‘Men Behind the Mics’ on April 16
Race track announcers from across Central New York and Connecticut will do a voice check for the start of the racing season with a program Saturday, April 16, at the International Motor Racing Research Center.
“The Men Behind the Mics” will begin at 1 p.m. The free Center Conversations talk is open to all. The Racing Research Center is located at 610 S. Decatur St., Watkins Glen.
The program, which is sponsored in part by the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, coincides with the Watkins Glen International Opening Weekend fueled by Kwik Fill Red Apple season kick-off.
Six track announcers will share their stories at the Racing Research Center on Saturday: Joe Marotta, who announced all 44 years at Super DIRT Week at the Syracuse Mile; Roy Sova, this year in his 52nd year at Oswego Speedway; Gary Montgomery, who has announced at Weedsport, Canandaigua, and Syracuse; Mike Paz, who has worked at nine NASCAR tracks, including WGI; Frank Del Vecchio, a racer and announcer who has worked at tracks across the nation; and Greg Rickes, the voice of Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.
“The noted race track designer Allan Wilson once said that ‘the track announcer is the most important individual at any race meeting by far’,” said Center Archival Assistant Kip Zeiter, who organized the “Men Behind the Mics” program.
“I think that description accurately fits each and every one of these men. Going to the races for me has always been more than just sitting in the stands. It’s the visceral impact – the sight of the brightly colored cars flashing by, the smell of the racing fuel, the sound, ah, that great sound, of a race car at full song and the excitement of the announcer describing every daring move on the track. A good announcer has us all in the palm of his hand, and all these men are very good and have added countless memories to our racing experience,” Zeiter said.
Three days of Watkins Glen race season kick-off activities begin Friday morning when the 12th Annual Toyota Green Grand Prix (www.greengrandprix.com) launches from the Racing Research Center, which is a partner of the competition that is a showcase of motoring technology while aiming for a cleaner environment. At 11:30 a.m., WGI (www.theglen.com) celebrates its completion of a $12 million re-paving project.
Saturday at WGI will start early in the morning with The Arc Grand Prix Run, an annual 3.4-mile run, or one-mile walk, on the track, presented by The Arc of Schuyler (www.arcofschuyler.org) , a non-profit organization providing support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The focus of Opening Weekend is the opportunity for fans to drive their personal vehicles on track behind an official WGI pace car. The laps will be from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. The $25 per car fee will benefit the R.A.C.E. (Racing and Community Enrichment) Foundation, a donor-advised fund of the NASCAR Foundation.
At the Racing Research Center on Saturday, the day will begin at 9 a.m. with Marotta doing a live broadcast from the Center of his radio show “Around the Tracks.”
A protégé of the late Jack Burgess, Marotta and Burgess were known as the “Voices of Syracuse.” Marotta began his announcing career in Fulton in 1966. He joined Burgess announcing for Glenn Donnelly’s new DIRT organization in the early 1970s and was a staple at many of the tracks on the DIRT circuit. While he has announced at almost every upstate New York track, and announced all 44 years of Super DIRT Week at the Syracuse Mile, Marotta has also announced at the Eldora Speedway in Ohio as well as the Dirt Track at Charlotte. He has teamed with Sova at Oswego Speedway for 20-plus years to call super modified action. Marotta was inducted into the DIRT Hall of Fame in 2008.
Sova is most closely associated with Oswego Speedway, and he in 2016 is in his 52nd year of announcing there. In that run, Sova has missed only two shows, even though for many years his home has been Charlotte and Cape Cod. Sova’s career also has taken him to some 50 other tracks in seven states and Canada.
Montgomery is another veteran of the upstate DIRT circuits, announcing at Weedsport, Canandaigua and Syracuse. Montgomery also has worked for the Motor Racing Network at several tracks across the country, including Daytona. The “triple crown” of his announcing career was to announce at the Race of Champions at Trenton, Super DIRT Week at Syracuse and the Daytona 500.
Paz, who has been referred to by many in the announcer community as having “the voice of God, began his career with drag racing in 1987 at New York International Raceway Park. He also had a stint at MRN as a pit reporter from 1999-2001. Paz announced the Pepsi 400 in Daytona in 1998 and was on the announcing team for the 1999 Daytona Speedweeks events, including the Rolex 24. He has worked at NASCAR tracks, including many years at WGI. He also has announced hockey and high school basketball tournaments. Paz suffered a major stroke in 2009 but was back behind the mic in 2013 at WGI.
Del Vecchio is a racer and announcer, competing on the track for 43 years, in more than 500 races. He has earned three Northeast Formula Ford championships and has more than 250 top-six finishes. His first announcing job was at Lime Rock Park for a Trans Am race. Much of his announcing work has been as a color commentator, but he has had the primary role at tracks across the country, mostly in the Grand Am and Firehawk Series, but also including INDY, NASCAR, ARCA and vintage events.
Rickes has announced at Lime Rock Park for a number of years and also has had the microphone at Bridgehampton and the old Bryar Motorsports Park. As an announcer with the F2000 Championship Series, he has worked races at Road Atlanta, VIR, Mid-Ohio, New Jersey Motorsports Park, Summit Point and WGI. He announced at the Thompson road course in 1972 and when it re-opened in 2014. He also has worked at the Albany-Saratoga and Lebanon Valley dirt tracks.
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