By Steve Mickey
When the final lap went off the board on Sunday at Sonoma it signaled the end of FOX’s Sprint Cup coverage for the 2015 season. FOX’s coverage begins each season with all of the action coming from Daytona’s Speedweeks and continues for the first sixteen races. The race was also the last time that Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will call a race together after being the only broadcast crew that FOX has used since it first started with its Sprint Cup coverage.
Beginning in Daytona in 2016, FOX will replace McReynolds in the booth with Jeff Gordon who will be retiring at the end of this season. Gordon is one of the most popular drivers to ever compete in the series and the opportunity to add him to their broadcast lineup was to much for FOX to pass on.
To make room for Gordon, McReynolds will be moved to the roll of a technical insider and will be used throughout the race broadcast as well as being featured during their prerace show. Larry Mac has always been one of the hardest working broadcasters in the sport as even though FOX’s race coverage is over for the season, he will still be seen every week on the network’s Race Hub all the way through to the last race of the season at Homestead-Miami.
Gordon’s entrance into the booth next season will give FOX a fresher look at what it is like behind the wheel from the newly retired driver to go along with Waltrip’s old school feel for the sport. The new pairing will definitely give you the coverage from the eye of a driver but McReynolds’ insight on pit strategy and what was going on with the race car will be missed. Rick Allen will be the lead announcer for NBC when it begins its coverage this Saturday night from Daytona with the running of the Subway Firecracker 250 Xfinity Series race on NBCSN.
The following night the network will begin its Sprint Cup Series coverage with the Coke Zero 400 on NBC. Joining Allen in the booth for both broadcasts and the rest of the schedule will be former Sprint Cup driver Jeff Burton and recently retired Cup crew chief Steve Letarte. Since ABC and ESPN no longer is part of the NASCAR TV package, there was plenty of talent available for NBC to fill the many positions that makes up a race day broadcast.
The prerace show sets the table for the entire broadcast and this is where NBC was able to put together a very knowledgeable trio. Krista Voda will anchor the prerace coverage but shouldn’t have to say much as she will be joined by the highly opinionated Kyle Petty and long-time ESPN race commentator Dale Jarrett. NBC will also benefit from having Rutledge Wood and Nate Ryan joining the prerace broadcast with features on individuals and any breaking news story.
Pit Road reporters will include some veterans in Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Mike Massaro and Dave Burns. NBC will be taking over the schedule at a very crucial point as beginning with Daytona there are only ten races left before the field is set for the Chase.
Once the Chase field is set after the September Richmond race, the Chase’s knockout format of ten races eventually reduces the field down to four drivers that will run for the title at the last race of the season.
PIT NOTES: Kyle Busch’s win on Sunday at Sonoma made him the 11th different winner this season but he still has to finish in the top-30 to secure a spot in the Chase. He currently sits in 37th, 136 points from the 30th position. He needs to average a 14th place finish over the next ten races in order to finish in the top-30 that would guarantee him a spot in the Chase because of his Sonoma win. The final finishing order at Sonoma also produced a first for Kyle as his older brother Kurt finished second making it the first time that the brothers had finished 1-2 in a Sprint Cup race.
Event: Coke Zero 400
Track: Daytona International Speedway (2.5 mile tri-oval with 31o of banking in the turns)
Date: July 5, 7:30 P.M.
Defending Champion: Aric Almirola