FOX Sports continued with its revolving door of booth analysts during its portion of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer were joined by a number of people — including Tony Stewart, who was back for a number of races, including the Daytona 500.
Jamie McMurray is someone who is likely good enough to be in the booth full time. However, FOX doesn’t appear to be game for that; McMurray said as much two weeks ago on The Dale Jr. Download. If that is so, that is a shame. I’d much rather have McMurray than Bowyer.
In our season preview, I wrote that Andy Lally was going to be in the booth for a race or two. That didn’t happen. Lally explained to Frontstretch in August that instead, Kevin Harvick, who will be full time in the booth in 2024, got his reps.
FOX Sports also had a new producer for Cup races in Chuck McDonald, who came from a football background. It was a struggle for him in the truck as the production seemed to be rather slow to pick up issues on track. At Bristol Motor Speedway Easter weekend, it was especially bad as Mike Joy had to guide the production from the booth at times. The hope is that McDonald gets more comfortable in his role going forward and the production can keep up with the on-track action better next season.
At times, the area around the tracks can cause problems. At World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. pretty much everything under the sun went wrong and none of it was FOX’s fault. First came scoring pylon issues for the entire weekend, then lightning delayed the race for over 90 minutes in the opening laps.
Then, you had a off-site fiber connectivity failure that knocked both FOX and MRN radio off the air on lap 93. The working media had only a green screen where the broadcast was supposed to be. I had to use FOXSports.com for a decent chunk of the race to see anything from my seat in the media center.
Reading all that, you’d think that 2023’s NASCAR Cup Series coverage from FOX Sports 1 was a complete mess. It wasn’t. There were quite a few things that I wish were better, but there was still some good things to be had.
I liked some of the guest analysts (McMurray, Busch, Edwards, Rusty Wallace). Still happy that it won’t be a thing in 2024, though. There was good analysis, such as the stupidity at Charlotte Motor Speedway that resulted in Elliott getting suspended for Gateway. Having a regular booth configuration will help. Hopefully the production picks up and we’ll have better coverage.
In the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the goal for 2023 was to increase Jamie Little’s time in the broadcast booth, which happened after Vince Welch was let go. Was it great to watch? No. In fact, it may have been a downgrade to have Little in the booth over Welch, even though he was far from my favorite play-by-play broadcaster.
The Craftsman Truck Series has a lot of problems at the moment; anyone who saw the Craftsman 150 at Phoenix Raceway would agree. FS1’s TV broadcast is just one of them. The fact that the booth still doesn’t travel to races in the second half of the season continues to hurt the on-air product. Stuff that would likely be obvious can be missed because doing the broadcast remotely means that you’re completely reliant on cameras. Yes, they have access to a lot more shots than we do at home, but it just doesn’t work well. There are some sports you can do decently remotely. Auto racing on ovals, particularly NASCAR races, are not one of them.
Not sending the booth to Phoenix for championship weekend borders on disrespectful. What are you saving by not sending the booth to Phoenix? $3,000? C’mon. That’s nothing in the terms of NASCAR’s TV deal.
As for Little, this was a very important year for her future in play-by-play broadcasting. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Joy beyond next season. I genuinely hoped that the increased reps on ARCA Menards Series broadcasts would help her increase her standing.
I’m not sure that she did herself much in the way of favors this year. Something just seems off. This isn’t a Danica Patrick situation from back in 2015 when she crashed and burned in the booth the first time out. She had the excuse of Michael Waltrip operating in such a fashion that she didn’t feel comfortable participating. She’s improved since then.
Little doesn’t have that to fall back on. In the play-by-play role, you have to bring your A-game, or the broadcast could sound stilted. There have been times where Little has struggled to hit the right tone in the booth. It is the sign of someone that needs more seasoning. If she wants it, she’ll get more booth seasoning in 2024 between the Trucks and ARCA.
What I’m writing here sounds harsh at times, but compared to some of my colleagues, my opinions of Little’s work in the broadcast booth would be construed as taking it easy on her. I simply believe that she just hasn’t been good enough up there to this point.
Time is running out for Little to improve her craft. 2024 is the last year to truly get better. Things are likely to change for everyone currently on the race broadcasts in 2025. If Little wants to get one of the (likely) four play-by-play roles in NASCAR’s national-level series that will be up for grabs at that point, she’ll need to improve quite a bit next year.
This weekend, Formula 1 returns to Las Vegas for the first time since 1982 for the Las Vegas Grand Prix. Given the desire to run the race at night and cater to the core European audience, the event will effectively in DVR Theater late Saturday night/early Sunday morning with the formation lap starting at 1 a.m. ET. Woof. TV listings can be found here.
Next week in Couch Potato Tuesday, we’re going to look back on NBC Sports’ portion of the NASCAR season. While its changes weren’t quite as substantial as what we saw with FOX Sports, there were new approaches to its NASCAR coverage this year and we need to go back and look them over.
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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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