MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Through the years I’ve had many different mentors and been very fortunate to work alongside some of the greatest broadcasters, writers and journalists our sport has known.
When it comes to working the public address system at a race track, I had the pleasure of sharing the microphone with arguably one of the best ever — Bruce Flanders.
I realize this is a very subjective topic. It’s like saying who’s better, A.J. Foyt or Mario Andretti? To me, Bruce was great because he entertained listeners all day long, which is a very difficult thing to do over the PA during the course of a long weekend at the track.
When Bruce keyed the microphone people stopped to listen. Too many announcers just want to talk all day long. Bruce only hit the button when there was something relevant to be said. People never tuned Bruce out. He was probably best known for his sense of humor and ability to set the tone for race day, which for Bruce meant a high-speed party.
Anyone who heard Bruce Flanders in action at the Grand Prix of Long Beach or WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca understands what I mean.
He called the action for various forms of motorsports, including sprint cars, sports cars, stock cars and motorcycle racing.
Bruce left his biggest stamp on speedway motorcycle racing in Southern California, as he understood his audience and delivered exactly the type of party atmosphere they were there to enjoy along with the racing.
Bruce came from a racing background and his family was well-known in the motorcycle industry. His father owned a shop that built customized handlebars for motorcycles. Bruce even raced motorcycles as a young man, setting a land-speed record at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats.
Bruce taught me a lot about how to have fun while being professional during a broadcast. It’s racing, it should be fun. I will certainly miss sharing the microphone with Bruce and I cherish the memories of sitting with him in the old PA announcers’ booth at Laguna Seca.
While the traffic eased its way out of the track, the announcing team would wind down with some bench racing after a long weekend of calling the action. We enjoyed a lot of laughs and shared some great memories.
Sadly, that deep baritone voice has been silenced. Bruce Flanders died Aug. 15 at the age of 75 after a long battle with COPD. RIP Bruce.
– We were thrilled to hear that good buddy and broadcasting colleague, Bob Varsha was scheduled to return to the TV booth for the Ferrari Challenge weekend at Circuit of The Americas during the end of August.
It was to be Varsha’s first time back on the air in more than a year after battling a rare form of prostate cancer.
Varsha reported that he is feeling great and is ready to get back to work. He will also work the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October.
– Chris McKee left Motor Racing Network, where he was the director of business development, in February. Since then, he has opened his own motorsports consulting firm called Motorsports Relationship Consulting.
He works with clients who need help maneuvering through the world of motorsports. If you could use some help with your marketing plans, reach out to Chris. He can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Thanks to well-known SPEED SPORT photographer Don Figler for sending along the 2021 midget racing calendar. Each month features some of the hottest active midget drivers, such as Tyler Courtney and Kyle Larson, or vintage photos of drivers the likes of Ken Schrader.
The calendars sell for $15 each. Make your check out to Don Figler at Figler Calendars, P.O. Box 28545, St. Louis, Mo., 63146.
– We receive many fantastic books at the SPEED SPORT office and Jon Saltinstall’s latest effort, “Niki Lauda His Competition History,” is among the recent arrivals. It’s a tremendous find for Niki Lauda fans.
It’s a thick coffee-table-style book that is packed full of photos of Lauda wheeling every type of race car imaginable. Saltinstall painstakingly researched every race in which Lauda ever competed.
The accounts of each event are personal accounts of how the race went for Lauda, making for an interesting read alongside the spectacular photos. I thoroughly enjoyed turning each page to see how the amazing career of this incredible wheelman unfolded.
This book is truly a must-have for fans of Niki Lauda or Formula One afficionados.It is available through Evro publishing.
– We caught up with USAC President Kevin Miller at the Dave Steele Classic at Lucas Oil Raceway. Like all sanctioning body leaders, he is worried about completing his organization’s season.
Miller is specifically worried about the West Coast swing at the end of the year, which includes the Oval Nationals at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway and the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway.