Published December 10, 2015
This extended Q&A marks the second in a series with FOX Sports motor sports personalities to be highlighted over the next several months. To learn more about veteran NASCAR and automotive voice Mike Joy, visit http://foxs.pt/1jyk4qC and follow him on Twitter at @mikejoy500.
FOX SPORTS: You quarterback the FOX NASCAR booth, working the last 15 seasons with Hall-of-Famer Darrell Waltrip, known affectionately as "Jaws" for his copious gift of gab, and former crew chief Larry McReynolds, who moves to a new third-analyst role outside the booth in 2016 and may just be the most well-prepared person at the race track week in and week out. Where do you fit in the puzzle; what do you see as your role and how has the team chemistry evolved over the years?
JOY: I suppose as ringmaster, or maybe traffic cop. My previous experience with network TV, as viewer, reporter and anchor, was that telecasts were centered by a well-known anchor, who would describe the action and solicit context and meaning from sport-specific analysts, then move on to the next play, or battle, or event unfolding. Because it was such a technical sport, auto racing became the only "major" sport where successful anchors were recruited from within the sport.
The FOX playbook is different. Their analysts are the well-known stars ... their personas are at least equal to those of the athletes on the field. FOX sports anchors keep the viewer up on the unfolding action, but the analysts are the show. While our "roles" were pretty well set from the start, DW as championship driver, Larry as big-race winning crew chief and me as "team owner," some traits developed.
As you said, Larry always has his facts straight. He comes to the track towing a large, wheeled briefcase full of notes, press releases, rule books and research material. Darrell is much more a point-of-view analyst, relying on his personal experiences, interactions and observations. Each of their styles led to changes in the ways I'd prepare for each telecast so I could do my part in bringing out their best. I am very proud to work alongside the trusted, enthusiastic voices of our sport that they have become.
After 15 years as "cellmates," we anticipate each other's next move with a facial expression or brief gesture. We always settle up any upsets or miscues before we leave the booth, and we are genuinely thrilled to have such a great opportunity.
FOX SPORTS: Your career behind the mic began as the public address announcer at Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass. How did you end up with that role, and did you know that early that it may be a career-starter? And if not then, when?
JOY: In 1970, I was in college, trying to figure out how to become the next Dan Gurney or Mark Donohue without a race car, tools, garage, engineering degree or infrastructure. So, I was road rallying and autocrossing "pylon-racing," because that was what you could do with your street car. Some of our events were held on Sundays at Riverside. The club knew I broadcast live sports on college radio, and asked if I would go up to the public address booth and describe the event for the few people who heard the engine and tire noise and wandered into the stadium.
One such afternoon, fiery Irishman Ed Carroll, who owned the place, stormed in to see why so many people were sitting watching sports cars instead of out spending money in his amusement park. That week, PR rep Joe Mahoney offered me a job as assistant PA announcer for their Saturday night modified races.
I turned him down. Those coupes were straight-axle '30s bodied jalopies compared to the sleek Trans-Am and Can-Am racers I was attracted to. Joe convinced me to come see the races Saturday night as his guest. I saw the intense action and response of 6,000 race fans, and I was hooked. I started the following Saturday, and have been calling races ever since.
FOX SPORTS: Your FOX NASCAR career got off to an amazingly challenging start, calling the 2001 Daytona 500 with a rookie network, a rookie booth, and ultimately witnessing the on-air death of icon Dale Earnhardt. What were the job-related and emotional challenges of that day for the most experienced man in the booth?
JOY: Darrell, Larry and I had done a few TNN Saturday races together, so I wasn't worried about the chemistry developing. We were friends, more importantly, each of us had a different skill set and experiences in the sport, and we respected each other's viewpoint. The key production crew had all covered NASCAR before, so there were few rookies in the mix.
The last lap and our reactions to it are well-documented, especially in DW's second book. Our biggest frustration was a total shutdown of information flow when Earnhardt crashed. I had to make viewers recognize the potential seriousness of the situation, yet not convey our worst fears or suspicions.
FOX SPORTS: In 2016, the booth chemistry changes a little with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon starting his new career and Larry moving to a new role outside of the booth. What do you see as your role in helping in this transition?
JOY: Mainly, it's getting everyone comfortable in their new clothes. We will all help Jeff grow into his new role, and most importantly, we will develop a working chemistry between the three of us. I expect there will be some agreement, some good-natured differences of opinion and a whole lot of valuable discussion. Inform, educate and entertain, those have always been our key goals, and that won't change. Larry's insight, research, and strategy will still be a very important part of each telecast. We did a practice telecast together in November at Texas, with our race producer, Barry Landis, and we were all very pleased with what we have to work with and grow.
FOX SPORTS: With a lifetime of memories in the sport of NASCAR, is there a moment or collection of moments that stand out and why?
JOY: Funny, but it's not events or finishes or snapshots of big moments. It's more the people I have been privileged to work with and get to know. My mentors were Ken Squier, Barney Hall, and Ned Jarrett. Many people I'd name are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame or are headed there. I'm still pretty surprised that many of my heroes growing up are now my friends.
FOX SPORTS: Over the years, you've also shared your passion and knowledge of automobiles with audiences of the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auctions, which you continue to do. If you could have any cars you wanted, list your top five.
JOY: Wow, that's hard. I love my '60s and '70s MG sports cars, but I still want a deTomaso Mangusta. It's one of the most stunning road cars ever, and I had one to use for a not to be forgotten evening when they were new. A '70 Challenger T/A in sub-lime like Sam Posey's race car, or an AAR 'Cuda like Gurney's. I wish I had my dad's '65 GTO, or my '71 Z28 Camaro. At the top of my list sits an authentic '70 Camaro road-race car that I've been trying to buy for a long time, to put it back on track in vintage racing with the Historic Trans Am series (www.historictransam.com).