Larry McReynolds still has job insecurity.
The admission comes as McReynolds sits comfortably in an interview room with me at Michigan International Speedway. An admission that is surprising not only because McReynolds has been a NASCAR on Fox analyst for 18 years now, but his intelligence and passion are what makes him a standout on the broadcast each week.
“Even though I work hard, I know that’s not all of it,” McReynolds says. “I have to stay relevant, and that’s a challenge when you’re not working for a race team. I get a little upset sometimes; I even get my feelings hurt a little bit, I even get mad when I hear people talk about my shelf life. It’s like, what do you mean?
“I’m staying as [relevant] as I feel like a broadcaster can stay outside if I just went back and worked for a race team. I don’t know that there’s a day that goes by that I’m not doing something that is staying [relevant] to Fox, even after we finish up our season.”
McReynolds has risen to the challenge and has become one of the best of the Fox crew. It’s probably because going into a race weekend, McReynolds prepares with a crew chief mindset. With the conclusion of one race, he’s quickly beginning notes for the next. Picking out the stats is easy, so McReynolds focuses on what the drivers are saying by watching NASCAR programming during the week or paying close attention to who the guest is on his radio show.
During the week, McReynolds makes occasional appearances on the Fox Sports 1 show Race Hub, and he also co-hosts a SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show on Tuesday nights. When he has a chance to visit a race shop, he takes the opportunity. On race weekends when McReynolds is not in the booth, he is in the garage talking to crew chiefs.
Between his previous experience atop the pit box and the time McReynolds spends in the garage, he’s fully prepared for a race broadcast. Ready to pull from the information he’s gathered about the feeling in the garage and when the race starts to play out, McReynolds is confident he can forecast different scenarios and their outcomes.
“I didn’t get to go in there long [Friday morning at Michigan], but I went in there just for 30 minutes before I had to go to a production meeting,” he explained. “I knew we only had an hour practice before qualifying [and] I knew we got a little bit of forecast for rain, so I kind of knew what people were going to tell me, but I wanted to go in there and confirm that probably a lot of teams were going to focus on qualifying only. But a lot of teams were nervous about the forecast tomorrow and they were going to make one race run, and flip over to qualifying.
“It’s just like … at Pocono. I knew with the package that we had there, which was our conventional package, but the way that the stages were laid out that strategy was absolutely going to be all over the place. I stood there at the gate with the crews and walked in Sunday morning because I wanted to talk to as many different crew chiefs from as many different organizations as I could just to get a feel if I saw a trend and pattern. No question that helped me go in that booth Sunday and forecast what we were going to probably see.
“To me, that’s what makes a really good analyst, and Fox has taught me since day one a good analyst can talk about what just happened, a really good analyst can forecast what is going to happen, and that’s one thing I really during the races pride myself in.”
McReynolds lays out the tools at his disposal during a broadcast, strengthening the notion of why he’s so good. Although his philosophy is less (talking) is more, McReynolds can open his mic and jump in whenever he wants. His main monitor also serves as his telestrator. Then there is the scoring monitor that provides McReynolds with a plethora of information – battles for positions, fastest lap a driver has run, the last lap, what lap a driver pitted on, when he ran his fastest lap.
“Then I have another monitor that I can look at probably 50 different things, but I really keep it mainly during the race on a pit stop matrix,” McReynolds said. “It shows me every driver in the order they’re running at that particular time, every pit stop they made, if it was under green, if it was under yellow, what they did on the pit stop, what their pit road time was and what their stop time was and if they had a penalty on that stop. It’s a lot of information but I live a lot by that monitor.”
And if you’re curious, as I was, how McReynolds can pick up on the little things that happen during a race, he’s got a monitor — the eagle system — and a right-hand man to help.
For instance, McReynolds and Steve Shaw were able to key in on a recent Martin Truex Jr. pit stop where a tire rolled, hit the tire changer’s foot and then fell over and loosened the jack handle. Or the gas man for Joey Logano’s team not getting the car full of fuel because he had backed away to let the tire changer go around him.
“He [Shaw] can go back and look at pit stops in slow motion and rewind and wind it back again and he’ll simply get my attention,” McReynolds said. “I would say three out of five times he brings something to my attention I’ll look at it, I’ll hit Barry Landis, our producer” and it gets aired.
To hear the full interview with Larry McReynolds listen to the podcast below.