Frey Keeps NHRA Fans Up To Speed
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
Every sport has its icons. Most all of them are on the field or on the track. In the case of the NHRA, one of the sport’s most popular personalities for decades has done his work, not on a car, but with a microphone.
Bob Frey, 62, has been announcing races since 1966, when he called his first event at his home track, Atco Raceway in Atco, N.J. Since 1985, he’s been the traveling voice of the NHRA professional tour, while also writing columns and researching the history of the sport.
Frey’s upbeat announcing is his trademark. It’s a mix of useful, enlightening facts sprinkled with tasteful humor. There’s no masking his enthusiasm for his sport. Every round is a new adventure, as exciting for him as the first race he ever watch.
“I enjoy everything about it,” he said. “The best thing about it is no two races are the same.”
He pointed to the first round results at Atlanta Dragway on earlier this season when young Bob Lagana Jr. knocked off veteran Brandon Bernstein in Top Fuel. And he cited the elimination-round appearance of the underdog Terry Haddock, who lost to Bob Vandergriff Jr. in the first round. “Those are just good stories,” he said.
But to hear Bob Frey call them, they all are. He said that’s not as hard as it might seem because his brand of motor sports has more good material to work with than any other.
“Not to cast anything against [Sprint] Cup guys, but you very rarely have anybody come from the 4 3rd spot and win a Cup race,” he said. “But out here, in every race somebody has a chance. No two races ever the same. I’m very passionate about this sport. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like.”
He said that it’s always been that way for him.
“I got married in 1968,” he said. “The guy who ran the Atco track at that time, his wife, came to my wife – my fiancé at the time – and said, ‘If you’re going to marry Bob, you’d better get used to it, meaning drag racing, because they never grow out of it.’
“Now 41 years later, I’m saying she was a pretty bright lady.”
Over the years, his sayings and his humor have become the stuff of legends. Few who have ever attended an event haven’t heard him say, “Say hello to your new No. 1 qualifier” or “right down Broadway’ or “running on mean.”
He sprinkles in clever remarks, basic racing information for the newcomer and more detailed info for the hard-core fans. The goal is to add to the experience for each attendee.
“If I can make people feel like they had a good time, that’s what’s important,” he said.
Many drivers also listen carefully when Frey is talking. Some don’t like what they hear, but due to the work beforehand by Frey and his associate Lewis Bloom, the main complaints over the years are about the facts, which often speak for themselves.
There also are drivers who really want to hear him talking about them.
“I’ve had guys tell me they just want to hear me say, ‘Say hello to your No. 1 qualifier about their car just one time,” he said. “That’s very flattering, I admit that.”
Even when Frey is away from his microphone he’s working to spread the word about his sport through his writing for National Dragster and DragRaceCentral.com. He also maintains a large personal collection of memorabilia, programs and magazines that he uses in research for stories.
“I’m one of only a few people who has every issue every printed of National Dragster, and I have lots of old programs,” he said, adding that he also uses his personal files to answer questions from family members about a relative or a deceased loved one’s racing career.
“It’s cool to tell someone what their dad did,” he said.
Like anyone in their 60s, Frey often gets asked when he’s going to retire. He said his wife recently posed the same questio n.
“She said that Dave, our neighbor, has retired,” Frey said. “I said, ‘Yeah, but three days in a row he’s been out raking leaves.’ I’m not ready for three days of raking leaves.
“The day that I come to one of the races and have no excitement or enjoyment about it, I won’t do it any more.”
From every indication, that day is not coming any time soon.
– Rick Minter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments