Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Untimely Death Of "Wind Tunnel" (Updated)

Update: Lots of comments on this column, including several from media members who suggested I was indicating that Wind Tunnel was going to be cancelled. Here is the quote from this very column: "So, goodbye Wind Tunnel. My time as a viewer is done." Pretty sure that statement makes things clear.

The long and winding road of the cable TV network that started life as SpeedVision continues to twist. The latest victim is the Sunday night motorsports television franchise called Wind Tunnel.

The original idea behind the series was to echo the success of the Larry King Live show on CNN. King made a living mixing high-profile guests with the common man through telephone calls from viewers around the world. CNN had King on seven nights a week and for many years he was untouchable.

Dave Despain became the Larry King of Wind Tunnel because of his broad experience in motorsports. Despain paid his dues and grew into a lovable TV curmudgeon by using his dry sense of humor and inability to accept what the motorsports PR types tried to pass along as being the truth.

At one time Wind Tunnel was also on multiple nights a week and attracted a wide variety of motorsports personalities from seemingly all types of racing. That was also a time when the SPEED management was committed to building a TV network around racing. Those days have been long gone for many years.

Despain wound-up with an hour of his franchise on TV Sunday nights and an extra chunk streamed online when the TV show was done. It was an interesting mix, but one that allowed the voice of the fan to be heard clearly as an integral part of the show. Now, that voice has been silenced.

SPEED has quietly ended viewer participation in the TV hour of Wind Tunnel. No more phone calls, no more emails and selected tweets jammed painfully into a moment late in the show. The network that prides itself on being interactive has slammed the door on its own fans. The ability to ask a question of a guest is gone and so is the very spirit of the program.

For many years SPEED's senior management steadfastly refused to produce a NASCAR news and interview program on weekdays. No one would watch, they said. Then, along came Race Hub. There was a time when SPEED panned the concept of trying to create a general motorsports news and highlight program on weekends. Now, we have SpeedCenter. These two programs now have the network spotlight.

Left in the lurch is Despain. The last few weeks have seen him pushed aside in no uncertain terms. The most embarrassing a co-hosting appearance by James Hinchcliffe that put the IndyCar driver literally into the host position and Despain to the guest seat. The pain on Despain's face was easy to see.

The fundamental appeal of live TV done in this setting is the uncertainty of what would result. Over the years, Despain and his callers have drawn-out some amazing responses on hot button topics from a wide variety of motorsports personalities and executives. For many years, news was made on Wind Tunnel.

Now, following the controlled model of Race Hub, there is no sense of the unexpected. There is no emotional topic that has tempers running hot. Appearances are prearranged, focused and planned. Even zingers from contributors like Robin Miller or guests like Paul Tracy cannot breathe life into this format.

Despain never had co-hosts for the hour because most motorsports experts focus on only one area. With the new format of SPEED personalities being involved viewers get Tommy Kendall talking NASCAR diversity and Ralph Sheheen sharing his Formula One expertise. It's not fair to those involved or the viewers to force these contributors into this role.

It's been wonderful to watch Wind Tunnel over the years. Those TV memories, both good and bad, were pure and spontaneous. The current crop of talking heads fits the SPEED mold of politically correct guests who say the right thing and move along. There are SPEED programs to promote, marketing agendas to be met and network personalities who need more exposure.

The bottom line is that without the strong voice of the fans, Wind Tunnel is nothing. The self-serving rehash of events from the weekend with FOX and SPEED personalities commenting makes little sense. Before Wind Tunnel, fans see an hour of SpeedCenter and then an hour of NASCAR Victory Lane.

Instead of making news and pushing hot buttons, Despain is now slaved to repeating racing topics and showing scripted video highlights for the third time in the same evening. It must be a bitter pill to swallow for a man who developed this franchise from the start.

So, goodbye Wind Tunnel. My time as a viewer is done. Memories of this outstanding series can now join the others that SPEED has successfully managed right into the ground. When marketing and promotion push spontaneous and honest commentary aside, the results are almost never good. This version of Wind Tunnel is quickly proving that point.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.


The Loose Wheel said...

I haven't caught much of WindTunnel the last few months. Strangely enough though, I did see the one with Hinch and for the first time I actually tuned in for Extra on the site. I was incredibly amazed by that little half hour and LOVED every second of it. THAT half hour online is what WindTunnel IS and SHOULD be. There were amazing questions and responses from both Dave and Hinch as well as the fans. Also, it was HONEST. The television program has certainly gone the way of a templated, stamped out product.

I'll still tune in as best as I can for the occasional interview, but the Extra will be my primary focus from here out.

Anonymous said...

Disappointing. Not unexpected. Much of Nascar, at least - I can't speak to other motorsports organizations - is centered around ignoring the Wizard behind the curtain.

I think, in the long term, these decisions to monetize, control, and ultimately steer discourse, across the board in broadcasting of many kinds, and in many formats...

It'll get them all precisely what they want.

Like individuals walking out of a circus tent after the fare goes from interesting to disgustingly ludicrous, they'll be left sitting there.

Stocks tanking, revenues shot, advertisers hiring blimps rather than investing capital into methods proven wrong time again.

