham try to analyze it now as TV personalities. ESPN is walking a fine line with two active owners as analysts for the very series in which they participate.

It should be noted that both Said and Evernham have individually been on the "roundtable" edition of NASCAR Now before. This time, with no Dale Jarrett or Andy Petree present, they are going to be challenged to drop any loyalty issues and simply analyze.

SPEED continues to work with host Steve Byrnes to make the first season of This Week In NASCAR a success. It has been a tough road, but the last few programs have been picking-up steam and the fans have responded. The key to the momentum change has been Michael Waltrip having fun again.

Waltrip seems to have discovered that he can be himself with both rotating panelists Chad Knaus and Greg Biffle. This week, it will be Knaus in the "Mikey zone."

This "odd couple" has drawn comparisons to Oscar Madison and Felix Unger with the buttoned-up Knaus rolling his eyes as Waltrip models his latest footwear or discusses haircuts, cellphones or pajamas. Knaus cannot help always being the "in control" crew chief with the latest technical information. Fans of NASCAR Performance know that all too well.

This contrast in styles has let Byrnes develop his hosting style for this program, which has to be much different than Trackside. There are no screaming fans and there are not six people on the panel. Byrnes roll is to toss-out topics and get out of the way.

With all the chaos of Daytona in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races, perhaps SPEED will relent and not make viewers wait thirty minutes for highlights and race analysis. It is quite likely, however, that a preview of Chicagoland Speedway will be up first.

Last week, TWIN kept a pre-recorded feature that viewers had seen months before and dropped the Nationwide and Truck Series highlights. Hopefully, that mistake will not happen again, especially with SPEED being the home of the Craftsman Trucks.

Both of these NASCAR TV programs air once for the East Coast, and then they match-up head-to-head for a 9PM Pacific Time Zone airing. Since they are both seeking the same set of fans, it is always fascinating to see the two very different approaches to the same topics and highlights. After each program, there will be a column on The Daly Planet for your comments.

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