BIOS for NASCAR Media people -
NOTE - Many color commentators are past drivers or crew chiefs. Where this applies is notated with a ##
DICK BERGGREN - 5/27/1942 - a motorsports announcer and magazine editor from Manchester, Connecticut in the United States. He is commonly seen wearing a trademark flat cap. Berggren began racing in 1967 and won 26 events before his driving career ended in 1981. He raced SuperModifieds, Modifieds, stock cars, and sprint cars. He stopped racing after his race car climbed a dirt bank at Boone Speedway, causing over 200 people to scatter to avoid being hit. Dr. Berggren wrote for local newspapers early in his career. He worked for Stock Car Racing magazine while he taught at Emmanuel College and raced on the weekends. He later became the magazine's editor. After 22 years with the magazine, he left in 1999 to start Speedway Illustrated. Berggren began his announcing career at Arundel Speedway in Maine. He has announced in many genres of motorsports over the course of his career. He announced the 1979 Daytona 500 for the Motor Racing Network radio network. He began his television career at NASCAR races in 1981 as a pit road reporter for ESPN. He has announced for NASCAR races at CBS, TBS, and TNN. He has worked the pits for the Busch Series (now the Nationwide Series), and Craftsman Truck Series (now the Camping World Truck Series), as well as the World of Outlaws sprint cars. Berggren was the lead pit reporter for NASCAR on Fox from 2001-2012. He covered events in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series from Daytona to Dover. In May 2012, Berggren announced he would retire after Fox's broadcast of the 2012 FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway. Afterward he commented, "After the Fox portion of the year ends, I've always traveled to local tracks where I still enjoy sitting in the stands with a hot dog in one hand and a beer in the other, watching the local heroes. I can’t get enough of local-level racing so I'll do more of that now." However, Berggren did return to CBS (where he had previously worked until 2000) for a limited schedule of pit reporting ARCA telecasts during the 2014 season. Berggren ended up working the three races for which CBS held the broadcast rights. Berggren was well liked among his peers who lovingly called him "Dr Dirt"; (as in he has been around as long as dirt) and always kidded him on air about being old. Dr. Berggren was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2002. He was inducted in the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 2008. Berggren received the 2007 Bobby Isaac Memorial Award for his outstanding contributions to short track racing.
ALLEN BESTWICK - 9/24/1961 - an American sportscaster who is currently working for ESPN. He is the network's lead commentator for NASCAR races televised by ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC, a position he has held since 2011, as well as the lead commentator for ABC's coverage of the IndyCar Series which he took over in 2014. Bestwick has been with the network since 2007, serving as its lead pit reporter and then host of NASCAR Countdown from 2008-10. Prior to this, he was best known for being NBC's lead NASCAR voice as well as Turner Sports' lead voice. Bestwick's broadcasting career began at the age of 15, when he did on-air work for the high school radio station. In 1986 Bestwick joined Motor Racing Network (MRN) as a race reporter and eventually became co-lead announcer with Joe Moore and Barney Hall. While still employed at MRN, Bestwick took over for Ken Squier as TBS' lead NASCAR commentator for its abbreviated schedule. Bestwick joined NBC in 1999 as its lap-by-lap commentator for its lone race, the Pennzoil 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. When NBC acquired rights to the second half of the NASCAR season, Bestwick was joined by Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach, Jr. as the network's full-time broadcast team. Bestwick also continued to work for Turner Sports, as TNT served as NBC's broadcast partner on cable. In 2005, Bestwick and Bill Weber switched positions on the broadcast. Bestwick took Weber's position as lead pit reporter while Weber, who had substituted for Bestwick for two races in 2004 as he recuperated from a broken leg, moved to the booth. After NBC lost rights to NASCAR following the 2006 season, Bestwick elected to not stay with TNT as part of its six-race summer broadcast package and moved to ESPN. For 2007, Bestwick joined the NASCAR on ESPN package as lead pit reporter, as well as occasionally being race coverage host on Nationwide Series races, and rare NASCAR Now hosting duties. In 2008, he was moved up to full-time race coverage host and hosts a weekly Monday roundtable edition of NASCAR Now. On July 20, 2011, it was announced that Bestwick would replace Marty Reid for the 17 Sprint Cup races hosted by ESPN alongside Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Nicole Briscoe would replace him as host of NASCAR Countdown alongside Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Bestwick replaced Marty Reid as play-by-play announcer for the Sprint Cup Series races starting at the Brickyard 400, returning him to the position for the first time since 2004. Bestwick also called the Nationwide Series for the remainder of the 2013 season after Reid was fired from ESPN. With the end of ESPN's NASCAR coverage after the 2014 season, Bestwick became the lead announcer for ESPN's broadcasts of IndyCar races for ABC beginning in 2014, also replacing Reid. Bestwick also branched out into other sports for ESPN, including college football.