The days where you turned one of two dials on the TV and what you got was all you got are well and truly over.

The people in the tent are myopic, the owners stuck so far back in time if they could take a club to Despain for upsetting their apple cart, I suspect they'd hire a thug to try.

Big case of the Emperor's New Clothes. The fallout, while regrettable, will be appropriate and hopefully foster new things of interest.

West Coast Kenny said...

J.D. Sounds to me like the network is trying to push out Despain and his gray hair. People like us are considered "tonnage" because they don't want us but they have to carry us. The young hip demo they want doesn't like looking at cranky codgers like Dave, or so they think.


cdh said...

Windtunnel used to be the highlight of my Sunday nights. I still DVR it but now I just FF through. Its pointless now. I hate the co-hosts. I can't get through an hour without getting mad. Like everything else, all good things come to an end. And why does he need so many ad breaks? The budget can't be that high. They take a break every 5 minutes.

Buschseries61 said...

I have not watched Wind Tunnel since last October. It's comical that SPEED always fixes what isn't broken until it breaks. Then SPEED cancels it and replaces it with reject truTV lifestyle shows.

Now all SPEED has to do is mess up the Truck series broadcasts, then the motorsports demolition steamroller has finished clearing the area for FOX Sports One.

PammH said...

I haven't watched WT in years. Dave's distain for Nascar was always evident. And since I didn't care for other forms of motorsports, his show was useless for me. I only watched when Nascar folks were on & they became fewer & fewer. I may turn in now for a few minutes, just to see the "windbag" get his comeuppance. He insulted my fandom enough times when it was strong (not like these days, when it's weak) for me not to gloat about his show's downfall.

Anonymous said...

I've been a sporadic watcher of "Wind Tunnel" for several years and, too, am dismayed at their recent program shift (more guests, lack of interaction). Even the chat room (of which I was a part of) has been closed for this year.

Perhaps the best line of Sunday's show was not explained or questioned in detail. Seemingly in mid-conversation, Robin Miller said "four or five owners are planning on buying IndyCar." That got my attention for the rest of the night, yet nothing else came out of that quote except for an instant observation from Paul Tracy.

Jake(Coffeeshop42) said...

Although i never really watched it much i know exactly what you mean by the "unpredictability" factor.Reminds me of(Blashphemy alert planeteers!)what ESPN done to Around The Horn.

I watched it every day(still do)and am a big Woody Paige fan and i remember how fun,exciting,and unpredictable both he and the show used to be.Now,it is just streamline,generic topics and answers every day,monotonous and predictable shows with no proactive opinions or approaches.

I'm still a WP fan,but they have bred almost all the humor and controversy out of him as well as the whole show and it's dissapointing to watch.This move by Speed is typical of today's sports media,it's all about the homogenized sport's tv climate where the only things that exist are good PR and a microphone.

There are no free spirits any more and it's another tell-tale sign of the downfall of the culture.Speed continues to dig it's own grave,what little i did see of the show was pretty good,you are right about the fans not getting what they want.But in today's world that's how the cookie floats.

trednour said...

Hey, John - long time lurker, first time writer (to paraphase WT participants)...

When Dave was forced into his new "set" (clean & antiseptic) devoid of all the die-casts, bobble-heads, books, and pictures, you knew it's days (for the regular fans) were numbered. They even deleted the opening grahics of "Eye Candy"! Some of the co-hosts are good. Varsha and Sheheen are knowledgable and unafraid to speak their minds. And any time crusty old Robin Miller is on it was worth watching.

Not last night. Being forced to co-host with the weakest of the Speed "personalities," Robin was uncomfortable. I couldn't take more than 15 minutes of AA. Not after another hour of Speed Center where he mangles stories, invents stuff (implied that Dalziel was punted at the hairpin when clearly Pruett didn't touch him), awkward delivery, and still yells alot. He's just not right for hosting (and we all recall his PxP on TNT - painfull). I remember one Wind Tunnel a month or so ago where I got more a more consise rundown of the weekends events with Dave in three minutes than in an hour of watching Speed Center.

It was also telling that Dave didn't mention his vacation on the previous show (not that I heard, anyway). Maybe he'll just quietly ride off into the sunset on his bike.

It was my escape on Sunday nights - leaving the junk Food Network to the wife, while I had a laugh with Dave and his guests and callers.

So that leaves the aforementioned Speed Center and NASCAR Hand-job (oops - Race Hub) as the only "newsy" programs they have. No thanks.

Just change it to Fox Sports Center and be done with it already.

Trevor Christman said...

Honestly I dont mind the "fans" calling in being axed from the show, only because 3/4 of the time they were JR fans just wanting to talk about JR.

The problem I have is the incredible amount of commercials that the show has become. Instead of a talk show it is now 2 minutes of racing talk then 5 minutes of commercials and repeat.

Dave has always been a great interviewer and host of the show, but when hes forced into talking about sponsors of the guest he has on and not able to stretch his interviewing legs, this is when the show became stale.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame what that have done to Windtunnel and Dave Despain. Although I may not have always agreed with his opinions I had nothing but the utmost respect for him. Speed has fallen apart slowly over the last few years. If they are trying to "force out" Despain I can only imagine who his replacement would be and there is no way they could match his knowledge and passion for all things racing.
If recent history serves though it would not surprise me one bit to see Speed continue to destroy its own shows and insert Danielle Trotta as the host of yet ANOTHER program. She has already made me turn off or ff through Race Hub and completely ruin NASCAR Performance. Sorry if you are a fan of hers. She seems very sweet and is knowledgeable but I just don't care for her approach to racing or her interview style not to mention the over saturation of her on EVERY SINGLE SHOW COVERING NASCAR THESE DAYS.
I do however wish Mr. Despain the very best whatever his future holds. He deserves respect and appreciation for the years he has contributed to racing. Not to be treated like an old shoe. It almost seems NBC secretly running SPEED? :D

GinaV24 said...

How very sad for Dave Despain. I guess that Speed is determined on destroying its motorsports following.

I'm very sorry for Despain who deserves better than this, but so did Allen Bestwick, Schrader and Johnny Benson.

Take good shows and make it boring. Gee, sounds like what has been done to the racing and race coverage itself.

Although I like Steve and RaceHub, I record it to watch later. I don't rush home to watch any programming these days.

toomuchcountry said...

@Trevor - Agreed. Talk show callers are overrated on TV or radio. Rarely do intelligent questions make it past the screener to the host.

And Speed has yet to effectively leverage and integrate Twitter into its telecasts. We can read, so the producers should just display them on screen without the host having to read them. AND as with calls, they should again post intelligent and thought-provoking tweets vs. fluff tweets from drivers. This is no accident to be sure - its a deliberate effort by Speed.

I too am disappointed a bit in the direction the show has gone in recent weeks. For now though, I'll continue to watch. I can't watch AA on Speed Center. VL has turned into a joke with JR and Herman. Hub is just a magazine show with news I already know & useless banter such as Hub Love/Snub. (The rare exception are excellent pieces such as the one about Shane Hmiel.)

So I'm left with WT to cover racing. I'm a full-blooded NASCAR fan. But WT's interest to me has been its exploration of other racing that I don't follow routinely.

If DD could figure a way to monetize his format, I'd like to see him move to a web platform for dialog. Might give him the opportunity to use video, Skype, chat, tweets, etc. on his own terms vs. the restrictive format Speed has now chosen.

R.I.P. Motorweek Illustrated
R.I.P. This Week In NASCAR
R.I.P. Wind Tunnel

TedNes said...

Really sad to see Dave pushed aside, but hey, SPEED has been doing that for years in their conversion to NASCAR/Redneck TV...Alain deCadenet had some real gems of shows on.....David Hobbs had some cool shows----I swear you could hear the "clink clink" of ice in his scotch glass sometimes....and Despains "On Assignment" specials have always been top-notch.....

Racing, more than just about any other sport, is built on Legacy and Heritage.....too bad that NASCAR and SPEED don't remember that, and are constantly tinkering with the bright shiny bobble that is NASCAR....I was at Mosport for the ALMS race, and the guy beside me was asking "gee, will there be a green/white/checker finish?"-----guess I can thank him for at least coming out and supporting road-racing,even though he doesn't "get it"...

The more I see about NASCAR, the more I see about fabrications and weaving of story lines, and artificial insemination of the sport of racing...10 years ago, I spent many of my Sundays on the couch, watching, you won't get me to watch on TV, let along go a race weekend even when offered free tickets and garage passes.....

The passing of not only WindTunnel into the guise of fabricated TV, let alone the back-benching if not dismissal of Despain is just another nail in the SPEED coffin for this race fan....

Unknown said...

You're a more patient man than I, Mr Daly.

I quit watching Speed last year and watch the qualifying and practices on my smartphone via my Sprint service NASCAR application.

Speed has been dead in my eyes for a long time.

atd118 said...

Speed has become a complete joke.. It has falling victim to this miserable awful soceity what these idiots think make good TV... Trackside is a perfect example. It has become a complete embarassment. Its a shame.. I have actually lost hope in many things and what society has become... Wind Tunnel was a good show.. Oh but cant live without another episode of 'Dumbest stuff on wheels" It truly is sad and pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Fan questions are not the heart of this show. Despain is the heart of the show. I have tried to get on the air for years and have never been able to. A few callers and tweets are token gestures, and given the huge pool they are selecting them from, it is no different than asking the questions themselves. Just listen to some of the call-in shows on Sirius -- they are lousy. Fan interaction isn't the key to success; it's the host.

What's more, I am kinda tired of Despain. He seems so grumpy and always seems the loathe talking NASCAR vs his beloved open wheel.

KoHoSo said...

Buschseries61 and GinaV24 already hit the nail on the head that we've seen this before from Speed. All I can add is that I would hope somebody over at NBCSN would have enough sense to be watching for when Dave's contract ends with NewsCorp/Fox.

Sophia said...

I'm also VERY sad to hear they are pushing out Dave Despain. He NEEDS no stupid co-host and I've wondered what the deal is.

The part w Hinchcliffe sitting in Dave's seat was not amusing.

What did Dave do to deserve this? I'm not that bummed they are cutting off the callers as much as they are cutting off Dave Despain's voice.

What's next? Some young brainless female twit all glammed up for the show with no real value (I give you Trackside as a painful example, stopped watching years ago when they got rid of the guys though the loud fans screaming annoyed)

THEN they added a girl to my other FAVE show NASCAR PERFORMANCE (stop watching after I saw she was on all the shows!!!!) my weaning off NASCAR has been one thing but now to lose DD.

To make me have no place to catch up on the days racing (though I rarely watch NASCAR) of F1, Indycar and the like...this makes me sad.

Also, nothing against Adam Alexander but he was a bad choice for Robin Miller. Tired of him on Speed Center.

We fans deserve better but then again, it no longer matters what we think.

If Despain is indeed getting pushed out and SPEED loses F1, we will cancel the tier that carries this mostly USELESS station, full or redneck fake 'hillbilly lifestyle' shows full of vulgarity and uncouth people.

Sad, sad.

I guess this is SPEEDS new boss at work.

Go to hell. Your values stink. He must be some twenty something guy (Or shallow older guy) picking out glamour girls as we speak :-(

MRM4 said...

Not being able to catch Wind Tunnel on a regular basis since there is no replay of the show, I haven't watched it enough lately to notice the show is no longer taking calls.

Wind Tunnel was THE best racing show on TV at one time. They have slowly dissected the show to the point where it's no longer the joy to watch as it once was. I can't figure these TV types that take a perfectly good TV show and butcher it to death. Guess they want to run everyone off so they can use low ratings as the excuse to go to another type of programming.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Sad to hear, sad news indeed ...FOX/SPEED continues to morph into ESPN ...bland to say the least and a poor imitation at that ...WindTunnel would always be informing, entertaining and respectful - Dave DeSpain was the consummate host ...he can ride off into the sunset with pride ...the sunset ride of FOX/SPEED more closely resembles the north end of a southbound mule ...thanks and adieu, Dave

Anonymous said...

several years ago I was a big fan of "Wind Tunnel". However to me, it and the other TV shoes are no longer interesting. A rehash of what we already know from the internet, sanitized so as to not be contraversial.
To me the future of Motorsport video presentations will be something like Peter Windor is doing over at "The Flying Lap". No frills, bigtime guests who are willing to answer tough questions sometimes.
But thats just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind Wind Tunnel going away.

I tried watching it a few times and I found Dave Despain a pompous windbag who rarely missed a chance to rag on NASCAR.

That doesn't mean that Speed handled it right, but I won't miss Wind Tunnel, not one bit.

Jonathan said...

BAD MOVE SPEED!!! Wind Tunnel was a great show now its sad to watch. JD I was watching when Hinchcliffe was on and I just felt the pain on Daves face. Dont think I will ever watch another episode again. Speed I have 2 words for you

TRUCK YOU!!!!!!!! Your programs all SUCK

Anonymous said...

Any network like Speed [Fox] that thinks fans like a Waltrip & would like two even more, will never keep a program or format fans do enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Consider me an old curmudgeon - Dave Despain and Wind Tunnel was the one show I used to count on for info and humor - and now it's turning into nothing and going away. Mentioned above (and hinted at by Bob Varsha on Twitter) is Speed no longer carrying F1??? What's with that? Where will it be? I agree with the others, now I can drop that tier from my cable and save mega$$s.


The Loose Wheel said...

Dave did mention he was taking a week off on the online show. They were so jammed with stuff last week that it didn't make the cut and he forgot to mention it

Anonymous said...

Certainly disappointed to see what Wind Tunnel has be come. I watched the latest episode and all I could think to myself is, "What have they done? This is about as low as I've ever seen this show sink! What a disappointment." It is too bad and really takes away from a great personality that Dave Despain is who has a great voice and is awesome at speaking his mind.

turkmon18 said...

mr daly,
first time caller... er a writer. truly a sad day. but anyone who lives and loves Motorsport 's could see the days numbered. that show was the show that others have copied.
well as they say: something's change and nothing stays the same.
good luck Mr. Despain
also thanks for all you do to John!


Wind tunnel junkie said...

I was hooked when the show first came on. Then I started to notice it pulling away from its origins and it started to suck. SpeedTV is a waste of a cable channel anymore. Nothing more than a TruTV wannabe. Their shows stink except for car warriors!

Paige said...

It disappoints me to see what Wind Tunnel has turned into. I miss fans calling into the show (I can't listen to the online portion afterwards).

I've enjoyed seeing Robin Miller, Bob Varsha, and David Hobbs co-hosting though and had fun watching James Hinchcliffe.

As for content, I've seen more NASCAR talk than ever and it's irritating. There is other racing series to cover IMO.

James said...

Speed should have a camera in the Sirius satellite radio truck/booth.
Let Dave and Claire B. Do the call in show.
Take the calls related to all forms of Motorsports for an hour.

Of course Sirius is greedy because they won't do anything over TV for free.

Wish everything wasn't so lawyered up now a days.

My idea maybe dumb but I believe you if you can provide fan interaction on TV and or radio and make it where people can watch would be informative and fun.

Dave is being pushed out like they did with Ken Squire.
Damn shame!

West Coast Kenny said...


I may be reading too much into this, but I think Dave is being minimized because suits don't respect older viewers and younger viewers don't like watching and listening to people old enough to be their paw paw.

I they're doing this hoping that Dave will quit so they won't have to pay off the end of his contract.

It's sad, but TV and radio executives think people of our generation with gray hair and wrinkles regard us as "tonnage" because they have to carry us around but we're not lucrative. We don't gulp two cans of energy drink each day and we don't change wireless carriers every six months.

I haven't seen his regular program in a while, but that's not because I don't respect Dave. My interest in NASCAR has been waning and I am finding that just reading the Planet and Jeff Gluck and Matt Weaver is enough for me most weekends.


Dannyboy said...

Lots here to both agree with and vehemently disagree with (in the comments). 100% agree SPEED is doing Dave (and US) a disservice. It's the only show I almost always watch in its entirety, AND tune in for the online 1/2 hour.

Dave wrapped himself in the curmudgeon role, and gave EVERY series the razz when they deserved it. Those who think he reserved his best sarcasm for NASCAR don't know enough about F-1 ;-)

Wally said...

Watched Wind Tunnel from the first episode and never missed one. Big Dave fan. This makes me sad. Bland and boring wins again.

Anonymous said...

Another good show they have totally destroyed. Trackside use to be a must see on Friday's, but now turn the channel when it comes on...

Anonymous said...

Didn't make any sense when Dave was in the other chair, couldn't figure it out. Now it's clear. Didn't like it when it was cut back to a single show per week, but watched most of the time. They must be taking Brian lessons, ignore their base and totally ignore them when they complain. One more show I won't be tuning in to watch any more.

steve pruett said...

Dave is a true racer and great broadcast journalist /host . The control of the sport by big sanctioning bodies and sponsors has sanitized it to the point where guys like Dave and Robin and other hardcore journalists are being minimized and are having a hard time making a show. Fans ask the questions that journalist know will get their hard card revoked.

AveryNH said...

Oh how I used to love wind tunnel. Dave was the highlight of my Sunday night. I remember nights where I chose him over new episodes of Family Guy. Hard for me to tell which was more entertaining. This past year I've hardly watched. It's dumbed down a lot and it's just hard to watch some nights. I always liked Dave ever since the truck series days. But this sadly may be his end

Joj said...

Being in the older group - I thought maybe Dave was not well & that was the co- host thing. then I figured out it was the "new" speed thing.

So like you & others I'm sure I just watched for a bit & last week I forgot.

Well its like Trackside, NASCAR Performance Raceday & Victory Lane, off my radar. Shame I really used to like all those shows. Not now.

I hope all those in the demographic they are looking for watch & support the sponsors. And the casual fans too.

Why do they keep fixing things that are not broken?

Cathy said...

I am not sure who is changing all the shows but this doesn't really come as a surprise! They have changed the shows around so much. Loved Wind Tunnel because of Dave! I used to love the Speed show Track Side before the race but now it has gotten so stupid with (no offensive to an of the crew as I am sure they don't write the crap) all the stuff they do! I say bring back John Roberts, Larry Mac and DW as it was! Too many changes happening and I am not liking the outcome Dave!!

Pose said...

I was hooked when it was about all sorts of racing. I really enjoyed the nightly format (4-5 nights a week). Very unfortunate to what it was choked down to.

Shayne Flaherty said...

SPEED is a joke, unless you're into fake reality shows. In fact, SPEED should be considered a comedy channel, not a motorsports channel.

midasmicah said...

The speed channel has become unwatchable anyway. It should be renamed "The commercial channel" because that's mostly going to see. Good luck, Dave.

Anonymous said...

All they want now is those stupid reality shows like hard parts south Bronx where all they do is fuss fight and argue with each other. Who the heck watches that crap anyway

glenc1 said...

I hate call in shows. Half the time the callers are idiots who don't know to turn down their TV's, etc. But the fan input made Dave's show different. Like others, I hadn't watched it enough to realize the call ins were gone. I enjoyed *some* of the guest hosts...those who related to a particular sport and lent their expertise. But those complaining it wasn't enough NASCAR or that Dave has a disdain for ridiculous. Most of SPEED's race programming is greedy are we that we would begrudge the motocross or WOO fans the small bit of coverage they do get. I may not be a big fan, but I think they truly appreciated having their little piece of the world talked about for a change. And I learned about other race series, just as I did with the old RPM2Night. I take Dave's attitude about NASCAR with a grain of salt, and he always inserted humor into his comments on it; and as someone else noticed, it's not just NASCAR. He often has insight that just floors me. If this is where SPEED is heading (leaving room for a sports network), it's a shame.

Jake, I totally relate on ATH. You see the exact same topics on PTI a half hour later. How many different things can six people say about one topic?

The Loose Wheel said...

I do want to add, for those that saw the episode with Hinch, once they went to the internet, Dave was back in his host chair. They also did take viewer calls.

It's a shame if they are going to go away from the shows original concept and restrict that to the internet stream since that was the point of the show in the first place.

Sadly these programming decisions make me wonder just how serious the new folks at SPEED are to the long term health of the network.

GinaV24 said...

As I read through the comments about the idea that those of us not in the golden 18-34male demographic, it started me thinking about what would happen if all of us who are outside that demo "cut the cord" with cable. I know I'm not alone in paying a fairly high price for something that I only watch maybe a 10th of the channels.

