Since winning NASCAR rights for the first time in 2001, the trio of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds has been in the broadcast booth for Fox Sports.  The three have seen NASCAR ride the roller coaster of national popularity and called some of the most tragic and most memorable moments in the history of the sport.

For the 2016 season, Fox will make their first change in the broadcast booth.  McReynolds will move to the studio with host Chris Myers and analyst Michael Waltrip to make way for a new analyst.

Jeff Gordon.

The four time champ will move straight from the cockpit to the broadcast booth to join Joy and Darrell Waltrip when he retires from racing after this season.

Here’s the announcement from Fox Sports:

Jeff Gordon, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion credited with helping take the sport mainstream, joins FOX NASCAR fulltime in 2016 as race analyst for its 16th year of NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES coverage, teaming with three-time champion Darrell Waltrip to offer seven championships’ worth of expertise.

Gordon, currently competing in his 23rd and final fulltime Sprint Cup Series season, served as race analyst for FOX Sports’ coverage of three NASCAR XFINITY SERIES races this year. He has agreed to a multi-year contract that begins this season with in- race reporting from the No. 24 Chevrolet during select Cup Series races, and segues to an analyst role that commences with Daytona Speedweeks in February 2016.

“NASCAR has provided me so many incredible memories, experiences and opportunities throughout my 23 years as a driver, and I can’t wait to start a new chapter in racing with this new relationship with FOX and to be in the booth with Mike (Joy) and Darrell,” said Gordon. “I feel so lucky to be a part of a sport that I’m very passionate about, and now I get the opportunity to share that passion to millions of race fans from a whole new perspective.”

Gordon will call all NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES races, practice and qualifying sessions for FOX Sports alongside play-by-play announcer Mike Joy and NASCAR Hall of Famer and analyst Darrell Waltrip. Chris Myers hosts the network’s coverage alongside analysts Larry McReynolds and Michael Waltrip.

Gordon is one of the two or three biggest names in the sport today and one of the most successful drivers in the history of NASCAR.  His hire is certainly a coup for Fox Sports.  (For what it’s worth, Gordon’s former crew chief Steve Letarte will be working for NBC on their coverage of NASCAR.)  How Gordon connects with the NASCAR fanbase as an announcer given the love-hate relationship diehard NASCAR fans have had with him over the years will certainly be a storyline worth watching, as will his chemistry with Waltrip in the booth.

With Gordon stepping in, it is worth paying tribute to the trio of Joy, Waltrip, and McReynolds and their incomparable run of 15 years together in the broadcast booth.  For me as a casual NASCAR fan, they symbolized everything that was right about the sport and as far as chemistry, likability, and what they’ve contributed to their sport, I’m not sure there’s a broadcasting trio across sports that has been their equal over that timespan.

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