The 2023 Daytona 500 will mark the first Daytona 500, since Dale Earnhardt's death in 2001, where there will not be a driver in the field who raced against the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion. It will also be the first Daytona 500 without an entry from a team with the name "Petty" in it (as Richard Petty Motorsports was recently rebranded to Legacy Motor Club). These facts come courtesy of Mike Joy, who in a recent interview with the Daytona-Beach News Journal, recalled what it's been like to be part of the "Great American Race" for over four decades. On Sunday, February 19, the 73-year-old Joy will call his 44th Daytona 500.
Joy has seen it all as the longtime play-by-play announcer of the most prestigious event in auto racing. The lowest of the lows (Earnhardt's death) and the highest of the highs (Trevor Bayne's shocking upset win in 2011). Still, Joy's favorite Daytona 500 to this day is the very first one he attended nearly 50 years ago.
"The very first Daytona 500 I was in the track on race day was in 1976," Joy said. "It wound down to a two-horse race, it came down to Richard Petty and David Pearson and I was on pit road and I walked down to Richard Petty's pit and it was just packed with people. You couldn't get near enough to see what was going on those final 10 to 12 laps."
"So I walked up pit road to the Wood Brothers pit, and I was standing right behind Leonard Wood as those cars came off of Turn 4. And we could not see them, but we could here Ken Squier over the blaring PA speakers describe the crash between the two leaders and as they spun down into the infield grass, Pearson put the clutch in and feathered the throttle to keep it running, Petty stalled and Pearson shoved across the line at 15 miles per hour to win the race. Everyone in that pit, including me, ran out to pit road and started running down to Victory Lane. Getting all swept up in the emotion of that and what might have been the wildest Daytona 500 finish ever. It's hard to eclipse a moment like that."
Even after all these years, Joy still appreciates the magic of the Daytona 500. In fact, it's that "Super Bowl sense of being" that has kept him coming back year after year.
"You drive in that tunnel and suddenly you've driven into a city of 200,000 people right there in a couple of square miles and they're all there for the same reason you are and with the same interest you have, which is really quite cool," Joy said. "You go in there and it's very much a Super Bowl sense of being and the difference is, when you go in that garage area the morning of the Daytona 500, there's 40 teams there that think they can win. And that's really cool."
Mike Joy's Broadcasting Career Spans Nearly 50 Years
Born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in Connecticut, Joy started off his career while he was still in college. He began working as a public address announcer at Riverside Park Speedway in 1970.
A few years later, he started working for both Thompson Speedway and Stafford Motor Speedway, where he announced races five nights per week. Eventually, he got noticed by Ken Squier at the Motor Racing Network, was hired as a freelancer in 1975, and then transitioned into a full-time role three years later. He quickly rose up the ranks from co-anchor to general manager to executive producer of MRN. By 1981, he was the lead broadcaster for ESPN's first live telecast during the Atlanta Journal 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
While still working for MRN, Joy joined on with CBS as a pit reporter in 1983, working alongside such big names as Ned Jarrett. He certainly didn't slow down one bit, because he also helped launch the Nashville Network's NASCAR coverage as a lap-by-lap announcer. After 15 years as a pit reporter, he was bumped up by CBS Sports to a lap-by-lap announcer alongside Ken Squier. He continued to work with CBS until 2000, when they lost the rights to televise NASCAR racing.
He didn't just announce NASCAR races while working for CBS. Joy also worked with Formula One, IRL, NCAA, CART, and even dabbled in sports outside of racing, including college football and the Winter Olympics.
For the 2001 season, Mike Joy came on board with Fox Sports full time to announce NASCAR. He worked alongside Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds on the fox NASCAR broadcast team. They spent 15 years together in the booth, making them the longest-lasting trio of announcers in U.S. network sports history. McReynolds retired at this time, and former motorsports champion/color analyst Jeff Gordon came on to replace him. Waltrip also went on to retire in 2019.
Joy, who lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with his wife Gaye, does actually take a four-week break from racing each year, but it's not to lay out in the sun and sip tiny umbrella cocktails. During this time, Joy actually serves as an expert analyst for collector car auctions at Barrett Jackson. Clearly, the man is a total car nut!
He's Earned Several Accolades for His Work
Back in 2000, Joy was inducted into the Riverside Park Speedway's Hall of Fame, and in 2019, he was also inducted into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame.
Mike used to be the vice president of National Motorsports Press Association, and today, he still continues on as a member of the organization. He's also a charter member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel, as well as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame. In 2013, he was named the sole media representative for the nominating process.
He was voted the recipient of the Henry T. McLemore Award in 2011. This meaningful award celebrates his successful career in motorsports journalism, and it's voted by previous winners. His plaque is featured in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame hallway. In January 2023, Joy was inducted into the Eastern Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame.
As it turns out, Joy hasn't just called races from the behind the booth, but also has some experience from behind the wheel of a race car. His chief passion on that front is sports car racing, and he's won races at Lime Rock, Pocono, Watkins Glen, and New Hampshire. He's competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the famous endurance race, and he's also an award-winning driver in the Historic Trans-Am Series, having won the Bonham's Cup in 2012 and a race at Lime Rock in 2013. Simply put, the man is an absolute legend.
MORE: 5 Drivers Who Will Defy Expectations at the Daytona 500
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