Some of the "kids" I work with are doing this because they don't see where cable is a value added to their lives (probably because many of them already use smartphone technology and all that) I am beginning to think more and more about why I need cable. Speed is up on a fairly high tier of channels and since I watch it less and less, along with my continued level of annoyance with ESPN, I think I'm going to look into whether I can drop down in my coverage levels or do away with it altogether and simply rely on the internet coverage. heck, I follow the races via trackpass and twitter anyway, there's not a lot of reason to watch it on TV at this point.

James said...

Each week we discuss the way the coverage of the sport is not moving forward, it is moving backwards. It is difficult to understand the coverage of racing in general today. I pose this question, why do the powers that be, think the fans of racing are the same folks who watch Jerry Springer? Fans of racing are smarter than that, and the demise of WT is a prime example. Why report the news, if you can MAKE the news. Control of racing has been its curse, the "bigger “it got the more it needed to be controlled. Dave has ruffled some feathers, it is not a real leap to wonder if he became expendable. Between Victory Lane, Speed Center, and WT, that is a giant overload on a Sunday night. I like VL, there needs to be an after the race show, SC tries to cover all of racing and that leaves little for WT. Personally I like DD, he understands the racer mentality, AA is the epitome of a taking head, not my favorite, but he certainly toes the mark. The best show was Speedweeks, but then there was NO competition, today even the show compete for an audience and that is progress?

TedNes said...

Dave ragged on any series that deserved ragging on, even his beloved bikes....

Wiresculptress said...

I've seen the ominous-looking ads for (I think it's called) SPEED2 dot com. Looks like that's the future for us racing-heads. And if, like me, you live somewhere where high-speed internet isn't ubiquitous yet, you are SOL. Too bad, so sad.

I think they want to shove the F1 coverage, and the NASCAR practice and quali coverage, to the internet.

Haven't watched Wind Tunnel in years. Nothing against Dave Despain. One night, he took a call and the caller went on an extended rant about some mortgage company which has since gone under. Perhaps that was the writing on the wall for call-ins.

Bob in VT said...

I've gotten rid of the tier that has speed after the All-Star race...I have Sirius for Pre-Race (though i really miss MRN/PRN coverage of qualifying...some of the most memorable interviews came during the radio coverage of qualifying...i think Qualifying was perfect for Radio) I'll just have to find a bar or friend to watch the Twin 150s and All-Star race next year...i'm enjoying saving on my cable bill...i guess they'll have to rename Speed soon while they still are in enough households to make it worthwhile...not that it really matters but I made it clear to my cable company that i was cancelling that tier because SPEED wasn't as good as it used to be.

Sophia said...

It's so sad reading about Wind Tunnel pushing out Dave...and on twitter the guys that host F1 have no idea their future.

It stinks if that broadcast team gets broken up. Those guys have a blast an make F1 races great for those who watch (my housemate)

Despain deserves better.

Just like Regis Philbin "retired" but was pushed out for younger demographic.

Disgusting the graying of America Baby Boomers are being royally disssed.

I hope Dave gets similar format on NBC Sports show. I love his comments and interviews.

Anonymous said...

we are seeing the dismantling of SPEED network. Will RaceDay be next? Is Fox Sports One a reality (pun kinda intended). But I still dont get it. SPEED was once all in for NASCAR programming that brought in big advertisers and viewership.

Anonymous said...

Trackside, RaceDay, Victory Lane and Wind Tunnel used to be must sees for me on Sundays during NASCAR. AT one time I would (going back a few years) tape them on the VCR and watch later. Lately Trackside is a joke, Race Day is not what it used to be, and Victory Lane is not even in victory lane any more.

Stick with the Biff said...

Sophia--replacing older demographics is nothing new; it's not about the baby boomers specifically. Go back to 1971 and the 'rural purge'. That is just how TV advertising works; that was 40 years ago (I'd have thought they would figure out that 'gray' money is worth going after, but apparently not...) It's the nature of TV, and probably entertainment in general.

I won't stop watching Dave if there's a guest on I want to see, or if something particularly interesting happens that weekend in racing. I don't miss the callers. But I don't like the direction that all this seems to be taking with SPEED.

Rambo M. said...

Sigh. Pains me to admit it, it but Windtunnel is definitely coming off the rails. I liked the Hinchcliffe gimmick as it showed the producers are still allowed to have a little fun, but otherwise it's becoming more unrecognizable every sunday.

Didn't Inside Winston Cup die on the vine this way? Very worrying.

Anonymous said...

For me, the attraction of Wind Tunnel has always been the quality of guests and Dave Despain himself. His depth of knowledge of all things racing and his interview skills are unmatched. He's not the latest pretty face with a microphone asking "How does it feel to win....?" I enjoyed his interviews even when they were with a person in an activity I didn't follow. Despain made it all interesting to me.

Several years ago, I made an email comment to Wind Tunnel that was selected for broadcast. Even so, I never cared much for viewer input. What matters most to me for any motorsport show is how knowledgable the host is and how much he loves the sport him/herself. NASCAR certainly wasn't Despain's favorite sport, but that didn't stop him from getting some great guests and interviews.

