Via press release on Friday, April 8, the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) in Watkins Glen, New York, announced that its April program in the monthly “Conversation” series will be “The Men Behind the Mics,” a discussion with race track announcers from around New York State and Connecticut. The program will be held on Saturday, April 16 at the center, starting at 1 p.m. and is free and open to all. The conversation coordinates with Opening Weekend at Watkins Glen International (WGI) fueled by Kwik Fill Red Apple.
The program will feature six track announcers sharing stories. The announcers are: 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, including WGI; and Greg Rickes, the voice of Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.
IMRRC Archival Assistant, Kip Zeiter, who organized the program, commented, “The noted race track designer Allan Wilson once said that ‘the track announcer is the most important individual at any race meeting by far.’ I think that description accurately fits each and every one of these men.” Zeiter continued:
“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.”
Announcers certainly play a big role in the spectator experience at racetracks. Not only do they explain what the fans are witnessing, but they can also provide details such as history, biography, technical know-how about the cars, context, not to mention colorful anecdotes.
Marotta will kick-off the day at the IMRRC at 9 a.m. Saturday with a live broadcast of his “Around the Tracks” radio show. Saturday is actually the second day of a three-day Opening Weekend set of activities that the IMRRC is coordinating with WGI.
Friday morning, the 12th Annual Green Grand Prix will start its run at the IMRRC. The center is a partner in the competition showcasing motor sports’ efforts at working with a more green-friendly environment. Action continues at the track.
At 11:30 a.m. Friday, WGI celebrates completion of its $12 million re-paving project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring another well-known racing announcer, FOX Sports’ Bob Varsha, along with special racer guests Derek Bell and Andy Lally. SVRA participates by running period cars around the new track. Fans can watch the action for free from the Argetsinger grandstand.
On Saturday morning, April 16, The Arc Grand Prix Run will have its annual 3.4-mile run, or one-mile walk, on the track. The run is presented by The Arc of Schuyler, a non-profit organization that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In 2014, the organization raised $20,000 from this fundraiser.
For fans, perhaps the key feature of any Opening Weekend at WGI is the opportunity to drive the track in their own personal vehicles, and this year will be even more noteworthy with many wanting to try out the smooth, new surface. Fans make take laps behind a pace car from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. The cost of $25 per car benefits the R.A.C.E. (Racing and Community Enrichment) Foundation, a donor-advised fund of the NASCAR Foundation.
The mission of the International Motor Racing Research Center is to serve as “an archival and research library dedicated to the preservation and sharing of the materials of motor sports history, of all series and all tracks, worldwide.” For more information about the IMRRC, its work, or its programs, visit its website. The IMRRC is also active on social media on both Facebook and Twitter.