Barnstormin’: An Overnight Success Talks About How Long The Night Really Was


Barnstormin’: An Overnight Success Talks About How Long The Night Really Was

(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.


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52 thoughts on “Barnstormin’: An Overnight Success Talks About How Long The Night Really Was

  1. Grant Ligertwood

    Congratulations, Brian. It will be great to have someone with your passion and enthusiasm doing the broadcasts.

    Reply
  2. chris hardesty

    I have been following your career for some time Brian, remember when you first helped out at the Dallas DRAW auction a few years back? What a cool deal sitting with Billy Meyer and telling stories till almost midnight with Alan Reinhart
    I wish you all the best and hope to see you next year at the races!

    Reply
  3. jim

    This is all good and fine, but what ever happened to that white 4 door chevy that you were having trouble getting it to get out of it’s own way?

    Reply
  4. Alan Gould

    Best of luck to you Brian, as you begin this new year that is almost upon us. I have always truly enjoyed the genuine passion and energy that you radiate when you\’re broadcasting, on TV or on the mic at a streaming event. Good things come to those who wait, and FOX/NHRA fans are going to be the beneficiary of your patience. KUDOS to you for your achievement and I can\’t wait for the season to begin with you in \”The Booth\”!

    Reply
  5. MGBChuck

    Well deserved Mr. Lohnes, looking forward to seeing and hearing you for years to come, congratulations. (heard they got rid of that nasty hat you wore)

    Reply
  6. ImpalaSam

    Congratulations Brian, no one is more deserving, unfortunately with this new found stardom I will probably never get to meet you.

    Reply
  7. Wolf

    Honestly, I saw this coming years ago. You quickly became my favourite announcer for (at the time) 3 simple reasons: 1. Your incredible knowledge of racing history, 2. Your incredible knowledge of all the racers and cars at whatever race you’re announcing, and 3. Your awesome sense of humour – you make ANY racing entertaining. I knew you were going to be one of the legendary announcers in auto racing, and as far as I’m concerned, you already were even before the full time NHRA gig. Congrats.

    Reply
  8. ksj2

    Congrats Bruab.You have earned it.Not for sure how long we have known one another but you have stayed the same humble guy.You know if you are near where I am you will have a six pack coming your way.LOL.And also THANK YOU for taking time out of your day announcing at Heartland this past year and chatting with my son and I. It meant a lot to both of us.

    Reply
  9. Bryan Kelley

    Brian
    I am going to miss you in the Pro Mod booth and at starting line.
    Good luck maybe Chad can cover for you.
    You both have passion for Motorsports.
    Just turn off Tony’s Mike.

    Reply
  10. Bryan Kelley

    Brian
    I am going to miss you in the Pro Mod booth and at starting line.
    Good luck maybe Chad can cover for you.
    You both have passion for Motorsports.
    Just turn off Tony’s Mic.

    Reply
    1. Brian Lohnes Post author

      Those things were crazy and it blew my mind when I was finishing up at LS Fest that year and all of a sudden guys were texting me with photos of them. Scott K is the man for coming up with them. Was a total surprise!

      Brian

      Reply
  11. 69rrboy

    Good job!! Congrats!

    Could you somehow convince the network people to stop wasting air time on stupid motorcycles and Pro Stocks and just show TF, FC and sportsman classes instead??

    I wouldn’t watch the motorcycles if they were running 3:30s at 400 and the only people who give a flying flip about Pro Stock anymore are the 14 people still running the cars. Just a thought.

    Reply
  12. bob

    Brian. you may have been surprised but it’s no surprise to me and a lot of others. From the first time I saw you on TV you showed you had the right stuff.

    Very relaxed, well spoken, clear, concise and knowledgeable.

    Congrats and good luck!

    Reply
  13. jerry z

    Congrats on your long road to success! Glad to hear you’re not giving up on Bangshift, pretty much the only forum I check out daily. Too bad the 9C1 is gone but hopefully down the road you’ll get another but this time a bubble!

