Fox Sports held a conference call for sports media last week promoting Sunday’s broadcast of the Daytona 500, a common occurrence for such an event. The unusual part was when a writer for NBC Sports asked one of the questions.
Was the query from a competing network the verbal equivalent of a photobomb?
No, it was actually a sign of cooperation among the broadcast “partners.”
This year’s Sprint Cup TV schedule is split between Fox and NBC. Fox and Fox Sports 1 will carry a total of 16 Cup races, starting with the Daytona 500 on Fox. NBC will take over on July 5, with another race from Daytona.
NBC’s broadcast network will carry seven Cup races, while 13 will air on NBCSN.
Fox is first out of the chute. The team of analysts Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds and play-by-play man Mike Joy are calling their 15th Daytona 500 together. Their first was the 2001 race that is infamous for the death of Dale Earnhardt.
Waltrip, McReynolds and Joy were asked in the conference call to name their favorite moments calling the Great American Race.
“Well, it’s certainly not our favorite, but how in the world could we ever forget our first, the 2001 Daytona 500, and the events of that day,” Waltrip said. “That will be in my mind and a part of me for the rest of my life.”
Waltrip mentioned the “amazing finishes” he’s witnessed at Daytona.
“Whether it’s Ryan Newman passing Tony Stewart on the last lap, or Kevin Harvick passing Mark Martin on the last lap, or cars coming to the start/finish line upside down on fire like Days of Thunder. We’ve seen it all.”
McReynolds said he would be hard-pressed to think of a Daytona race that he did not enjoy.
“The one that jumps to mind was the 2007,” McReynolds said, “with Harvick beating Mark Martin back to the line and the big crash happening and, like Darryl said, Clint Bowyer coming across the line on his roof, and when he got out he was more worried about where he finished than what his car looked like.”
Joy said his favorite moment happens every year at the first practice session during Speedweeks.
“This year we just all stood silent and we all just enjoyed the glorious noise of the cars coming through at full speed to start a new season,” Joy said. “I think I said it was the most glorious noise of winter since your snowblower or your snowmobile started on the first pull.
“It means the season’s started. And we are so full of all the excitement and enthusiasm.”
The Fox team is believed to be the longest-tenured trio in sports broadcast history. How do they make it work?
“I think we all know our role; we try to complement each other,” McReynolds said. “We try to give each other the space that each one needs to perform that role, but at the same time, we’ve got each other’s back. I think the biggest thing that makes it work is outside of that booth we’re friends. We care about each other.”
Joy cited the expertise of Waltrip, a three-time Cup winner, and McReynolds, a former crew chief who presided over two Daytona 500 victories.
“Fox Sports is an analyst-driven production,” Joy said. “You see that in football, baseball, and you see it in NASCAR. That in and of itself was a big culture shift from the way that CBS, ABC and NBC were putting sports on the air, where their anchors were at the top of the telecast and then they would fill in with analysts specific to a given sport.
“This was very different right from the start, and I think that’s one of the big reasons it works so well.”
The Fox broadcasters were asked if they could pick out a favorite to win the Sprint Cup in 2015.
“There are just too many good drivers right now for me to say that anyone is better than the other,” Waltrip said. “Carl Edwards is obviously a great driver and … he’s good with sponsors, and he has a good following. Carl has always been at the top of my list. I have told him, and I have said it many times, that if I were starting a team tomorrow, I would choose Carl.”
Joy declared that Kevin Harvick “is the best driver in the sport. Not just because of what he did last year, or should I say what he and” crew chief “Rodney Childers did, which is head and shoulders above everybody else. … I think if you have a 10-lap shootout, of any race, we don’t call him a closer for no reason. I say put that steering wheel in Kevin Harvick’s hands for a green-white-checkered shootout at just about any track.”
Fox has Sunday’s race starting at 1 p.m., Ch. 29.
• ESPN announced that Jason Whitlock’s new website under the ESPN umbrella will be called The Undefeated when it launches later this year. Whitlock is editor in chief of the site, which is to focus on “sports, race and culture.” According to an ESPN release, the name is inspired by a passage from author Maya Angelou: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
• The superfight on May 2 between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will be televised on pay-per-view as a joint venture between Showtime and HBO. According to SI’s Chris Mannix, HBO’s Jim Lampley and Roy Jones Jr. will call the event along with Showtime’s Al Bernstein.