This weekend is the official start of the 2024 NASCAR season. For FOX Sports, it will be its 24th year of NASCAR coverage and the 21st time that it has been at Daytona International Speedway to air live coverage of the Daytona 500. As you know, there is a major addition to the booth this year.
The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, as ridiculous as the weekend turned out to be due to the incoming heavy rains, marked the full-time broadcast booth debut for Kevin Harvick. Last week, I wrote about how he did a decent job and brought a new dimension to the broadcast booth.
This week, we’re going to look back a bit at how we’ve gotten to this point with Harvick in the booth. As noted in last week’s column, Harvick’s first race in the booth was as a guest analyst during the 2015 Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona. As you may remember, that race was infamous for the crash on lap 112 where Kyle Busch went hard into the unprotected concrete wall and broke his leg.
As far as debut races go, superspeedway races can be all over the place. They can be really easy or really hard. Harvick did quite well in his debut.
Also of note, the race was FOX Sports’ first time intentionally covering the series since 2006. 2015 was the first year of NASCAR’s current TV deal, which brought the NASCAR Xfinity Series back in with the NASCAR Cup Series deal. The previous TV contract from 2007-2014 had the Xfinity Series covered nearly exclusively on ESPN2 with select events on either ESPN or ABC. There were a couple of exceptions to that rule over the years, but nearly all of the races for eight years, including the standalone events, were on ESPN2.
I’m generally unsure if the guest analyst plan was the original plan for Xfinity broadcasts that year. At the time everything was coming together, Steve Byrnes was still in the middle of his cancer battle and the hope likely was that he would have been involved in some way. However, Byrnes took what ended up being a permanent leave of absence in October 2014. That led to a scramble, not just for Xfinity Series broadcasts, but most definitely for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where Byrnes had already been named as the play-by-play commentator following Rick Allen’s departure from FOX Sports back in the summer.