DARLINGTON, S.C. – Mike Joy has covered everything from pro beach soccer to college football, and even the Olympics. But his many years covering NASCAR are what helped make him a household name in the world of sports.
Having finished his 22nd year as Fox Sports’ lead Cup Series announcer, Joy brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to fans all over the world. But there are few places he’s more passionate about than Darlington Raceway, home of this year’s 73rd running of the Cook Out Southern 500.
Since Fox now broadcasts Darlington’s spring race, the Goodyear 400, Joy brought up the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 spring race as his best broadcasting memory. In the booth with NASCAR Hall of Famer (and 1992 Southern 500 champ) Darrell Waltrip, the two saw Ricky Craven eke past Kurt Busch to take the checkered flag.
“That was just a typical Darlington race with a crazy ending, side-by-side cars banging off each other three times in the final straightaway,” Joy recalled. “And I turned to Darrell, and I started to say, ‘Have you ever … Seen a finish like that?’ And all I got out was, ‘Have you ever …?’ and he jumped right in, ‘No, I’ve never!’ And that just became the signature line of that race.”
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The 2011 Southern 500 was also a favorite for Joy for more reasons than that race’s winner, Regan Smith, now being a part of Fox Sports’ broadcasting team.
“His victory was very impressive and very much of a standout because he was not seen as a favorite to win that day,” Joy said. “And so, certainly that stands out now that he’s a part of our Fox team. That kind of comes full circle.”
Those thrilling moments, and unexpected finishes, are part of what makes Darlington a special place in Joy’s eyes.
“We have tracks where you might have seen one very exciting race, and the next race is kind of lackluster, and we do have some of those race tracks,” Joy said. “And it happened on the short tracks this year, which generally produced really good racing. But with the new cars, it was very, very hard to pass.”
Joy doesn’t have to worry about a lack of excitement at the track Too Tough to Tame.
“There is plenty of opportunity for side-by-side racing for cars bumping or brushing the wall,” Joy said. “And one good thing about this year’s new cars is that they do not push the fenders in against the tires or cause other problems. These cars can take a pretty good hit and keep on going. So, I think that’s something to look forward to.
“It’s always going to be an action-packed race (at Darlington),” Joy said.
As a broadcaster, of course, one can’t get too excited.
“You’ve got a job to do, and you’re doing that job for the fans of all the drivers,” Joy said. “You can’t allow yourself to be a fan. But, that said, everybody loves a winner – especially when it’s unexpected. And that’s true to this day. Look at Tyler Reddick’s victory (on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course), which was not expected. We all knew he’d win one day. But no one knew when.”
Joy then talked about why he loves broadcasting NASCAR.
“Every other sport seems to have one ball in play at a time – other than, say, golf,” Joy said. “But in auto racing, we have 40 balls in play. And occasionally, they bounce off each other. There’s a lot to keep track of. So I think it’s a combination of the challenge of broadcasting an event with that many key players on the field at one time that make it fun.
“The excitement of it is pretty much unmatched in sports.”
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