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.

All SPEED Friday In Talladega

ESPN's Dale Jarrett picked a good week to have his appendix taken out. ESPN is out of action Friday and SPEED has the truck race on Saturday. Despite his surgery, Jarrett will be back in action for ESPN Sunday covering the Sprint Cup Series race.

SPEED starts Friday at 2:30PM from the big track with Sprint Cup Series practice. John Roberts, Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds on the call. NASCAR Live is next at 3:30PM during the break between sessions with Krista Voda, Jeff Hammond and Bob Dillner. The Cup cars return to the track at 4PM for final practice.

The TV day is capped by the Camping World Trucks qualifying at 5PM. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will be in the TV booth. Hermie Sadler and Ray Dunlap will be the reporters.

Trackside is on at 7PM. Viewer reactions to the changes made to this show has been strong. Rutledge Wood hosts with Kyle Petty and Jeff Hammond as the expert panel. Newcomer Marianela Pereyra is the reporter.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Friday coverage from Talladega on SPEED. To add your opinion, just click the comments button below.