I'm surprised that Wind Tunnel lasted as long as it did without major destructive influence from management. I mark the beginning of the problems as the firing of Bestwick and Benson on TWIN. Successive management teams kept fixing it and fixing it until they finally had to cancel it.

The same pattern was followed on other shows. They tried to fix things that weren't broken, and the changes were always for the worse. Serious race fans were driven away while SPEED tried to broaden the appeal to include those with a limited attention span and no knowledge of racing.

SPEED's performance as a network reminds me of a World War I movie where an old fighter plane is hit and goes into a flat spin. Each revolution brings it closer and closer to the ground, and the pilot is apparently powerless to change the pattern or pull out. It's a terrible thing to watch, but you are fascinated by the sight.

It will all end soon as SPEED finally crashes and burns. From the ashes will rise, what? A new ESPN clone? I don't watch ESPN and won't watch whatever replaces SPEED.

Even though Wind Tunnel isn't what it used to be, I usually watch it because it still provides worth to me. That's a tribute to Despain, not his bosses at SPEED.

When SPEED finally crashes and burns, I hope Despain and a few others survive and move to employers who appreciate their skills. For most of their on-air personalities, I couldn't care less. I stopped watching them long ago.

Sophia said...

As long as Despain is the only host I will watch. OR occassional side kicks like Robin Miller or Ken Schrader :)


True about rural tv (CBS got rid of anything green or something like that) but NEVER have older people been dissed as in the last 20 yrs. It's much worse now.


Just ask those over 50 out of work for years :-( You can't discriminate against age but ageism is one of the biggest problems.

I never remember avoiding tv like I do with a bunch of stupid young jackwagons.

"Reality tv" full of young people. When survivor and that crap first started, I could not believe folks watched it. Years later, this junk is all over and even ruining Foodnetwork and HGTV and DIY TV or formally reputable networks.


I will watch Despain anywhere he goes.

But I won't miss the callers...or the tweets or FB comments.

Despains Specials are all great and my favorite was with Chris Economaki.

Need more tv like that but kids are more interested in smart phones, texting and texting what 'reality creeps' like those from an eastern shore are doing.

Zieke said...

Gina, I'm with you concerning not racing home to watch the boring race shows, and I find myself turning on a race if I happen to be out of things to do on Sat. or Sun. I never did enjoy Dave's call-in folks, but his guests were usually quite interesting and made the show very watchable. I will miss that part if it's left out.

Stick With the Biff said...

Sophia...I disagree with 'it's much worse now' ... it's always been so; I see little change. I'm in the older demographic (over 50.) Used to teach HS English; went into a manufacturing company. Many coworkers have been let go in the last year; my job is certainly iffy. It wasn't ageism, it was lack of work, young & old. Not discrimination. In fact, one of my older colleagues begrudged them letting go a hard worker in his 20's.

Since TV existed, it's been this way, too. Same reason young drivers are more attractive to sponsors than older ones. It's awful watching the 47 team try and 'hang in there' with a former champion. But that's reality.

My mom is 78...she loves Amazing Race, Survivor, and Big Brother (which I find awful). My dad is 82, he loves American Pickers and Ice Road Truckers (the latter again, yuck.) But I love Project Runway with my mom, and Pickers with my dad. I have adjusted. If you don't, culture will leave you behind.

Sophia said...

Stick w the Bif

Adjusted? Are you kidding me? We went from written dramas or comedies to this "fake reality dreck"... to each his own. I miss the days of interesting tv shows.

I am over 50. My late mom was 91 and thought humanity was just horrid with all the reality show junk and male "health" ads!

Just because folks love Jerry Springer, Jersey Shore and rednecks towing trucks does not mean "I have to adjust".

I will not lower the bar to my tastes. Just like I've avoided SPEEDs "new" Trackside, NPerf, and stuff.

I still miss Winston Cup on Monday nights. To me That was reality tv shows at it's best!

I will not be a part of what you call 'culture' being shoved upon us.

I will stick with listening to Mozart, Hadyn and other classical music and surfing the net.

We will just agree to disagree. I get old shows on DVD like Columbo, Mary Tyler More, Frasier, old movies on Turner Classic. I prefer Vintage tv over "Fill in the blank Housewives" or whatever.

Again, there is a market for Dave Despain. He just needs more TV time and to be promoted!!

Not replace with barbie dolls or stupid games ala Trackside.

I miss the boys on Trackside. Seems like Steve Byrnes departure was the first shark jump.

R.I.P. Speed.

Dave Despain, I again hope you get a job on NBC Sports. You deserve better.

Art Falison said...

SPEED is dead. WT is about the last bit of life it had left in it. I guess they decided that the gray-haired guy didn't have the draw that they wanted ... anyone over 50 years old is ancient to these pimps. That's why we get Danielle Trotta all over the channel ... she's supposed to be eye candy but she not ... she's nothing short of an idiot and along with that other idiot Rutledge ruins everything they touch.

You know that soon, SPEED will have to destroy Rolex/ALMS/F1 ... they are compelled to self-destruct. What they really want is to just show fake reality TV programming and endless hours of Barrett Jackson.

