NASCAR champion Chase Elliott will be part of Fox sport’s broadcast of the NASCAR Cup race from the Circuit of the Americas Sunday.
He won’t actually be in the booth, but thanks to lessons learned during the COVID pandemic in 2020, Elliott will appear virtually in real time allowing viewers to see and hear the temporary analyst during the broadcast.
When the pandemic shut down all major sports in the world early in 2020, NASCAR, and Fox, became one of the first pro sports leagues, and the first motorsports property to give their fans racing on Sundays. Through the iRacing online platform NASCAR’s top drivers were able to race each other on virtual tracks via remote simulators spread out across the country. Meanwhile the regular Fox broadcast team was able to call the races remotely in separate locations. When it all came together fans were able to watch races on Sunday, albeit virtually.
Chase Elliott of course can’t really attend any races. The 2020 Champion broke his leg in a snowboarding accident in Colorado on the Friday prior to the race at Phoenix. He underwent successful surgery and the team’s release on Tuesday, March 7, says that the approximate recovery time is expected to last six weeks.
Josh Berry has been subbing for Elliott, but for Sunday’s race on the road course at COTA, IMSA star Jordan Taylor will make his NASCAR debut in the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet normally raced by Elliott.
Taylor does have some experience in a stock car. He’s part of the Hendrick team that will enter a modified Next Gen car as part of the Garage 56 class at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. His role is that of a driver coach, but he has also turned laps in the car during testing.
“Super exciting, obviously, and very unexpected,” Taylor said before competing in last week’s IMSA Twelve Hours of Sebring. “Obviously being involved with the Garage 56 thing, I’ve been working with the Hendrick guys for a few months. When I signed up with them, Chad said, ‘I know this (relief driver role) isn’t what you wanted, but just being involved, you never know what it may lead to.
“I’m super thankful for the opportunity,” he added. “It’s definitely intimidating to go into the race weekend in one of the best cars, but at the same time, not that many guys get that chance to be in such a good car.”
Elliott has been in-person in the TV booth on two other occasions, both times as an analyst for the network’s Xfinity series coverage in 2017 and 2018. Both races were at Atlanta not far from Elliott’s hometown.
Elliott and the No. 9 team won the inaugural event at COTA in 2021. That win also marked Chevrolet’s 800th victory. Elliott’s seven road course wins are the most among active drivers and the third-most in series history, so he has plenty of insights when it comes to road courses.
“Getting Chase involved in a race broadcast while he recovers from his injury is wonderful for the entire sport,” said Jacob Ullman, FOX Sports SVP production & talent development. “As NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, the fans obviously miss seeing him each week. We’re extremely appreciative of his time and his willingness to be part of this week’s broadcast. His perspective coming directly from the track will be invaluable.”
Elliott will be part of a larger than normal broadcast crew that includes regulars Mike Joy and former driver Clint Bowyer. Alongside will be former driver Kurt Busch, and thanks to the entries of former F1 drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button, Fox will also have Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner in the booth.
As for future races, Fox has nothing planned. However, with the technology in place to put Elliott back in the booth virtually, no one should be surprised if he makes an appearance before he heals and climbs back into his racecar.