NEIL BONNETT ## - 7/30/1946 - 2/11/1994 - after a successful career in the NASCAR series and winning 18 races; Bonnett was sidelined during his second stint with the Wood Brothers in 1990 after a crash at Darlington, SC in the spring of that year left him with cracked ribs, a broken sternum, and amnesia. When he was finally released from the hospital, he returned home to a family he did not recognize, referring to wife Susan as “that woman,” and having to be introduced to his own children. It was a hellish few months for the family as gradually bits and pieces of his life returned to memory and the racing world watched and worried. With all the doctors agreeing on the fact that racing was out of the question, this man who loved it so, stayed close to his sport by becoming a race commentator for CBS and TNN, and fans immediately took to his down-home descriptions of all things racing. “Tight is when you see the wall before you hit it. Loose is when you don’t get to see the wreck.” As biased as some race fans can be, I don’t think there was a single one who didn’t love Neil Bonnett. He just had that friendly, neighborly way about him, on the TV screen and in real life. So popular was he that TNN gave him his own show called “Winners”, where a dressed down Neil interviewed racing personalities from every venue of the sport, from his own living room. The fans were happy, and we all hoped that Neil was too, but that love of racing was still in his heart and he longed to go back to it. In 1993, he finally got medical clearance to get behind the wheel again, and spent time testing for Richard Childress racing, on the recommendation of his best friend and fishing partner, Dale Earnhardt, who raced for Childress. By Talladega that July, the pair convinced Richard to field a second car for Neil, the only time there were two black Goodwrench Chevrolets in a race. Bonnett wound up flying into the catch fence in a frightening imitation of Bobby Allison’s crash in 1987. Not in the least discouraged, Neil found a sponsor in Country Time Lemonade for a limited run in 1994, and prepared to go racing in his own #51. On February 11 of 1994, word came from the speedway that Neil had been injured in a practice crash, and then the racing world received the news that Neil had died in the wreck. Ironically, it happened in the same fourth turn that seven years later would claim the life of his best friend. Twice in the season just past, Neil had used his “Winners” program to eulogize a fellow racer, those drivers of course being Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison. The week after Neil’s death, TNN ran a final episode of “Winners”, dedicated solely to Neil and his great impact on the sport of auto racing. So moved was his best friend Dale, that a full two years later, when asked by some witless reporter if he still missed his Buddy, he replied, “Hell yes! I still can’t even go fishing in my own pond.”
STEVE BYRNES - 4/14/1959 - 4/21/2015 - an American television announcer and producer from New Carrollton, Maryland. He graduated from the University of Maryland. Afterward, he began his television career as a sports producer where he covered several NFL teams. In 1985, he began producing and hosting NASCAR segments. As of 2015 he was working for Fox Sports 1. He began his television career shortly after graduating college. He was first hired as a weekend sports producer where he covered the Washington Redskins, Washington Bullets, Maryland, Georgetown, the Baltimore Orioles, and other sports. While employed there he was a sports reporter and weekend anchor for the NBC affiliate until January 1985. Afterward, Sunbelt Video hired him, in which he hosted a NASCAR newsmagazine with Ned Jarrett, which marked the beginning of producing and hosting NASCAR segments. He has also announced what was happening on pit road for World Sports Enterprises. Some stations that he has done shows on include WTBS, TNN (now Spike), and CBS. In 2006, Byrnes was given an extra assignment as one of the network's available play-by-play broadcasters for Fox's NFL broadcasts, joining Bill Maas for selected games when Fox had seven or eight games in a given week. Byrnes also served as a fill-in studio host and lap-by-lap announcer for NASCAR on Fox. Currently Byrnes is on indefinite medical leave from his position after being diagnosed for head and neck cancer. He was previously diagnosed and treated for the same cancer in 2013, but unfortunately it returned. On October 9, 2014 Fox Sports announced that he had decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from work in order to focus on his treatment. On April 10, 2015, it was announced that, in coordination with Bristol Motor Speedway, Fox, and Stand Up to Cancer, the 2015 Food City 500 would be renamed the "Food City 500 In Support Of Steve Byrnes And Stand Up To Cancer"; the race would feature tributes to his legacy as a NASCAR broadcaster, along with his 56th birthday, which fell during the week prior to the race. Two days after the tribute race, Byrnes died early on April 21, 2015 of complications from his cancer in Fort Mill, South Carolina, and was survived by his wife Karen and son Bryson.
DAVE DESPAIN - 5/20/1946 - an American motor sports journalist. He is formerly the host of WindTunnel with Dave Despain on Speed Channel, and Inside Nextel Cup, until the former was cancelled during the demise of Speed and the latter underwent a format change at the beginning of the 2008 NASCAR Season. A native of Fairfield, Iowa, Despain worked for a time at KMCD-AM, the local radio station. Eventually he worked in all phases of KMCD's programming, and became known for a unique broadcasting style in which he vigorously nodded and bobbed his head while speaking. Despain, a former motorcycle racer, later joined the American Motorcycle Association in the public-relations department. One day in the 1970s, producers of ABC's Wide World of Sports asked him to appear on camera for its coverage of a prestigious bike race at Daytona International Speedway. Despain agreed, and a new career was launched. Throughout the 1980s and '90s, Despain was a pit reporter for both motorcycle and NASCAR races on WTBS and CBS. He then moved to ESPN as host of its pre-race show, NASCAR 2Day. His final appearance on 12 November 2000, is still fondly remembered by both fans and critics. After that race, ESPN stopped carrying NASCAR races after being outbid for a new contract. Despain joined Speed Channel in 2000 (then known as Speedvision). For some time Despain was one of several anchors of Speed News, Speed's racing newscast broadcast every weekend. In 2003, WindTunnel with Dave Despain debuted, which saw Despain preside over an hour racing-centric call-in show. Wind Tunnel ran from 2003 until 2013, when it was cancelled during Speed Channel's transition to Fox Sports 1. Despain became host of NASCAR Inside Nextel Cup in 2005, replacing the panel show's longtime host Allen Bestwick. Despain hosted the series until its cancellation in 2008, when it was replaced by This Week in NASCAR. Dave Despain hosts a series of specials called Dave Despain On Assignment that has documented the history of the Daytona Beach course and Daytona International Speedway, and the Talladega Superspeedway. On December 14th, 2013 Despain announced on Twitter that he will be moving to MAVTV in 2014. His first event with the network will be the Chili Bowl on January 18th. Despain will provide color commentary during races held on the channel and host a show called The Dave Despain Show.
