NASCAR commentators: NBC and Fox commentary teams for 2021

The 2021 NASCAR season has started on NBC Sports and Fox Sports in the United States, but why is it split in two pieces and who are the full commentary teams for each broadcaster?

NASCAR commentators: NBC and Fox commentary teams for 2021

The TV rights to broadcast NASCAR in the U.S. is one of the most expensive in all of American sports. The current contract, which was renegotiated in 2015, is split between NBC Sports and Fox Sports and is worth $8billion in total. 

How has NASCAR’s live TV coverage evolved?

All NASCAR Cup races have been broadcast live since 1985, with up to six networks covering races by 2000. The deal first became centralized by NASCAR in 2001, when it agreed six-year contracts with Fox Sports, NBC and Turner Sports for a total of $2.4billion – covering both Cup and Xfinity (then Busch) Series races, qualifying and practice sessions.

In 2007, ABC/EPSN took over NBC’s share of the deal, which was now worth a total of $4.8billion between the three broadcasters and included the Truck Series too.

By 2015, Fox and NBC had negotiated new deals to share the Cup and Xfinity coverage through the 2024 season. The Cup season is split between them thus: Fox broadcasts the first 16 points races, including the season-opening Daytona 500. NBC broadcasts the final 20 points race, including the playoffs.

The Xfinity season is split between them thus: Fox broadcasts the first 14 points races. NBC broadcasts the final 19 points race, including the playoffs.

Fox has exclusive rights to all Truck Series events.

The Fox NASCAR television personalities

The Fox NASCAR television personalities

Photo by: NASCAR Media

NASCAR on Fox commentary team

Mike Joy

Fox’s lead lap-by-lap Cup Series commentator Joy has been calling races since 1970, when he first worked as a track announcer at Riverside Park Speedway.

He joined radio station Motor Racing Network from 1975, and first worked in TV calling the 1981 Cup Series race for ESPN at Atlanta Speedway. Joy then became a reporter for CBS in 1983 and worked for 15 years on NASCAR’s pit road.

In 1998 he joined Fox as lead commentator on its Formula 1 coverage, working alongside Derek Bell.

When Fox started its NASCAR deal in 2001, Joy was appointed lead announcer – a role he still enjoys today – where he was joined by Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds in the commentary booth. When he’s not at a racetrack, he restores vintage MGs.

FOX NASCAR commentary booth: Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip & Jeff Gordon

FOX NASCAR commentary booth: Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip & Jeff Gordon

Photo by: Fox Sports

Jeff Gordon

Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Gordon retired from fulltime competition at the end of the 2015 season with 93 race wins under his belt – third in the all-time list. He was the youngest driver to win a Cup title at the age of 24 in 1997 and has won the Daytona 500 on three occasions.

Forbes lists his career earnings at $515million, making him the highest-paid NASCAR driver of all time.

Gordon retains his role as a top executive and car co-owner [the #48] at the Hendrick Motorsports team, where he retains an equity stake in the #24 car that he made famous. He also won the 2017 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in a Cadillac for Wayne Taylor Racing.

He joined Joy and Waltrip in the Fox commentary booth in 2016, with McReynolds moving to a race strategist and rules analyst role.

Clint Bowyer

Former NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Bowyer ran 541 Cup races over a 16-year career, taking 10 wins at the top level.

Bowyer joined Richard Childress Racing in 2006, but failed to beat Denny Hamlin to Rookie of the Year honors. After a dramatic fiery crash in the Daytona 500 in 2007, Bowyer won his first Cup race at Loudon and qualified for the playoffs – finishing the season in third place.

His association with Childress ended when he signed for Michael Waltrip Racing for 2012, winning at Sonoma for his first-ever road course victory. He qualified for the Chase and won the Charlotte event – putting him in title contention – until he was intentionally wrecked by Gordon at Phoenix, which led to him running through the garage trying to find Gordon to fight him. This incident is often brought up in commentaries now that they share the booth!

Bowyer replaced Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017 and, after impressing in a ‘drivers-only’ broadcast booth for an Xfinity race alongside Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano, he joined the Fox line-up (replacing Darrell Waltrip) after retiring from racing at the end of 2019.

Larry McReynolds, Fox Sports

Larry McReynolds, Fox Sports

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

Larry McReynolds

Nicknamed ‘America’s crew chief’, McReynolds joined the broadcast booth with Fox in 2001 after an illustrious career on the pit wall.

During his racing career, McReynolds scored 23 Cup victories – taking his first with Ricky Rudd in 1988 at Watkins Glen. He joined Davey Allison at the famed Robert Yates Racing #28, winning the 1992 Daytona 500 together and very nearly the championship.

