FOX Sports takes a unique approach to the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule by putting two guest analysts in the booth with Adam Alexander. The ever-changing cast could create potential chemistry issues, but the veteran play-by-play man embraces how the lineup keeps him on his toes.
Alexander has been the anchor of FS1’s Xfinity Series coverage since its return in 2015. He started with Michael Waltrip and a rotating third chair, but the situation has since changed. Alexander is the mainstay in the booth while guests such as Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez, Coleman Pressley, and many others provide commentary.
“For me, it’s been great because it keeps you on your toes and it keeps you on edge,” Alexander told Heavy ahead of the trip to Richmond Raceway. “I think new and fresh is always good to help you reinvent yourself, and so it’s kept me fresh on a weekly basis more so than it would if I were working with the same two guys. What you lose in chemistry and continuity, you gain in that spontaneity, and I think it has helped me personally loosen the reins in my approach to a broadcast which I think has helped make it more fun and entertaining.”
ALL the latest NASCAR news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on NASCAR newsletter here!
Adapting to the changes is no simple matter. It certainly took some time to build up chemistry. Fortunately, Alexander has a long history of taking on various roles, which only helped him on his path to the booth. He worked in radio, spent time as a pit reporter, covered the Indy 500, and did play-by-play for college basketball games. He also co-hosts “NASCAR Race Hub” with Shannon Spake and Kaitlyn Vincie.
“For me, the key to growth in anything is having a real appreciation and a big picture outlook on the entirety of the team,” Alexander said. “And I worked in radio for years doing play-by-play, I worked in local television. I’ve worked in the smaller markets where you’re shooting the video and you’re editing the video and then you’re going out and you’re delivering the message on television.
“So when you put all of that together, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good perspective on the entirety of the group. And when you have that perspective, it helps you as you take the various steps to incorporate others and appreciate where they come from and understand the importance of that angle of the story. So there’s no doubt in my mind — when I look at the history of my career and the steps I’ve taken and the opportunities I’ve had in the various roles I’ve played — it helps me now to see a bigger picture in the role I’m in to hopefully satisfy the needs of everybody and, in particular, the viewer to get to all the stories out there.”
Alexander Has Quickly Adapted to Unexpected Moments
Since Alexander started working with a variety of guest analysts, he has learned to quickly adapt to the moments that he may not have expected. He has kept the broadcast moving during snowstorms, fistfights, and seemingly random comments from his co-hosts.
“The big thing is just listening to the people you’re with, and that’s a skill that sometimes can be difficult to hone when you’re in my position,” Alexander said. “Because there is a lot of traffic and you’ve got stats people up there that are feeding information, and you’ve got a producer in your ear and a director in your ear.
“You’re trying to take everything in and then at the same time keep it conversational and react to the guys that you’re with. I think the key component — what you’re talking about — is just being a good listener and then trying to help articulate off of what the guys are saying and connect the dots between the two of them and the audience as well.”
The Xfinity Series race at Circuit of the Americas was the perfect example. The FS1 broadcast showed a special graphic featuring FOX Sports personalities’ heads on “Star Trek” characters. Logano, whose head was on Spock’s body, made a comment about how the graphic needed Blaney “because he’s the ‘Star Wars’ guy.” The 2018 Cup Series champion then acknowledged that he had never seen either franchise.
Alexander and Busch were able to have some fun at Logano’s expense and tease him about both his lack of science fiction and general sports knowledge. The driver of the No. 22 took the ribbing good-naturedly, which only made the broadcast better. There was no tension between Alexander, Busch, or Logano that became a talking point on Twitter.
“When [guests] come in our TV booth, the respect that they show to me and everybody else on our team is over the top,” Alexander said. “That has helped all of us forge tremendous relationships when we’re not on TV, and it is that chemistry behind the scenes that allows you to deliver when you’re on TV and that has made my job much easier. And they have allowed me to be who I am.
“And I appreciate, in particular, one guy that comes to mind is Ryan Blaney. I think Bubba [Wallace] has been really good at this the few times he’s been up there of giving me a hard time and just understanding that what we’re here for is to have fun. And I think that those relationships have grown, and the reason those relationships have been able to grow is that when those guys come to the booth, they don’t have an ego.”
Focusing on What Really Matters
As the one constant in the FS1 booth, Alexander could easily focus on himself. He could just take over the broadcast and make his guests less of a focus. However, he takes the opposite approach. Alexander remains the consummate professional while teeing up Logano, Blaney, Busch, and all of the other guests.
“I’ve always believed that as a play-by-play person or as a host, it should never be about you,” Alexander added. “That’s just a universal philosophy that I have always carried. And I have it, whether I’m doing an event or if I’m watching an event as a fan.
“And when you have the two guys that are with me every week regardless — and you’ve mentioned some of the names — no matter who they are, they are always going to be way higher up on the scale of importance than I am. And so it makes it very easy for me to just kind of take a backseat and watch them do their thing and just get them from point A to point B.”
Alexander will continue to use this approach at Richmond Raceway, Martinsville Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, and the remaining Xfinity Series races on the FS1 schedule. The trip to Alabama stands out due to the atmosphere and all of the circumstances surrounding the race weekend, but Alexander particularly appreciates the prospect of surprising outcomes.
“The one thing that we have at FOX that is incredibly intriguing — and we’ve seen it through the first six weeks of the year already — that is that no two races really are the same. We went through this era of cookie-cutter racetracks, and we’ve kind of distanced ourselves from that.
“I think NASCAR has done an unbelievable job with the scheduling, and we’re seeing that with a tremendous parity in all the series right now. So each week is its own entity, and I look forward to all of them and the unknowns that each of them brings.”