SportsCarolina Monthly

Bowman Gray Q&A – Randy Pettitt

Pettitt

By Cody Heacox

Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the final Q&A of the season. I had the opportunity and privilege to talk to none other than “The Voice of Bowman Gray” Randy Pettitt. While Randy has been around the Madhouse for many years, he has experienced and witnessed a lot of different things. Not to mention has had the privilege of interviewing many different drivers. Now sit back and enjoy as we learn about the man behind the many different suits.

1) What got you interested in racing? “The love of fast cars and some hauling of illegal adult beverages goes way back in my family. No surprise that I fell in love with racing at a young age.”

2) I read somewhere you were a flagman early in your career, tell us about those days:
“Between my first and present run as the Voice of Bowman Gray Stadium, I was the NASCAR chief starter at the Madhouse. The management asked me if I’d like to give it a try, so I thought it would be neat to do it. I flagged for the 1999 and 2000 seasons. I tried to put some showmanship into it and was known for wearing white gloves. My first daughter was on the way in the fall of 2000 and I gave it up to spend more time with my family. It was the best seat in the house, I can tell you that!”

3) What is your fondest memory at Bowman Gray? “That’s a tough one! I fell in love with the place as a little boy and basically grew up over there. I got my first kiss there, can’t forget that. I announced my first big time football game there. And my first night behind the microphone as the racing announcer was a big one, too.”

4) What’s the story behind all of the suits? “That started early (he laughs). I modeled kids clothing for department stores and appeared in promotions for the Olan Mills studios when I was a little boy. I wore bolero-style tuxedos during my first stint as the Voice of Bowman Gray Stadium. I had them in several colors, including red, white and blue. I started it up again as a tribute to our nation’s military and our first responders who have to work in hot uniforms every day. I’ve worn some of the crazier outfits as a way of reaching out to some sick children over in Brenner Children’s Hospital. They would tell me their favorite colors and I did the rest. If it makes them happy, it’s well worth it!”

5) If there was ever a chance for you to drive at the Madhouse, what division would it be? Why? “After practicing a few times over there, I’d say the Sportsman division right now. They sure look like they are having the most fun away! I’ve been fortunate enough to satisfy my need for speed some other places. I’ve been almost 190 miles an hour in a drag boat, over 160 on a motorcycle and did some hot laps in a Dodge Viper on a road course. I think I’ve got most of it out of my system.”

6) Bowman Gray’s fans are very familiar with the Racer’s Prayer. Since it is very catchy, how often do you find yourself saying it at home or when you’re driving down the road? “It’s definitely special, right up there with a couple my grandmother taught me when I was very young. It’s an honor to continue a tradition started long ago. Some of the fans have told me their kids learned how to pray and stand for the National Anthem by attending the BGS races. It’s a reminder to me that the eyes of truth are always watching you.”

7) What made you want to become the PA announcer for Bowman Gray? “It’s been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I shown an interest in broadcasting as a young man and some local heroes of mine (the late Charlie Harville and the late Gene Overby among others) were nice enough help when I first got started. I was in the theatre all through school as well. The first time I got behind a microphone as a football announcer, I knew I was born to do it.”

8) You’ve been around the track for a while now, how would you grade the atmosphere at Bowman Gray today compared to when you first started coming to the track? “The extra media coverage has increased the intensity with the fans in my opinion. Our media partners like the Winston-Salem Journal and WGHP Fox 8 Television have increased the visibility of our sport locally. And of course Facebook and satellite television programming have made Bowman Gray Stadium Racing and the term “Madhouse” famous across the globe. I have Facebook friends from as far away as New Zealand, Japan and Russia. The passionate “discussions” from a hot night of racing don’t stop on Tuesdays anymore. Someone is always stirring the pot (sometimes it’s me!). You continue to hear about stuff all the way until the next event.”

9) I’m sure you must have some favorite drivers and teams personally; how hard is it not to be biased when interviewing them? “I’ve always tried very hard to be professional and call things right down the line as I see them develop. I know how hard all of these teams work on the cars and how much they sacrifice to be a part of our sport. And I always try to take care of the sponsors. Nobody could go racing with them! I am human of course. I tend to be a little closer to the veteran drivers and crew members just because we’ve both been at it so long. At the end of the day, I just want to call an exciting race and see the fans get entertained.”

10) Who would you say was your most memorable interview? “The Winners Circle interview I did for the television broadcast of Chase Elliott’s 2011 victory at Rockingham in the former Hooters Pro Cup Series is definitely right up there. It was Chase’s first victory on a track a mile or larger. I’ve never seen Bill Elliott so happy and animated in my life. We all knew Chase was going to be something special. He was such a nice young man and still is. At the Stadium, the most memorable ones are when someone wins for the first time. Those are always special to me. Everybody remembers their first victory at Bowman Gray Stadium. There’s nothing else like it.”

11) Last Question: When you decide to hang up the microphone, how would you like the fans to remember you? As the guy with many different suits? Or for being the Voice of Bowman Gray Stadium Racing? “I’ll use the ice cream analogy. Almost everyone loves ice cream, right? Some keep it simple with just a little cup of vanilla and a spoon. Others go all out with a banana split, with three scoops, all the trimmings, whipped cream and a cherry on top. I hope the preparation I do and my professionalism is remembered by all those who just wanted to be informed. And for the banana split lovers of the word, the fact that I’m a colorful, fun-loving individual who is so passionate about Bowman Gray Racing kind of speaks for itself. After all, there’s only one Ringmaster of the Greatest Show Around Turf! And thank goodness for that (he laughs).”

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