CHRIS ECONOMAKI - 10/15/1920 - 9/28/2012 - was an American motorsports commentator, pit road reporter, and journalist. Economaki was given the title "The Dean of American Motorsports." Economaki was born in Brooklyn, New York. Economaki’s father was a Greek immigrant and his mother a great-niece of Robert E. Lee. He saw his first race at age 9 at the board track in Atlantic City. He was immediately hooked on the sport. He once attempted driving a midget car at a cinder track in Pennsylvania. "It wasn’t for me," says Economaki. "It was a really frightening experience. That was the first and last time I drove in competition." Economaki began his career in auto racing journalism at age 13 selling copies of National Speed Sport News newspapers. He wrote his first column at age 14 for the National Auto Racing News. Economaki became the editor of the National Speed Sport News in 1950. He began writing a column called "The Editor’s Notebook", which he continued to write over fifty years later. He eventually became owner, publisher, and editor of the National Speed Sport News. His daughter Corinne Economaki took over as the publisher until the final issue of National Speed Sport News was published, on March 23, 2011. He co-authored an autobiography called Let 'Em All Go: The Story of Auto Racing by the Man who was there. In the inaugural World 600 in 1960, Don O'Dell's Pontiac smashed the driver's door of Lenny Page's Chevy. Lenny Page, who was lucky to even survive the crash due to the safety systems at that time, was near death afterwards, but Economaki rushed to the scene and aided Page until safety crews arrived. He was later credited with saving Lenny's life. Economaki began as track announcer at a number of major races in the 1940s and 1950s. He is responsible for introducing millions of Americans to auto racing as an expert TV commentator. He began at the July 4, 1961 running of the Firecracker 250 NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway for ABC Sports. He covered most ABC Wide World of Sports motorsports events, including several Indianapolis 500s, Daytona 500s, Formula One Grand Prix races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, etc. He would also cover Wide World's less glamorous motorsports assignments, such as demolition derbies. After 23 years he switched to CBS Sports. He covered International Race of Champions (IROC) events, Daytona 500s, and Formula One Grand Prix events. He covered several types of autoracing, including sprint cars, Championship Cars, stock cars, drag racers, and CanAm cars. From 1995 until 2008, Economaki was a part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network coverage of the Indianapolis 500, working as a color commentator. Economaki received numerous major awards. He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994. He was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1993. He was awarded the 1990 NASCAR Award of Excellence, and the NASCAR Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. Chris Economaki became the prototype for all radio and television journalists in his sport. His depth of knowledge and skilled questioning made network execs understand that auto racing needed specialists to properly cover the sport. Chris opened the door for a whole generation of voices you hear today. Edsel B. Ford II of Ford Racing, called Economaki "an icon of the sport of auto racing and a familiar, knowledgeable face and voice to millions of race fans around the world. His influence on the growth of auto racing in the United States cannot be underestimated."
ELI GOLD - 12/15/1953 - an American sportscaster. Gold is best known as the radio voice for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, along with Tom Roberts, as part of the Crimson Tide Sports Network since 1988. He has also been the host of NASCAR Live on the Motor Racing Network since 1982. He formerly called play-by-play for Arena Football League's coverage on TNN and NBC and currently calls college football and NFL games for Sports USA Radio Network. He began his career in 1972 working as a weekend sports reporter with the Mutual Broadcasting System. In 1976, Gold became a member of the NASCAR’s Motor Racing network, which gives over 600 stations the broadcast of the NASCAR races. Eli had many different jobs in the station, including co-anchor, turn announcer and pit reporter. Since 1982, Gold has broadcast the show “NASCAR Live” and it is a weekly show that is heard all over the United States. During the 1996 NASCAR season, Gold was the anchorman for the Nashville Network, a televised show that broadcast NASCAR racing. He also worked with ESPN, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and SETN in all of their coverage of NASCAR racing. According to NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace who also broadcasts NASCAR themed shows on SPEED Channel and St. Louis radio station KMOX-AM, Gold "is one of the most recognizable voices in NASCAR and in all of sports broadcasting."
BARNEY HALL - an American sports commentator for Motor Racing Network, formerly calling NASCAR races. Hall has commentated races for over 50 years. Hall is considered as one of the best NASCAR commentators of all-time, and MRN director David Hyatt stated, "Motor Racing Network is ‘The Voice of NASCAR’ and Barney Hall is the voice of MRN." The 82-year-old Hall has been in the radio business for more than 60 years, starting with a stint with Armed Forces Radio in Okinawa, Japan. Hall's career started in the 1950s working for local radio stations in Elkin, North Carolina, and is the first person to work on the public address system at Bristol Motor Speedway, which was stated as "dumb luck". When Motor Racing Network started in 1970, Hall became a turn announcer, before becoming a booth announcer. Hall has commentated all but three Daytona 500s in his career, and in the 1979 edition, Hall introduced his catchphrase, "flag-to-flag coverage of The Great American Race." In 2007, he was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Hall of Fame. On May 23, 2012, the NASCAR Hall of Fame announced the creation of the Squier-Hall Award for Media Excellence, named for Hall and former MRN reporter Ken Squier. On July 5, 2014, Hall, stunned fans and listeners everywhere Saturday when it was announced that the legendary Hall would call his final race in Saturday’s (rescheduled to Sunday) Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. “It really has been one heck of a ride, there’s no question about that,” Hall said. “I still enjoy doing the races. This will be 154 races at Daytona (that he’s broadcast), I guess. A long time.” Hall is an institution not just in NASCAR, but in all sports broadcasting, with a tenure rivaled by very few. The first name that comes to mind – and Hall is definitely NASCAR’s version, for sure – is legendary baseball announcer Vin Scully. Hall’s intimate relationship with listeners and NASCAR fans, many who have spent years, if not decades, listening to him and how he helped bring broadcasts to life, leaving fans with the feeling they are right there in the broadcast booth with him.
JEFF HAMMOND ## - 9/9/1956 - before broadcasting he had great success as a crew chief. He was the head wrench for the two Championships with Cale Yarborough and one with Darrell Waltrip. Hammond was also Waltrips crew chief when Waltrip won the 1989 Daytona 500. In 2001, Hammond and Waltrip were reunited once again, this time as broadcasters for Fox Sports coverage of NASCAR. Hammond works for the Speed Channel. When the series moved to Rockingham, NC, for the second race of the season, Fox unveiled a new mobile studio for NASCAR pre-race broadcasts to be used at venues where no permanent on-site studio was available. With Hammond's nickname from the past ("Hollywood"), Waltrip remarked "There's Hollywood Hammond inside the Hollywood Hotel," and the nickname stuck with the broadcast studio where he and Chris Myers broadcast the pre-race shows. He has also donned the "Sparky the Spark Plug" outfit at Texas Motor Speedway races. In 2005, he became an owner of Red Horse Racing's Craftsman Truck program, where they have won two races. Hammond has also broadcast wrestling events for TNA Wrestling, where during the organization's time where it was broadcast on Fox Sports Net, Hammond hosted an interview segment known as the "Six Points of Impact!" He has also wrestled in TNA. Hammond's position in the booth is unique. On selected qualifying shows, he will call qualifying from the broadcast booth. On selected qualifying events, he will report from pit road. During the race, he is positioned in the studio but will frequently exit the studio to demonstrate from the cutaway car, and during pit stops will analyse pit stops. Also, because of the long nature of the races, he and Chris Myers will recap the race while there is a break with the main booth (usually during caution flags). Hammond also is able to substitute for a pit reporter if necessary, which happened in 2002 when Steve Byrnes was unable to work the Dodge Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway because of an emergency situation with his wife Karen regarding her pregnancy.
NED JARRETT ## - 10/12/1932 - After a successful in the NASCAR series and retired at the young age of 34 - but even at that age he had already claim two CUP Championships (1961and 1965). In the early 1960s, Ned began a radio program on WNNC in Newton, North Carolina. His taped show was replayed and locally sponsored, in part by station owner Earl Holder, who gave Ned both a taping facility and recording studio time for a moderate rate to fill in local programming. It is believed by some that this radio station, WNNC, where Dr. Jerry Punch also began his career on the local high school radio station staff in 1965, was probably the beginning of the radio career of Ned Jarrett. Later, in 1978, Jarrett became a radio broadcaster on MRN Radio. He interviewed United States President Ronald Reagan live at the 1984 Firecracker 400 at Daytona, the race famous