Motor sports journalism maven Dave Despain will drop the flag Friday on his new MAVTV interview series.
The former host of Speed Channel’s Wind Tunnel, and a veteran who has called races on ABC, CBS, ESPN and Speed over the course of his career, will conduct a series of in-depth conversations with some of the biggest names in auto racing on The Dave Despain Show, debuting on April 25 at 8 p.m.(ET)/5 p.m. (PT).
The 67-year-old Despain, who signed a two-year deal with MAVTV, which is owned by Lucas Oil, began his on-air drive with the 27-million subscriber network with hosting duties at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl, the world’s largest indoor motor sports race back in January.
The game plan also calls for him to be involved in other live-event programming on the network, whose roster encompasses the Show Me 100 from Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., on May 24, the Late Model Nationals from Knoxville, Iowa, on Sept. 27, and the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup (Short Course Off Road) from Lake Elsinore, Calif., on Oct. 18, among many others.
Despain, though, will be most visible on the interview show that features some of the most prominent names in racing, including: Clint Bowyer, Cory Kruseman, Dennis Anderson, Bobby Unser, Scott Bloomquist, Kyle Larson, Jeremy McGrath, Parnelli Jones, Ivan Stewart, Antron Brown and Dan Gurney. Forrest Lucas, the man behind MAVTV, will also be a guest.
"I've watched Forrest Lucas and Lucas Oil emerge as a power in the racing world over the years and was very interested in how they've used racing to promote their products,” he said. “When Lucas bought MAVTV, I thought maybe it would be a good place for me to be somewhere down the road.”
In surveying the motor sports TV landscape, Despain noted that ESPN is scaling back on racing, while Speed's conversion into national sports service FS1 has reduced its coverage significantly. He said that with NBC Sports Group renewing ties to NASCAR, plus its commitment to Formula 1 and IndyCar, its coverage naturally will center on those circuits. That leaves MAVTV poised to make its mark with fans of those and other forms of racing around the country. “There’s a real opportunity for MAVTV, especially with Lucas Oil’s commitment to motor sports,” he said.
The new show opens Friday night with John Force. Despain said the interview with the NHRA Funny Car legend is what you would expect from one of sport's most amusing men -- but also has plenty of surprises. “He’s a certified character. You’ll get the one-liner about drag racing being like sex, ‘It lasts four seconds,’ as well as the ‘Forcism’ about his vision of “seeing Elvis at 1,000 feet” following a wreck in Memphis in 1992. But Despain said Force opened up perhaps more than his publicist wanted, with tales about his personal life, his relationships with his children and his travels.
Despain said the show's format requires him "to really do his homework in order to be able to reach these guys," but it will afford watchers the chance to see sides of his guests that go well beyond the typical 15-second sound bites. “The glory of editing enables you to get to the best part of a five-minute story, and get two-and-half more stories,” he explained..
Interviews for 21 of the 26 shows have been conducted, with “seven or eight already edited.”
Despain is particularly jazzed about his conversation with Gurney, the all-course driver and team owner.
“It’s pretty historic that we have a Dan Gurney interview in 2014,” said Despain. “He hasn’t done one in years and he probably won’t do one again.”
Originally, the show was slated to bring Despain more in contact with grass roots racing. However, as word spread that he had a new gig on MAVTV, big names from across auto racing’s various circuits wanted their chance for sitdowns with the man.
“We evolved things pretty quickly,” he said. "Who knows? Maybe we’ll go back to the original plan, if there is a season two, three or four.”