What are the important elements of a TV broadcast of a NASCAR race? Cool graphics. Entertainment (but not crossing that thin line over into all around goofiness). Maybe a little amped up drama.
Yes, all of those things are important but today, we’d like to take a look at the commentators up in the booth, specifically one key member. Heading any broadcast team has to be the play-by-play announcer. This is the traditional sports commentator. FOX has Mike Joy in the role. NBC has Rick Allen.
Then there are two other important elements to the broadcast team. The first in the driver. Your Dale Jr.’s, DW’s, or, starting in 2024, your Kevin Harvick’s. They provide insight about what the drivers are feeling and really get inside their heads to paint a word picture of the audience.
But perhaps one of the most underrated elements to any broadcast crew is the crew chief. They specialize in strategy and what it takes to keep their drivers calm in the heat of battle. We at the Daily Downforce thought it would be fun to take a look at some crew chiefs we’d like to see in the broadcast booth in the future.
This isn’t a ranking, the following crew chiefs are in no particular order.
Sometimes a driver is just a perfect pit for the broadcast booth and so they’re called there. Usually in the Xfinity Series if they’re still actively competing in the Cup Series.
The first drivers-turned commentators to come to mind are, of course, Kevin Harvick, Dale Jr., Clint Boyer, and, occasionally, Kurt Busch. Then there are drivers I never thought I’d see in the broadcast booth.
Tony Stewart is one of those drivers. And, as it turns out, he’s pretty darn good at it despite his new role at FOX Sports being just a temporary one. Now I’d like to see the other side of that conversation.
Greg Zipadelli was Tony Stewart’s crew chief from 1999 through Stewart’s departure from JGR following the 2008 season. From 2009-2011 he remained crew chief of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota before finally accepting a position as Competition Director for Stewart-Haas Racing following Tony Stewart’s third and final championship win in 2011.
Greg was an integral part of Stewart’s success in the first half of his career and it would be interesting to see what insights he could bring to the broadcast booth.
Many crew chiefs get their start as drivers. Paul Wolfe is no exception. He began his career as a part-time Xfinity Series driver in 2003, driving for the likes of Tommy Baldwin and Ray Evernham to, at best, mediocre results.
Sensing that his career as a driver just wasn’t going to happen, he put his driving career on hold to pursue jobs atop the pit box rather than out on the racetrack. He got his big break in 2010. Through 2008 and 2009, Brad Keselowski, who was racing for JR Motorsports at the time in the No. 88 Navy then Go Daddy Chevy, was slated to be the next big thing over at Hendrick Motorsports, taking over the No. 5 ride.
But with Mark Martin’s indecisiveness when it came to whether or not he should retire, it became clear rather quickly that there would be no room for the hotshot from Michigan at HMS. He would move over to Penske for the 2010 season, driving the No. 12 Dodge in the Cup Series fulltime while also doubling up racing the No. 22 Discount Tires Dodge fulltime in the Xfinity Series. This was Wolfe’s big break.
Paired with Keselowski, the duo would go on to win 6 races in 2010, going on to win their first championship together. Wolfe must have been impressive to the Captain because in the following year of 2011, he would get promoted to crew chief for Bad Brad fulltime in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Only one year after the promotion, Wolfe would win his second NASCAR title as a crew chief in 2012. He would remain with Bad Brad until the shakeup in 2020 which saw Wolfe moved over to the No. 22 Penzoil Ford driven by Joey Logano. This is usually when a crew chief’s career starts to peter off. Not for Paul Wolfe as he would win his third NASCAR championship and counting with Logano in 2022.
Clearly, Paul Wolfe has a talent for this profession and would be a valuable addition to any broadcast team.
Tony Eury Jr.
I think Tony Eury Jr. tends to get a bad rap in the world of NASCAR, especially when it comes to Junior Nation. Steve Letarte (correctly) gets a lot of credit for breathing some fresh air into NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver’s career but the fact of the matter is that the younger Eury was one of the most underrated crew chiefs in the garage.
He was born into a racing family with his father being the famous Pops. After his father retired from being a fulltime crew chief, Tony Eury Jr. was the one called up for the job. He is perhaps best known as the crew chief of Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the first half of his career but is also credited with taking Michael Waltrip, a mid-pack driver outside of superspeedways on his best day, and showing him off up front during the infamous DEI team swap of 2005.
Following the 2007 season, Eury would follow Jr. to Hendrick Motorsports but after hearing how hard the two cousins were on each other over the radio, Rick Hendrick decided to make a change. Eury was ultimately demoted to crew chief the R&D #25 entry fielded for a young Brad Keselowski to gain experience.
In 2010, Eury became the crew chief of JR Motorsports #7 entry for Danica Patrick and would even serve as her crew chief for her very last NASCAR race in the 2020 running of the Daytona 500. Since leaving JR Motorsports, Eury has tinkered around with smaller, underfunded teams and is currently the crew chief of the No. 50 Chevy for the Money Team.
When he finally decides to hang up the ol’ headset, he should really consider a commentating career. His handful appearances on the Dale Jr. Download indicate that he might just have a knack for it.
Up until 2022, Kyle Busch was the only active multi-time Cup Series Champion still racing fulltime in the premier series. The crew chief atop the pit box for both of Busch’s titles was non other than Adam Stevens.
Following arguments and disagreements (not to mention a stellar string of seasons which saw KFB win 8 races alone in 2018 despite finishing 4th in the final standings), Adam Stevens and Busch were separated with Stevens movie over to helm the No. 20 team for Christopher Bell.
After a slow start, Bell is starting to come into his own as a driver, winning twice during the playoffs in clutch victories which punched his ticket for his first Championship 4 appearance. Clearly, Stevens isn’t done winning yet but once he decides to call it quits, I’m sure he’d have some interesting things to say in a broadcast booth.
Like Paul Wolfe after him, Kirk Shelmerdine was a racer. Unlike the aforementioned Wolfe, however, the racing bug never quite loosened its grip on the driver. After working as an engineer, he would join Richard Childress Racing in 1984 until Richard could “find somebody else”.
From ’84 to his final year of 1992 as crew chief of the black No. 3, Shelmerdine saw Earnhardt win four of his seven Cup Series titles. Shelmerdine would retire from the pit box after 1992 to pursue a career as a driver. While that never worked out, Shelmerdine is credited with being the longest tenured crew chief for the Intimidator and a huge part of his success.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief likely has a lot of great stories to tell and would add a considerable amount of insight to a FOX broadcast booth, even if it is only for a one-off.
Chad Knaus is one of only two crew chiefs to win 7-championships, all with the same driver. From 2006 through 2010, Knaus and Jimmie Johnson went on an absolute tear, winning a record shattering 5 titles in a row. They would capture their 6th and 7th together in 2013 and 2016, respectively.
Following a decline in performance, Knaus and Johnson were split up heading into the 2019 season. Knaus would serve 1 year as crew chief of the No. 24 team before retiring for an office job at HMS. Knaus is now the Vice President of Competition for the team. With all his “creativity” stories, he would certainly be a big hit working fulltime in a NASCAR broadcast booth.
These are just some of the crew chiefs we at the Daily Downforce would love to see get a shot at a broadcast career, even if only parttime. Did we leave anybody off the list that you think is deserving? Let us know!