After Allison was killed in a helicopter crash in 1993, McReynolds worked with Ernie Irvan and Dale Jarrett before switching to running Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing, winning the 1998 Daytona 500 together.

McReynolds joined Joy and Waltrip in the Cup broadcast booth for 15 years before moving to a race strategist and rules analyst role, which he retains until today – and is renowned for predicting the final caution of the race before it happens based on his historical ‘trends’.

He is also a regular on Fox’s Race Hub show.

Jamie McMurray

‘Jamie Mac’ raced in the Cup Series between 2002-’18, with his banner year coming in 2010 when he won the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis in the same season. He’s also a winner of the 2015 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona with Chip Ganassi Racing, the team with whom he tasted most of his racing success.

McMurray set a new NASCAR record when he won a Cup race in only his second start at Charlotte in 2002, subbing for the injured Sterling Marlin, and would go on to record six more race wins at the top level.

He quit fulltime racing at the end of the 2018 season, although raced in the 2021 Daytona 500. In 2019 he joined the NASCAR on Fox team in its weekly shows, including Race Hub with McReynolds, and is an occasional color analyst on race weekends.

Adam Alexander, Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip, FOX Sports

Adam Alexander, Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip, FOX Sports

Photo by: Logan Whitton / NKP / Motorsport Images

Adam Alexander

He is the lap-by-lap lead commentator for the Fox’s Xfinity Series broadcasts and a host of the midweek Race Hub shows.

He joined the IMS Radio Network as pit and corner commentator for the Indianapolis 500 in the early 2000s, before joining MRN’s radio coverage of NASCAR through 2006. He then worked as a pit reporter for NASCAR on TNT, developing into a play-by-play role from 2010-’14, and also hosted SPEED Channel’s SPEED Center show.

In 2014 he took over as lead commentator on Fox’s NASCAR Truck Series broadcasts, and graduated to the Xfinity Series a year later – which he continues to call today.

Vince Welch

Has been the voice of the Truck Series on Fox since 2015, when he was promoted to lead commentator duties, having previously worked as a pit reporter.

Before joining Fox, he was a pit reporter for ABC Sports and ESPN, working on Indy Racing League as well as NASCAR Xfinity events.

Michael Waltrip

Michael Waltrip

Photo by: Fathom Events

Michael Waltrip

A two-time winner of the Daytona 500, Waltrip’s huge personality and enormous hair made him perfect for Fox’s NASCAR coverage – following in the footsteps of his older brother Darrell, who was a longtime commentator.

Michael began his role as a color analyst in the Truck Series as early as 2004, and while his driving and team owning career was ongoing – with an impressive 784 Cup starts over 33 years and even a Le Mans 24 Hours finish under his belt – he joined Fox’s presenting ‘Hollywood Hotel’ with Chris Myers from the 2012 Daytona 500.

Since retiring from racing, his high-octane ‘grid runs’ have become a staple of Fox’s Cup Series pre-race show, and he added the Xfinity Series races to his Truck analyst role since 2015.

Jamie Little

As well as working as pit reporter alongside former driver Regan Smith, Little became the first female lead commentator for an American domestic racing series, the fourth-tier ARCA Menards Series, in 2021. She previously worked as pit lane reporter for ESPN on the Indy Racing League and NASCAR.

NBC Peacock

NBC Peacock

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

NASCAR on NBC commentary team

Rick Allen

The lead commentator for NBC’s Cup Series coverage was poached in 2015 from Fox, where he was the Truck and ARCA Series lap-by-lap commentator since 2003. As well as NASCAR events, he also filled in for Leigh Diffey at IndyCar Series events – when Diffey was on F1 duty.

Allen’s background is as a public address announcer for the University of Nebraska athletic department, and he was discovered by a Fox talent scout while commentating at dirt oval racetracks.

Jeff Burton

Jeff Burton

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Jeff Burton

Nicknamed ‘The Mayor’ of NASCAR, Burton won 21 times at its top level in a 22-year driving career. A two-time Coca-Cola 600 winner, he was the 1994 Cup Rookie of the Year.

His first win came at Texas in 1997, driving for Jack Roush’s Ford team. He became incredibly consistent around this period, finishing no lower than fifth in points from ’97 to 2000. In 1999 he won six races and finished third in points in 2000.

He moved to Richard Childress Racing in 2005, and took pole for the Daytona 500 in ’06. As his racing career wound down after his final full season in 2013, Burton began his transition to the commentary booth, in which he’s been a color analyst for the Cup Series since 2015.

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Photo by: Fox Sports

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Voted the most popular driver in NASCAR on 15 consecutive occasions, the two-time Daytona 500 winner joined NBC’s commentary booth team in 2018 as a color analyst following his retirement from fulltime racing. He is the son of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, who was killed in the 2001 Daytona 500, in which Junior finished second to Michael Waltrip in cars run by his father’s team.

