Livescore Thursday, April 25

CONCORD, N.C. — The forecast is bleak, and outside the Fox Sports broadcast booth high atop Charlotte Motor Speedway, heavy gray clouds roll over. At this moment, though, there is no precipitation on this Saturday afternoon, apparently allowing NASCAR to go forward with running the Xfinity Series race at its scheduled start time.

But inside the booth, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney are skeptical that the race will happen at all, let alone go off on time. This trio of NASCAR stars is moonlighting as part of Fox’s annual “driver’s only” broadcast, in which every on‐camera role is occupied by a Cup Series driver.

That these three have been tabbed to be part of this broadcast makes sense; each has participated in the “driver’s only” edition many times and each is commonly utilized by Fox in various capacities for the network’s NASCAR coverage.

But the gloomy forecast presents a unique challenge: With the threat of rain increasing, so does the likelihood they’ll have to fill the air with something other than racing.

For Logano and Blaney, in the role of analysts, this won’t require too much of a divergence from what they’re familiar with. They have plenty of experience being asked questions, providing in-depth responses and navigating the ins and outs of working in front of the camera.

Harvick is no stranger to this, either. But he’s in the play-by-play role, which brings with it a different set of challenges he’s not faced before. The brunt of deciding how to fill time, teeing up Logano and Blaney so they can flourish, and getting the telecast smoothly in and out of commercial breaks is primarily falling on his shoulders. Harvick’s duties are akin to that of a point guard who must distribute the ball and keep the offense operating efficiently.

On this day, the task is made all the more complicated because there is almost no on‐track action to break down: The rain eventually comes, and the start of the Xfinity race is indefinitely delayed. Now comes the heavy lifting as the telecast must tap dance to fill time, putting even more on Harvick’s shoulders.

Welcome to broadcasting, which Harvick will enter on a full-time basis in 2024 after he retires from NASCAR at the end of the current season. To the surprise of no one, the 2014 Cup champion has proven that he excels while holding a microphone. Fox Sports coordinating producer Pam Miller describes Harvick as having that “it factor.”

“He’s had it from Day 1 when we tried him years ago on our air,” Miller said. “He just has a way of explaining things. He has a connectivity to the audience in the way that he explains things in an entertaining and relatable way. … He’s also built his reputation on the track as a hard racer, and when people got a peek behind the curtain, they liked it.”

The post-retirement transition into TV for Harvick, regarded as one of NASCAR’s most insightful and knowledgeable drivers, has long felt like a foregone conclusion. Not only because he’s expressed interest in it but also because every time he’s stepped into the booth, he’s impressed. It’s why Miller and Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks long circled Harvick as someone they wanted on their team.

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Miller said. “I don’t think there was any hesitation.”

Harvick presents viewers with candid insights featuring strong opinions backed with evidence as to why he believes what he’s saying. There are no “hot takes” or stating something just to be a contrarian for a driver who has been involved in NASCAR for three decades in a multitude of roles, from championship‐winning driver to team owner to operating an agency that represents an array of notable drivers and sponsors. He also mixes in humor, taking jabs at himself and those on the crew.

And Harvick presents information in a clear, concise manner that makes it sound as if he’s a highly trained broadcaster who’s been in this vocation for years, not someone who does it part‐time. His ability to hit a commercial break on cue is so on point that director Artie Kempner immediately offered high praise at one point during a break in the race.

“Oh my god, you nailed (the countdown to commercial),” Kempner said. “I’ve worked with Joe Buck, and he’s never hit a count like that.”

Off camera, though, is where Harvick truly dazzles.

In the Fox production meeting Saturday morning, Harvick noted that the impending rain will force drivers to change their mindsets, stressing that you have to “prepare to be unprepared” because of all the unknowns; that the winner will likely come from the first two rows — which ultimately proved prophetic when polesitter Justin Allgaier won; and then made an observation that later was emphasized during the pre‐race show. During practice, it became “clear to him” that some cars weren’t handling correctly entering Turns 1 and 3 due to their rear suspensions “hopping around.”

There is no doubt Harvick was the leader in the room, confident in his ability while quietly setting the standard for how he expects his broadcast crew to come prepared. One moment, he was asking the production group if they could find video from practice so he could demonstrate a point to viewers. The next, he was asking about ad reads, graphics, stats packages and introducing certain segments.

In many respects, it’s similar to how he conducts himself in the NASCAR garage, where his peers consider him a leader.

“Kevin’s a big voice in our sport, and he’s kind of the same way (on the broadcasting side),” Blaney said. “That’s just kind of the person he is. He does a good job of making sure everything’s organized and ready to go, and if there’s something we should talk about, he does a good job of speaking up about that stuff.”

Said Miller: “He definitely has an agenda as far as what he wants to see on the air, what things he thinks are important for the race, what roll‐ins we should have, what graphics to use. He’s also taught other drivers; he’s had patience with other drivers who are in the booth with him. And that’s where his leadership comes in. He’s good in talkback, he’s good in the meetings and obviously prepared.”

All the preparation came in handy when the Xfinity race was delayed due to rain without ever actually taking the green flag. For the following few hours, the broadcast alternated between the studio consisting of Shannon Spake, Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to pit reporters Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric, Jamie Little and Regan Smith to the booth where Harvick, Logano and Blaney resided.

During breaks or moments when he wasn’t on-air, Harvick frequently went over notes, planning out the next segment and fine-tuning what he wanted to discuss with Logano and Blaney.

“Kevin is really, really good at the preparation part, and when you are willing to prepare, it gives you a much bigger advantage once you’re on live TV of moving the conversation forward,” said Fox Sports broadcaster Adam Alexander, who serves as Harvick’s de facto mentor. “And that’s the one thing that has stood out to me more than anything in the time that I’ve worked with Kevin is just his preparation and his knowledge of whatever series we’re covering.”

Rain delays require creativity in finding ways to entertain viewers. Unfortunately for Harvick, this meant he became the victim of a practical joke when Cindric, Reddick, Little and Smith ransacked his motorcoach.

The idea was the brainchild of Shanks, who earlier in the broadcast heard Harvick mention how years ago then‐Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip had his motorcoach toilet‐papered. With time to fill and with Charlotte being Harvick’s second‐to‐last race in the booth before becoming a full‐time analyst (Saturday’s Xfinity race at Sonoma is his last one), Shanks had the pit reporters do the same to Harvick’s bus. The quartet went through the cupboards, pulled firesuits and shoes out of the closet, tossed toilet paper and popcorn everywhere and made jokes at Harvick’s expense.

“I should’ve kept my mouth shut,” Harvick said over the air of the Waltrip story.

Once the segment concluded and the broadcast went to commercial, Harvick’s true feelings came out. He thought it was “fantastic,” a fun way to eat up some segments on a day when there isn’t anything noteworthy happening.

“I’ve done a lot of rain delays, but you guys nailed it,” Kempner tells the crew.

There would be no racing on that day. Mother Nature wouldn’t allow it. NASCAR rescheduled the Xfinity race to Monday, and with the Cup race on the same day, that precluded drivers from participating in the broadcast.

But while nothing transpired on the track, the day wasn’t a total loss. Harvick gained valuable experience on the less glamorous side of broadcasting, something he’ll become all too familiar with next year.

“We officially did TV things,” Harvick said. “… This was a first; in this role, it’s way harder.”

(Photo: Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano: Jordan Bianchi / The Athletic)

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