Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Still Leaves Question Marks Entering Start of 2022

This week, Speedweeks gets truly underway with a buttload of racing to keep you occupied. Most notably, the NASCAR season gets underway today with the first practice sessions of the season.

As has been the case since 2015, FOX will start off the season with Cup and Xfinity races. It will also have the full season for the Camping World Truck Series. There will be some changes of note this year.

As you likely noticed on FOX’s broadcast of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, Jeff Gordon is no longer employed by FOX Sports. While he did show up during pre-race coverage from Los Angeles, Gordon (as announced last June) has taken a much larger role at Hendrick Motorsports going forward. While nothing of the sort has been stated, it appears that Gordon may be in position to be groomed to take over the whole team once Rick Hendrick retires. Hendrick is 72, and while he still has his wife Linda with him, most of his immediate family has died and he has very few if any heirs to his businesses.

To that end, Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer will continue to be full-time in the broadcast booth for Cup races. They will be joined by a guest analyst. To this point, the only guest analyst that has been revealed is Tony Stewart, who debuted in Los Angeles for the Clash and will be in the booth this week for the Bluegreen Vacations Duels and Daytona 500.

Beyond Daytona is officially an unknown. I originally figured that by now, FOX Sports would have issued a press release to reveal additional guest analysts for both the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series. However, that still has not happened as of this writing.

What we do know is that the guest analyst role will be a revolving door, much like we’ve seen with FOX Sports 1’s Xfinity Series broadcasts ever since the series returned to FOX Sports. This means that there will be a general lack of uniformity from week to week.

The pit reporting group will be more or less the same as last year. Jamie Little will be back, along with Regan Smith and Vince Welch.

For Cup broadcasts, the main question will be how the various guest analysts jibe with Joy and Bowyer. In Los Angeles, Stewart showed that he can counteract Bowyer’s folksy style to provide good analysis. That said, Stewart’s got his own thing going on. He has a race team to run in NASCAR. He’s got a race team to run in the World of Outlaws. He has a new race team that will run in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series for the first time, centered around wife Leah Pruett. Needless to say, Stewart is a busy man these days and doesn’t have the time to do any more booth work. Not sure if he’d want to, to be honest.

Will the other guest analysts be able to meet that level of analysis? I’m really not sure. Also, unlike the Xfinity broadcasts, they can’t just throw Cup drivers in the booth. Whoever they could get to go in the booth will have to either be a regular in the Xfinity Series, the Camping World Truck Series, or someone that is retired from driving and/or crew chiefing. Technically, Larry McReynolds, who will continue in his Technical/Rules Analyst role, could fill in as well.

Back to Bowyer. A Twitter user whose username I cannot recall at this time referred to Bowyer during the Clash weekend as having a “Git-R-Done” style in the booth, reminiscent of comedian Daniel Whitney, a.k.a. Larry the Cable Guy.

I do agree with this sentiment. Unlike some commentators that I’ve covered in this column since 2009, I believe that what we see out of Bowyer is genuine. He’s not putting on airs. This is the real Bowyer. I’ve had very limited interaction with him over the year. I think I asked him a question once in one of the post-race scrums and didn’t really get an answer.

Long-term, having guest analysts can be fun, but they really need to find someone to fill in that third seat full-time. FOX Sports needs to have continuity in the broadcast booth so that they can work themselves into a groove. You know, actually get used to each other. That doesn’t actually mean that everyone has to go on a retreat together like Rick Allen insisted for the NASCAR on NBC booth, though.

See also
Couch Potato Tuesday: Rick Allen on Booth Dynamics, Preparation

The Xfinity Series is more of the same in 2022. Adam Alexander, who I don’t really understand why he made the trip to Los Angeles for the Clash, will be back in the booth for the full FOX Sports 1 portion of the season. He’ll be joined by guest analysts who have not been announced yet.

Past years have seen a plethora of drivers try out broadcasting. Some have been quite good, like Jamie McMurray or Kevin Harvick. Some, like Danica Patrick, were not so good. Drivers such as Austin Dillon were somewhere in the middle.

With no one confirmed for either of the guest roles for this weekend as of this writing, it is rather difficult to figure out who could be in line. FOX Sports has used their own analysts for NASCAR RaceHub as guest analysts in the past in addition to Cup drivers.

My guess is that you’ll see a number of the drivers that participated last year, such as Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Tyler Reddick, return. There might be a new face or two. In addition, you’ll see McMurray in the booth a couple of times as well. It likely won’t look too dissimilar to last year’s lineup, but it’s too early to say.

For the Camping World Truck Series broadcasts, they will still have Welch on play-by-play, and Michael Waltrip will be there as well. Kurt Busch will be back as a guest analyst as well, a role that I felt that he did pretty well with last year.