The two-time Busch [now Xfinity] Series champion went on to win 26 races in Cup, finishing third in the 2003 points. His Cup career began in 2000, taking Rookie of the Year driving for DEI.

Following his father’s death, Dale Jr scored an emotional victory in the first race back at Daytona, the Pepsi 400 that July. His driving career was affected by suffering from a series of concussions, dating back to 2002, and has since been outspoken on the subject – offering to donate his brain to medical science after he dies.

Earnhardt Jr left the team founded by his father ahead of the 2008 season, joining Hendrick Motorsports. His step-mother, Teresa, refused permission for him to take his famous #8, used by his father in his early career and his grandfather Ralph, so he switched to #88.

He won the 2014 Daytona 500, 10 years after doing so with DEI. But he fell short of his goal of winning a championship and joined NBC’s commentary team in 2018 – quickly coining his catchphrase “Slide job!” as Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson battled for the race win at Chicago.

He is also team owner of JR Motorsports, a frontrunning outfit in the Xfinity Series – whom he races for once per season. And he also hosts the Lost Speedways TV show on NBC, a documentary series where he travels to rediscover abandoned tracks across the country, and the hugely popular Dale Jr Download, that also airs on NBCSN.

Steve Letarte

Letarte made his name as a crew chief with Hendrick Motorsports, with whom he enjoyed a 20-year career. He became Jeff Gordon’s crew chief in mid-2005 and was credited with his driver’s turnaround in form when he won six races in 2007 – although he lost the title in the playoffs to teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Letarte was re-assigned to Earnhardt Jr in 2011 and snapped a long winless streak for his driver at Michigan in 2012. Together, they won the 2014 Daytona 500 – which would be Letarte’s last fulltime season on the pitbox, as NBC signed him for its return to NASCAR broadcasting in 2015.

His first race in the booth was won, ironically enough, by Earnhardt Jr! And they were reunited as a commentary double act in 2018.

 Denny Hamlin with Dale Jarrett

Denny Hamlin with Dale Jarrett

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

Dale Jarrett

Three-time Daytona 500 winner and 1999 Cup Series champion has been a part of NBC’s color analyst team since 2015.

Jarrett is the son of two-time Grand National champion Ned, who was also a renowned broadcaster, and he raced at Cup level for 24 years, winning 32 races. His top-tier career truly kicked off with Joe Gibbs Racing, joining the fledgling team in 1992, and winning the ’93 Daytona 500 after an intense battle with Dale Earnhardt.

Despite that success, he moved away from the Gibbs team to join Robert Yates Racing, winning at Daytona again in ’96, as well as the Coca-Cola 600 and Brickyard 400 – where his post-race kissing of the bricks started a tradition.

He went on to win his Cup title two years later, following that up with his third Daytona 500 victory in 2000. In 2007 he left Yates and signed for Michael Waltrip’s Toyota team, but the association proved shortlived and he retired from racing midway through 2008, joining ESPN as a booth announcer, replacing Rusty Wallace.

Kyle Petty

The son of NASCAR legend Richard, and grandson of Lee, Kyle enjoyed a lengthy Cup Series career of his own, winning eight races from 829 starts.

He won his first Cup race for the Wood Bros in 1986, before joining Felix Sabates’ SABCO Racing team a few years later – with the Mello Yello sponsorship that became iconic in the film Days of Thunder. He was right in the mix for the title in 1992, finishing fifth in points that season as well as the next.

Petty continued racing despite the loss of his son, Adam, who was killed while practicing at New Hampshire for a Busch Series race.

Kyle first worked as a TV analyst in 1999, with ESPN, and then with TNT in 2007. Petty subsequently appeared on various NASCAR shows for Fox Sports since retiring as a driver in 2008. He joined the NBC lineup in 2015 and has been an ever-present part of its lineup.

Brad Daugherty

Brad Daugherty

Photo by: NASCAR Media

Brad Daugherty

Former Cleveland Cavaliers NBA and University of North Carolina college star Daugherty – aka ‘Big Dukie’ and ‘The Hooch’ – began a NASCAR Truck Series team following his retirement from basketball in the mid-1990s. He later joined ESPN’s commentary lineup in 2007.

He is co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing, which runs two cars in the Cup Series, and rejoined the NASCAR announcing roster in mid-2020 as an analyst.

Parker Kligerman

After losing his fulltime Cup Series ride with Swan Racing, Kligerman joined NBC’s team as a pit reporter, alongside the likes of Dave Burns and Marty Snider. Kligerman has two Truck Series wins to his name, both at Talladega.

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