Why, why, why is someone not putting together a real racing channel?

Daly Planet Editor said...


I would respectfully suggest that both Danielle and Rutledge are filling roles that the management has selected for them and approve of them doing on TV.

The ultimate issue is the FOX Sports Media Group and what they will do with SPEED. Right now, things are not looking good for 2015.


Anonymous said...

Sophia -
As usual you have expressed my views for me. I am probably of a similar age, and I also refuse to surrender my values to what passes for pop culture including TV. Many of my favorite movies were made before I was born. I am grateful for Tuner Classic Movies and the DVD market for providing us with alternatives to today's television shows and movies.

Quality stands the test of time and retains its value and interest. I sometimes wonder what today's pop culture consumers will still remember or value 20 or 30 years from now.

I have lost some of my interest in NASCAR because of changes in the sport and the way the current broadcast networks present it on TV. If I finally lose all interest and cut my ties to the sport, it will be because the sport and TV broadcasts left me, not because I left them.

Like you, I regret many of the changes in culture and our sport. But I shed no tears when it is time to move on. We live in a fascinating world with many options, and we aren't required to lower our standards or go along with the whims of pop culture.

MortonGroveDon said...

and now with WT gone, it leaves only the Truck and F1 series as the only things I watch on that network anymore. It use to be my "Homepage "channel. But even WT had gotten unwatchable. When I am constantly told to tune in to an "extra" (I.e.) online show, it makes me feel like the show I am watching is just a commercial for an internet show. I really liked it when it was on multiple nights, much like RPM, it covered a wide variety of racing, sorry NASCAR only fans, theres a great big world of speed out there and you are missing it.

Iknow the world has moved on to twitter and facebook and allof that, but for cheesus chrysler, sometime Ijust wanna sit and watchwith out having to click all over.Someone else talked about the shows that Alain deCadenet had are memories too. Speed has turned in TLC, crap programming. When Fuax sports finally pulls the plug on it, and Pinks and Bronx garage or whatever the crap that show is named. I will remember when it really was about speed, not schlock.

Stick With the Biff said...

Sophia, I think you misinterpreted my comments; perhaps I did not state it well. I was talking about 'popular culture'....not that I think that is the best culture for all of us. I like classical music, old TV and oldies. I have never watched a 'housewife' show. I dislike most of reality tv and I watch very little of it. I dislike most of the newer programming you mention; and certainly do not advocate it. I'm certainly not saying anyone should love this stuff--I am simply realistic about ratings. *Someone* is watching it, and denial is not just a river in Egypt. The show about the "K" people has been on for years though I have never watched it. I am merely making the point that as much as we (as a small part of today's viewership) may dislike it, many of today's viewers are going to embrace it; it isn't the MTV generation but whatever came after. They don't care about what our generation did, and producers are going to cater to them & not us. No amount of wishful thinking will make that not so.

I was a TV junkie back in 1972...reading all I could because I found the 'business' of TV interesting. I understand demographics and a lot about programming. I started watching some younger shows as a way to stay in touch with today--that is where I figured out I might as well learn more about what today's viewers are looking for. But I gave up a long time ago thinking that I could make today's producers think as I do. It's about money, as it always is.

But in my experience, people complain about reality TV, and then they say 'except for.....' If everyone says that, someone is watching whatever reality tv IS catching their eye.

Danielle is not just eye candy. If one can be realistic and stop being sexist, she's (as JD says) doing what she's told. She speak well, is learning her (new) sport & doing pretty well at it. Those being interviewed are starting to show respect. Reporters are not born, they're made, and it's unfair to expect her to have the expertise of Byrnes when she's been at it a few short years compared to his decades. She's on two shows that I'm aware of. Racehub & Nascar Performance. Not 'every show' as some have suggested, unless there's a whole lot of programming I'm unaware of.

Just making the point. Being stubborn will not involve you in reality. About some things I make that choice. But not about television.

Worstwick stop yelling said...

Picky picky but come on folks..
It Is and always will be ...
" GENTLEMEN start your engines "
Not drivers, not anything else.

jenmhart said...

Sad. Just sad. I'll miss Wind Tunnel. No one else knows what the hell is going on.

Anonymous said...

One more episode next week, and the Wind is done.

Kinda sad.

And they keep featuring ads for their Sports 1 network during racing shows and events. Race fans like us know, it means less racing, will be just another stick and ball network now. Do they really think I want to see the ads promoting what is taking away the race coverage I prefer? Sheez.


John Finley said...

I have watched Wind Tunnel from the start. I felt it was the only true racing program dedicated to all forms of racing on TV. If the people at Fox Sports want to bring in the viewers then bring Dave D back for at least and hour on Monday night or better yet one hour a night for thirty days and see how the numbers shake out. Let Dave plan his own guest list and topic's. John Finley

Adam F said...

It's sad because back in it's day Wind Tunnel used to be the cartharsis of the weekend's racing action where callers would vent about what went it. Then add in some interviews and having Robin Miller, Paul Tracy comments it used to be fun to watch. Speed killed a lot of shows. They made Inside Nextel (Sprint)Cup go from a fun show watching Shrader reactor to Michael Waltrips off the wall comments to a stuffy boring show.