A little more than half of the Truck races will be held within the FOX Sports portion of the Cup season. All of them except for Knoxville, which is during the sole Cup off-weekend of the year, are support races to Cup. That likely means that the booth will be at all those races. As much as they should make the trip, I don’t see FOX Sports sending its booth to Knoxville.

On pit road, Josh Sims will be back down there for his first full year after joining midway through last season. He was decent in those races, but he’ll have a full season to better ingratiate himself into the garage and NASCAR in general.

Who will join Sims is more or less dependent on where the Trucks are racing. Little will do a few races in the pits, along with Jamie Howe, but neither will be full-time.

Finally, we have the ARCA Menards Series. FS1 will air eight races this year, starting with Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona. Little will be back in the broadcast booth alongside Phil Parsons. There will potential guest analysts here, but none have been announced to this point.

Little’s first year in the booth definitely had some growing pains. Generally, not being at the track much with the exception of Daytona really does hurt. Perhaps this year will see Little fare better.

In the pits will be Katie Osborne, back for her third year. Depending on the race, Howe may join her.

Also of note, you likely noticed that FOX Sports introduced new on-screen graphics during the Clash weekend. These will be used all year.

So far, I think they’re OK, but might not have been able to go up to their full potential in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The intervals on the pylon were quite screwy for much of that day.

In practice, the scoring pylon looks like a more dressed up version of the previous setup that had in use for the past couple of years. It can do some more things, like display the top three or four drivers like they did during the heat races in Los Angeles; that wasn’t really possible with the old setup. I don’t think it improved the race experience all that much, though.

I think it’ll be a little better in Daytona. The “drivers as comic book hero” depictions instead of pictures definitely takes some getting used to, especially since half the drivers out there don’t have six-packs. Then again, FOX uses the depictions in NFL broadcasts as well.

That’s all for this week. Starting today, Speedweeks gets underway in Daytona. Practice for Cup teams starts this afternoon with qualifying Wednesday night. The Bluegreen Vacations Duels are Thursday night, while the Trucks race Friday night. Saturday is a doubleheader with ARCA and the Xfinity Series, while Sunday is the big one. In addition, the NHRA season starts in Pomona, Calif., Monster Energy AMA Supercross visits Minnesota, while the DIRTcar Nationals and World Series of Asphalt wrap up in Volusia County. TV listings can be found here.

Couch Potato Tuesday next week here at Frontstretch will cover the Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series season openers from Daytona. The current plan for The Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter will be to have two editions this week. The first will cover Tuesday night’s Race to Stop Suicide 200, the season opener for the ARCA Menards Series East from New Smyrna Speedway, as part of the World Series of Asphalt. The second one, which will run Friday, will cover Thursday night’s NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacation Duels.

If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below. Even though I can’t always respond, I do read your comments. Also, if you want to “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, please click on the appropriate icons. If you would like to contact either of NASCAR’s media partners, click on either of the links below.

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About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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Charlie

I am personally happy Gordon is gone. Now, if someone could replace Hendrick’s other cheerleader, Mike Joy. Anyway, at least this year you will have an abundance of material and I look forward to reading your column.
I did think Tony Stewart did a great job. There is an abundance of talent, including Todd Gordon and different radio personalities. Hopefully Stewart will join the booth when the NHRA is off.
Again, thanks for the hard work.

WJW Motorsports

Please stop blocking the entire far left side of the screen with the scoring pylon. There are actually things on track to see there – whereas you don’t miss anything with a horizontal display along the top. There – done complaining for the season.

Mike

Maybe fox can get snoop dog. That should work.

Bill B

Good one.

Bill B

I still say this is a good move. By the time you decide you don’t like them they will be gone and another drone will be moved in.

I will manage to deal with anyone they put in the booth AS LONG AS ONE OF THEM ISN’T MICHAEL WALTRIP!!!!

DoninAjax

If FOX is like NA$CAR they will say they are doing what the fans want and put Mikey back in the booth for Cup EVENTS.

Johnny Cuda

Nooooooooooooooooo

Sally Baker

I just pray that no one at Fox is contemplating asking DW to come back, or, heaven forbid, Mikey!

Big Tex

Bowyer has been surprisingly good. Before he started, I thought Fox was going for another corn-pone Darrell Waltrip, since Bowyer was a goof in most interviews as a driver. But I was wrong. He’s way more in touch with the cars than Gordon & provides good analysis.

Christopher

“While nothing of the sort has been stated, it appears that Gordon may be in position to be groomed to take over the whole team once Rick Hendrick retires.”
Actually, Hendrick himself stated several years ago, on the Dale Jr. Download, that he wanted Gordon to take over HMS (but at that time Hendrick joked that Gordon was always seemed to be off on a yacht in the Mediterranean).

Tom B

Good memory Christopher. We need more past history stories. Not every story is “news.”

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