Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: The Talent of Talking NASCAR

“And… green flag!”

It’s the voice that echoes over the grandstands or across your living room. They are the people that tell the story unfolding before your eyes. Sometimes they’re witty, knowledgeable and hopefully entertaining. They are the commentators.

As a writer, and therefore an observer of humanity, I stand in awe of anybody capable of speaking non-stop for hours on end. I often lose an hour or two laboring over a sentence or a paragraph. Each word written is given grudgingly. So, I am left wondering, just how do they do it? Where do they store a seemingly endless warehouse of quips, notes and exclamations?

Most of the time, we can all admit, there is a prepared script available for the current commentator. But when the “he’s sliding up the track” bit has been used 20 times in the past 10 minutes, what do they do then? Ah, this, boys and girls, is where we separate the professionals from the interns. I thought I’d review some of my favorite witticisms from those that have helped to liven up my Sunday afternoons — both good and downright silly.

1.) “Boogity Boogity Boogity” This, by far, has got to be at the top of everybody’s love/hate list. I seem to sit on the pinnacle, teetering back and forth. I both admire Darrell Waltrip’s obvious passion for the sport and cringe when his hillbilly ways go just a little haywire.

2.) “Let me ‘splain” OK, Larry Mac. You’ve got the smarts. You’ve got the experience. And you have that familiar twang that I lovingly associate with real down-home NASCAR. But seriously, do you have to help DW in destroying the language we all spent years in school mastering?

3.) “Well, golly!” When I heard those words spoken just after a bit of beatin’ and bangin’, I knew who was in the booth… Allen Bestwick. I miss him. One thing came through loud and clear when Allen called a race, he loves this stuff. It makes him silly with laughter. Some may call him a goofball, I just liked having him around.

4.) “I’ll tell you what…” Several drivers have made the transition from cockpit to booth over the decades. Some manage the change with class — remember Ned Jarrett? Others, well… Rusty Wallace only does one thing to my nerves when he’s taken over that mic, and it’s not good.

5.) “And Sideways Sam is into Jimmie Johnson!” If there’s one guy out there who’s the king of nicknames, it’s Mike Joy. I’m always listening for the next driver about to fall victim to Mike’s wit.

6.) “And he’s in a separate solar system!” I want to take a moment and thank the guys down at Thompson International Speedway. Every year I attend the Icebreaker and each spring I leave the track thinking what a good time I had listening to Matt Buckler, Russ Dowd and Joe Coss call the races. “He’s stuck to his bumper like a refrigerator magnet.” Good stuff, guys, good stuff.

There are many others out there that I hold in high esteem. Dick Berggren and Dr. Jerry Punch both maintain their own special personas down on pit road. Without falling into a collection of predictable colloquialisms, their knowledge outshines many that stand around them.

Often we can forget the show we’ve tuned to on Sunday afternoon is just that… a show. The sport can stand on its own as far as sheer entertainment goes, but there is no doubt in my mind that our enjoyment of the day is increased when we share the moment with a narrator. As the engines reach their monotonous drone, it is the commentators’ excitement, his knowledge and creative words that raises the moment from high-speed tedium to an enthralling story unfolding before our eyes.

So, the next time you turn on that radio, TV or are just watching the drivers have at it on your local bullring, take a moment and listen. Maybe that voice is making you laugh or making you cringe, but after the second hour has passed, you gotta admit, there’s an awful lot of passion keeping you informed.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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