as Richard Petty's 200th win. Ned also hosted a daily radio program about racing on MRN Radio called "Ned Jarrett's World of Racing" until May 15, 2009, when he announced he would retire from the program. Joe Moore became the show's new host the following Monday, May 18. Jarrett also has been a television broadcaster on CBS, and ESPN, as well as a host for the original Inside NASCAR on TNN and NASCAR Tech on FSN. He called several of NASCAR's more memorable television moments. Ned called his son Dale's first victory (in his 129th race) in the 1991 Champion Spark Plug 400 at the Michigan International Speedway. Dale banged Davey Allison's fender at the finish line in what was then the closest finish in NASCAR history. Another famous moment was when he called Dale's victory at the 1993 Daytona 500, openly siding with his son on the last lap and coaching him home to victory over Dale Earnhardt. To enhance the drama of what was unfolding and Jarrett battled Earnhardt for the win the CBS race producer told the other race announcers to 'fall out'. The "Dale and Dale Show" commenced as Jarrett passed Earnhardt in the tri-oval as they took the white flag. As the leaders exited Turn 2, the CBS Sports producers came on the headsets of Ken Squier, Neil Bonnett, and Ned Jarrett, telling Ned to "call his son home". Quote: "Come on, Dale! Go, buddy, go! All right, come on! I know he's got it to the floorboard; he can't do anymore! Come on! Take 'er to the inside! Don't let 'em get on the inside of you comin' around this turn! Here he comes, Earnhardt; it's the "Dale and Dale Show" as we come off Turn 4! You know who I'm pulling for, it's Dale Jarrett. Bring her to the inside, Dale! Don't let him get down there! He's gonna make it! Dale Jarrett's gonna win the Daytona 500!!!" The next weekend at Rockingham, Ned reportedly apologized to Earnhardt for his obvious show of bias, to which an understanding Earnhardt replied, "I'm a daddy too."
MIKE JOY - 11/25/1949 - an American TV sports announcer, who currently ( as of 2015) serves as the lap-by-lap voice of Fox Sports' NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage. His color analysts are Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds. Joy has broadcast 34 Daytona 500s, NASCAR's biggest event. He also serves as FOX Sports' expert analyst for their coverage of collector car auctions and vintage auto racing events. Joy was raised in Windsor, Connecticut and began his public address work at Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts in 1970. In 1984, Joy became a pit reporter for CBS' TV coverage of the 1984 Daytona 500, working with Ken Squier and Ned Jarrett. Since CBS didn't broadcast many races, he continued to broadcast for MRN. Joy also launched The Nashville Network's NASCAR coverage in 1991, as lap-by-lap announcer, continuing through 1995, and also participated in NASCAR coverage on TBS. In 1998, CBS made Joy their lap-by-lap announcer with Ken Squier moving to studio host, where the pair worked until the end of 2000, when CBS lost the rights to televise NASCAR racing. Joy's CBS career also included college football, Formula One, CART, IRL, as well as coverage of the Winter Olympics, as well as many other events. He joined Fox Sports for three years of Formula One coverage in 1998 with Derek Bell, and moved full-time to Fox with the NASCAR TV package starting the 2001 season. FOX broadcasts the Daytona 500 and the first 13 Sprint Cup races of each NASCAR season through 2014, starting 2015 FOX will cover the first 16 races. Joy also anchors NASCAR coverage on FOX-owned cable networks FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2. Four weeks each year, Joy brings extensive knowledge of collector cars to the Barrett-Jackson auction block as lead analyst for Fox Sports's live auction coverage. His commentary mixes detailed knowledge of the cars and their specs with first-hand recall of how cars of the 50's-70's were viewed back in their day. Joy was voted the 2011 recipient of the Henry T McLemore Award. Presented since 1969, this award celebrates career excellence in motorsports journalism and is voted on by past winners. The International Motorsports Hall of Fame presents the Award at its annual induction ceremony, and the hall displays a wall of plaques honoring the winners. In March 2014, a Sporting News poll named Joy first among network television's 15 NASCAR announcers and analysts with a 93% approval rating. Joy, FOX Sports colleagues Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds earned three of the top four spots in the poll. Joy resides on Lake Norman, in North Carolina with his wife Gaye and their two children, Scott and Kaitlyn. He restores vintage MG's, and retains his New England roots as CEO and equity partner in New England Racing Fuel, Inc., distributor of Sunoco Race Fuels. An avid SCCA amateur race driver, he has won events at Lime Rock, Watkins Glen, Pocono and New Hampshire, and raced professionally in IMSA, including the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1993.