Nascar On Fox Utilizes Unique Ex-Driver Rotation To Boost Fan Involvement

Nascar on Fox had a fresh, exciting idea for the 2022 season.

When Jeff Gordon announced he was leaving the broadcast booth to become a full-time executive at Hendrick Motorsports last year, Nascar on Fox wanted to do something “out of the box,” as producer Barry Landis calls it. So instead of having one person replace Gordon, Nascar on Fox is now featuring a rotation of former drivers to join play-by-play analyst Mike Joy and commentator Clint Bowyer in the booth.

“Traditionally, Nascar has always been done with three people in the booth,” Landis said. “There’s so much going on with 40 cars on the track at one time. It’s difficult to do with just two people up there.

“Every year, we’ve had Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon, we thought let’s just try to do something new and different. There wasn’t necessarily anyone on our radar to bring in full time. We decided, why not get some stars to join us since it’s hard to get an entire season for people. It’s been fun and a change of pace.”

To kick off the 2022 Nascar season, Nascar on Fox tapped Hall of Famer Tony Stewart as an analyst for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and for the Daytona 500. Then, 2003 Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth joined the booth for the next two races, followed by a pair of appearances by Danica Patrick.

“I’ve enjoyed all three of them,” Landis said. “They were all so different in their approach, and it’s really tough to rank them. All three of them touched people on different levels, and they enjoyed certain aspects of their game.”

The combination hasn’t been easy to determine, but Nascar on Fox believes this is a formula that may work for the future. Not only is it bringing a fun product to the broadcast booth, but it is allowing race fans to understand multiple angles and perspectives of the sport on a weekly basis.

“We’re sitting on a three-legged stool. Inform, educate and entertain are the three legs,” Joy said. “By mixing up the commentary booth, it helps keep things fresh for both Clint and me.”

For Patrick, who retired from full-time competition after the 2018 Daytona 500, the experience of being in the broadcast booth is one she doesn’t take for granted.

“When Fox first approached me about calling a couple of Cup races, I agreed because I truly do enjoy broadcasting and had fun calling Xfinity Series races for them before,” Patrick said. “Obviously, the more you do something, the more at ease you become, so I was the most comfortable in the booth the past two weeks as I have ever been.

“While Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer could easily carry the broadcast without me, they did an excellent job of deferring to and incorporating me into the dialogue. My role and voice never felt forced or contrived, and my viewpoint was valued. I’m grateful for the opportunity and so glad I did it.”

The impact of the diverse group of guest analysts is seen in the ratings as well. Nascar Cup Series races have been the most viewed sporting events of each of the last four weekends to start off the regular season.

The Daytona 500’s 4.7 rating was the best since 2019, and the third race of the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was up by 5% in ratings from last year. The races at Auto Club Speedway and Phoenix Raceway had a slight decrease in ratings, but they have still led the weekend ratings.

But the broadcast could not run as smoothly as it is without Joy, a veteran announcer who has led the Nascar on Fox booth since it entered the sport in 2001. The challenge of having someone new in the booth is one he’s welcomed with open arms.

“It’s like having a different entrée for dinner every night, but you have to learn how to use different utensils every night for dinner,” Joy said. “It’s been a little uneven, but the best part about it is that they’re all people Clint and I both have a history with. You don’t have to do introductions to get people on the same page.

“The best tool we have for that is the practice and qualifying show on Saturday. It’s a way of acclimating them to broadcast equipment to the various ways we have to get in and out of commercials and getting them familiar with whatever graphic schemes are on cars for that week.”

This upcoming weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Gordon, who served in the Nascar on Fox booth for six years, will rejoin the broadcast. With a new role, Joy believes his impact will be great for viewers.

“Jeff was probably the best-studied analyst we’ve had in the booth,” Joy said. “As vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, he’s on the front lines, in the pits every week. I don’t expect Jeff to come in and be a cheerleader for Hendrick Motorsports. He’s very smart about the TV role, but I want to pull insight from him about what the teams are learning, the challenges they’re facing and how the new car is different from racing the old car.”

Landis did say he is unsure if network executives will continue this format in the future. A large part of the decision will be the limited pool of talent they have to work with, concluding that there are only a handful of credible people fans want to hear from.