(Lead photo by Courtney Enders) – Perhaps by now a few of you have heard that I was offered and accepted the job of being the lead play by play guy for the NHRA on FOX in 2019 and beyond. I will be working with Tony Pedregon in the booth and it is an opportunity that I never fully grasped that I’d ever be in consideration for. When I started calling drag races nearly 20 years ago all I wanted to do was to call a match race event on a Saturday night. I figured that was as far as this stuff was going to go for a guy in Epping, New Hampshire. As time rolled on, I worked hard at getting better and studying the guys who had come before me. It was a great thrill when I got that tap on the shoulder from New England Dragway track manager Joe Lombardo with the information that he wanted me to work with Mike Williams in announcing an upcoming funny car show. I had made it. I still remember that night like it was yesterday.
This whole thing started when I was a kid watching TV with my dad on the weekends. As the well worn story has been told, American Sports Cavalcade was high on the Lohnes TV priority list each week (unless it was rodeo stuff) because it was about racing and it was entertaining as hell with guys like Steve Evans and Brock Yates making the call on drag racing, swamp buggies, big rig oval racing, stock car competition, and sprint cars. This was the stuff we’d tune into and the stuff that ultimately got me hooked onto motorsports. My dad had gotten me hooked on cars way early as he restored a 1964 GTO (he still has it) when I was small enough to stand in the truck and shovel the blasting sand out.
There was something about those guys on TV that made me watch and listen and want to know more and more. But there’s a plot twist here.
All I wanted to do was write for car magazines.
That was my goal as a kid. Not to be a TV guy or to be someone who was shooting off at the mouth, I wanted to be shooting off at the pen. That was inspired by knowing that the Boston Globe newspaper had an automotive section and that someone by me actually wrote it. Then all of a sudden this whole writing about cars thing was not so far fetched. Ultimately it was Hot Rod magazine that I set my sights on. I’d actually achieve that goal in 2005 after the first drag week. Rob Kinnan assigned me a story about Drag Week competitor Brian Rock’s GTO. It was not my first magazine story but it was my first Hot Rod story and it was life changing, mentally.
I read that story on the airplane on the way to the first national event I would ever announce as a true staff member, the IHRA Rockingham event in early 2006. The year before, the IHRA tour had come though Epping and they threw the hook out for me. I bit and my life’s true adventure started.
2008 saw the creation of BangShift out of the ashes of the failed CarJunkieTV website that was video heavy about 10 years before that was the fashion. I was a “news blogger” along with others in that venture. The site ran out of money in August and I submitted items daily to Freiburger until October to make it seem like the thing was alive. I did not make a nickel but I knew that there was something good about the spark that site created. We started Freiburger’s Junkyard after that and then David got his job back with Hot Rod and both Chad and I named the site BangShift.com.
It is important to realize that I worked full time jobs through all of this. The magazine stuff, the IHRA stuff, the creation of BangShift, and the regional announcing/video work I was doing. I worked firstly as a truck driver and then a route manager of other drivers and then an operations manager of a facility and then as an ops guy for another company. I had sympathetic bosses who would let me take double the vacation time I actually had. A wife who did not lock me down and make me give it up, as well as concerned parents who thought I was a lunatic that just needed to stop. I couldn’t.
On 11/11/2011 my normal job told me that I should be proud to be promoted to run a regional facility and that my commute would be like 65 miles one way each day. By 2011 BangShift had grown into a business with actual legs. It was a thing with a future and with full-time devotion would come a full-time paycheck. Nothing I was doing at the time made enough money to cover quitting my job, but I took the severance and left. 2012, 2013 and 2014 would be a test. Money was guitar string tight, I woke up every day freaking out that I’d fail my family. I was running a delivery truck for my dad, writing BangShift, announcing Saturday-Sunday at New England Dragway, freelancing for magazines, and trying to make it all work. I had given up on IHRA announcing after the 2011 season as the series was not really fun to be in anymore. I had made myself OK with the thought of calling that the peak of my career. It was and I was happy to have had as many seasons there as I had.
In 2012 Steve Gibbs came to New England Dragway after the track switched to NHRA sanction to lay out the pits for the 2013 New England Hot Rod Reunion. It was a divisional weekend. He heard me announce and asked me to call his race in Bowling Green, Kentucky the following year. I did. I met Bob Frey there at that race. The first ever NHRA national event at Epping was the following weekend. Frey called NHRA and got me a tryout. I screamed about Super Gas and Super Comp.
I slept in the car at that event because we were so tight on bucks I did not want to pay for gas driving back and forth a couple days in a row.
And then? Crickets. I spent months trying to figure out how I had screwed it up.
SEMA came, I ran into an NHRA guy and he said, “We need to talk about 2014.”
I announced the 2014 NHRA GatorNationals as my first race actually wearing the oval on my chest. Like that Saturday match race as a kid, it was not going to get any better than that. 2015 I did 17 races, 2016/17/18 I have done the full pull. Along the way I have done NMRA/NMCA, DuckX, Diesel Power Challenge, match race events, and other stuff. I went headfirst into the pool because I love this sport with all my guts and I love the culture of it even more.
Doing what I do for TV both in and outside of drag racing I had hoped to build a background and resume to keep my career relevant and progressing. I have never once angled for a job, lobbied for a job, or tugged on anyone’s pants for an opportunity. I am old school in the sense that you either get recognized for being good or you don’t. Thankfully my work has paid off.
As for BangShift, I am not going anywhere. NHRA has been gracious to allow me the outside work I do apart them to continue. I still like telling stories here and I still like being the co-owner and founder of a blog that really helped to reshape the way that the high performance industry looks at this stuff.
Lastly, I am going to ask everyone out there in BangShift land to give us a shot next year. I’ll certainly annoy you with drag racing stuff before that but when it comes time to fire up the cameras at Pomona, I’m going to beg you to give it a look.
I am thankful for all of my friends, for all of my family, and for all of you who read this website or watch whatever junk I am on next. I hope you all have an awesome Thanksgiving week. I’ll be over here figuring out what the hell just happened. I can honestly say that I never saw it coming.