    Reply
  14. orange65

    Congratulations on your success. I have heard you announce quite a few events over the past few years and really enjoy your depth on the racing and the racers. I hope that you will continue doing Drag Week and Duck X – especially Duck X as you sound like you are really enjoying yourself there.

    Reply
  15. alan

    Congrats. I am not surprised you got the offer . I have told my wife many times they should move you into that spot.. you will be great .

    Reply
  16. Caveman Tony

    Hey Bruab! NICE!!

    I hoped long ago that I hadn’t offended you when I said you sounded like the “Joe Buck” of drag racing—- I meant it as a compliment and I was slightly mortified when you said “Joe Buck?! He SUCKS!!”

    Also… slightly mortified when I COULD NOT get a good ground attempting to weld a floor patch in the 9C1….

    And a bit more than slightly mortified when we watched your eldest from 40’ away as he nearly ghost-rode my ‘56 pickup down your driveway and into the street with a look of pure panic on his face that was only matched by the PURE PANIC ON MINE!!

    Good luck dude.

    AND if you EVER EVER EVER get a day off… I’m pretty sure I owe you a beer.

    Reply
  17. Chaun Benfield

    They have a great person in you Mr. Brian Lohnes, you truly deserve the honor and we are all happy for you. The right person in the right places. Congrats.

    Reply
  18. Clarence Sifton

    I saw it coming, you have a passion for the sport and the vernacular talent to describe the action when I’m still in awe, speechless. Congratulations Brian!!!!

    Reply
  19. Piston Pete

    Congrats Brian, Your gig with Mr. 4 Speed announcing the Hemi Challenge has been a highlight of the Nationals for as long as you’ve been doing it. “Always be yourself . . . unless you can be Batman.”

    Reply
  20. Jim Baker

    I will miss you and Alan together on Allaccess as you became a really good pairing but I think you and Tony will be even better. Looking forward to next season.

    Reply
  21. Tom Damon

    Congrats Bran , can’ say we didn’t see it coming . All the best . I remember listening to you at N.E.D. and you were good . You’re better now . Don’t forget where you came from . We are rooting for you . Cranberry Country salutes one of it’s own .

    Reply
  22. David Beard

    I had a bunch of comments lined up but they’ve pretty much been covered by the other commenters. Being good friends with a guy who’s done some announcing I can tell you this….anybody who’s seen the behind the scenes work that goes into having all that information come out of an announcers mouth knew you were destined for big things. Couple that with a genuine passion for the sport and its history its a no brainer that you made it to where you are. In addition to being a great announcer you’re good for the sport. My father wanted me to tell you congratulations and I’ll double it.

    Reply
  23. Monk

    Great promotion………and when you’re doing what you like, it ain’t work.
    Also some good job security for the family.

    You gotta wonder if the bar maid in the biker bar (Bowling Green) will see your mug on tv at some point LOL

    Congrats buddy!

    Reply
  24. SoCal Guy

    I was thrilled to hear NHRA rented to own a clue and moved you to the announcing spot. I grew up with Bernie Partridge and Jon Lundberg here at the center of the universe and if you can channel their wit and ability to create drama, you will be home free. I am also a journalism major/English minor and grew up wanting to shoot for ND, so you get extra bonus points. Promise me you won\’t slobber over the Force family.

    Reply
  25. DanStokes

    I’m privileged to say that I know Kerri and Brian in real life and they’re both great folks. Sorry that Brian left out his & Kerri’s stint as co-owners of the ECTA and the amazing job he did calling our meets for those years. He was GREAT even if they weren’t getting rich doing it.

    I’ll add my voice to those saying “All the best on into the future!” I suspect you’ll end up as one of those legendary voices of drag racing.

    Dan

    Reply
  26. Art Ist

    Congrats Birian

    So what was wrong with Dave Reff? And what is his future?

    I do wish they would have booted Tony P and his biased anti John Force remarks. And btw Tony, your brother is not the god of Funny Car like you build him up to be every time only to see him smoke his tires again and again.

    Reply

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