Race Weekend Central

The Critic’s Annex 100- Showtime’s Inside NASCAR

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where we take an additional look at motorsports-related programming that is available to us viewers. This is officially the 100th edition of the Annex and 261st critique overall. That makes my head spin, to be honest.

When Inside NASCAR premiered in 2010, it was a one-hour show airing every week from February to November and covered multiple stories each week. Basically, it was the NASCAR equivalent to Inside the NFL, the long-running series which Showtime picked up after HBO cancelled it in 2008.

However, the show has been curtailed multiple times since 2010. First, the show was cut back to a half-hour. Then came the move to cut the show from 38 episodes to just 11. Yes, NASCAR’s official YouTube page posts Showtime’s Inside NASCAR race recaps on their page during the season, but there’s nothing during the bulk of the year. Their slot selections clearly show what they consider to be important. They air one episode before the season starts, then go off-air until the Chase starts up in September. From there, they have a new episode every week until the end of the season. I’m not going to say I’m a fan of this setup because it basically means that the rest of the season doesn’t matter.

Now, we get to today’s version of Inside NASCAR. The show airs on Wednesday nights at 10pm EDT right after a full hour of Inside the NFL. Chris Myers hosts the show, with Michael Waltrip and Kyle Petty serving as driver analysts. This used to be a quartet with either Brad Daugherty or Randy Pemberton, but they left the show and were not replaced.

The show started off with a little discussion of Brad Keselowski’s performances thus-far in the Chase, then they transitioned into the recap of Sunday’s AAA 400. This started out with a bit of humor as apparently Brad Keselowski had apparently decided to stand through the Driver’s Meeting because of Bobby Allison’s presence. Robin Pemberton wasn’t having that. Yes, people can stand in the back at drivers’ meetings. These people are usually PR reps and media members. I’ve done that myself multiple times in the past. And before I go on, no, I don’t really do anything there. I just stand and listen. Others use the time prior to the meeting to chat. However, drivers and crew chiefs are mandated to sit in the chairs.

After the moment of brevity, we transition into the actual race recap. Inside NASCAR prides itself on it’s uncensored radio chatter (as opposed to the bleeped audio you’ll hear on race broadcasts, NASCAR RaceHub and NASCAR Now). However, this creates an interesting issue. The show (at least according to my cable box’s guide) is rated TV-PG. Granted, it’s airing at 10pm and many people watching at that time could care less about “gutter language” (this is a term once used in an contact e-mail we received here at Frontstretch to describe profanity), but there are audible F-Bombs here. It’s not a fleeting type of F-Bomb either, like in this post-race interview that Chris Economaki conducted for CBS with Ayrton Senna after Senna won the Detroit Grand Prix in 1986. As opposed as I am to the TV rating system introduced in 1997, uncensored F-Bombs generally do not show up on TV-PG rated shows. Those are in the domain of TV-MA rated shows. This is a simple fact. Also, NASCAR does not strike me as a sanctioning body willing to put their name on TV-MA rated programming, but something isn’t right here.

The recap clips were augmented by interview footage with certain drivers, including race winner Brad Keselowski. However, I could have done without the discussion of peeing in one’s firesuit that stemmed from an admittedly funny quip from Paul Wolfe about getting Keselowski some time to go potty. That’s kinda puerile and I’d expect a little more than that from a show like this.

In addition to the race recap, there was an inside look at Kasey Kahne’s day via radio clips and footage. Kahne then joined Myers, Petty and Waltrip in the studio to talk about his day. He explained that he had a strut break in the rear of his car and it led to a nasty vibration that they ended up just having to deal with. He’s discouraged to have lost the points that he did on Sunday, but he’s still confident.

There are also questions sent into the show from fans who “liked” Inside NASCAR’s Facebook page that Kahne would answer. Random note: This show has 369,376 likes on Facebook. This is nearly ten times the number of likes that SPEED’s NASCAR RaceHub has, and over 53 times the number of likes for NASCAR Now on ESPN 2 has. That should show that it should be on a little more often than 11 times a year. I like the idea of getting fans involved. However, some of the 103 questions submitted this week were pretty bad. One of them from what I guess is a joke account called “Jimmy Spencerswig” actually says “Is it hard being a GAY Nascar Driver?” Editor’s Note: Emphasis in the original post, not added. I don’t know if Kahne is gay or not, but it’s pretty obvious that this was just trying to get a rise out of people. Thank goodness for producers to sort through them. However, the quality control of many Facebook fan pages, not just Inside NASCAR’s, leaves something to be desired.

After the interview segment, the show previewed this weekend’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The pre-requisite clips of wrecking were shown. By this point, you can pretty much figure out which clips they are. Edwards going into the catchfence in the 2009 Aaron’s 499? Check. Mark Martin going over in the 2009 AMP Energy 500? You betcha. Bobby Allison’s crash in 1987? Of course. Rusty Wallace’s wild ride to sixth in the 1993 Winston 500? Oh yea. Clips of the most recent finishes were also shown, while the whole piece was interpersed with audio from either TV or MRN Radio, depending on which clip was being shown at the time. Waltrip talks about gearing up to drive this weekend, and about how it makes him better on TV shows. I suppose I can buy that from Waltrip. Finally, the show ends with Waltrip and Petty making their picks to win on Sunday.

Chris Myers is actually pretty good on this show. He’s much different than on FOX’s Pre-Race Show, where he adopts a different persona, one of a complete and total moron who apparently knows nothing about NASCAR, despite working on telecasts since 2001. Here, he’s more like what you would get when he calls NFL games for FOX. However, I say that knowing that his games literally never air here in Albany, NY unless you have DirecTV and NFL Sunday Ticket. The whole Sunday Ticket thing is another quagmire that deserves it’s own article, but I just can’t do that here since it’s not racing-related. Waltrip and Petty are decent here, although Petty seems to be a little subdued as compared to anything he does for SPEED or Turner Sports. On those channels, Petty is super-opinionated and hammers down his thoughts.

The show continues to try to use the uncensored audio to draw in viewers to watch, but that’s not a reason why I would watch a NASCAR-related TV show. Truth is, any argument that I could make here could easily be made just as well by the South Park episode, “It Hits the Fan” from 2001 (viewer disrection advised for obvious reasons). If you remember, that episode, made in response to the hubbub around the S-word being used on Chicago Hope, was the one where they used it 162 times in a 22 minute episode. There were consequences to people throwing the word around like water. First, a recurrence of the Bubonic Plague (or Black Death) starts affecting people all over the country. Then, after a night of live programming went awry, a mythical, dragon-like beast named “Geldon” arose and attempted to take over the world (Not making this up). Yes, Geldon was ultimately defeated, and mythical beasts likely will not arise in real life due a “mass utterance of a word of curse,” but there is a point here. Marketing a show based on profanity only is just not really the way to go. It takes away from everything else that is on offer.

I hope you enjoyed this look at Showtime’s Inside NASCAR. I hope you enjoy this weekend’s action in Talladega, and stay tuned for additional critiques in the coming weeks. In addition to more races, in November, we’ll have a review of Eutechnyx and Activision Blizzard’s new NASCAR game, NASCAR The Game: Inside Line.

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