FUZI: Pit Side Chatter
GAYLORD, Mich. — When one goes to a World of Outlaw Late Model Series event there are several sounds that are prevalent, the high-pitch of an impact gun, the deep rumble of high-compression engines, and the chug of a water truck; but one sound that is constant and unique is that of the voice of announcer Rick Eshelman reverberating over the P.A. system.
Since 2004, Eshelman has been the voice of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, but his start in the sport came much earlier.
“At age 3 my father took me to Flat Rock (Mich.) Speedway and I wanted to go into the pits after the races were over just to touch the tires on the race cars because they were still warm and that’s how it all started,” Eshelman said. “As I got older while everybody else was out chasing girls or playing with cars at the track I would sit and listen to Howard Williams over the microphone. He was the reason I wanted to become an announcer, so at the age of 13 I got a Panasonic recorder and started practicing announcing. We handed a tape to Jim Wyman who was the chief register at Flat Rock, he played it for John Marcum and they told me if they ever needed someone they would use me”
In the spring of 1979, Eshelman got his first call to the tower, the young teenager was so familiar with the semi-banked asphalt quarter-mile that he felt no nervousness just excitement. Eshelman continued as a part-time announcer at multiple tracks throughout his teen years, and then between 1983-1985 while stationed in the Air Force, Rick took over the full-time announcing duties at Grand Forks County Speedway in North Dakota. After returning to South-East Michigan Eshelman took a seat next to the legendary Jack Pfeiffer at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway.
From there he added Oakshade Raceway to his schedule where he had it “Made in the Shade” from 1992-1999, acting as track announcer and weekly Marc Times Racing News columnist. Along with parenting his son Derek (now 22) and working a full-time job, Rick also managed to spend summer weekends behind the microphone at Limaland, Eldora, and Toledo Speedways.
In the winter of 2003, Eshelman took a leap of faith and moved to Mississippi to assist in thestart up of the beautiful Magnolia Motor Speedway, that move prepared him for living his life’s dream as in 2004 he got the call to become the voice of the World of Outlaw Late Model series.
In addition to announcing Rick is also responsible for driving the WoO command center and registration trailer, he is the man that places and secures the banners night after night, delivers contingency awards and once the final checkered has waved he is the one holding the paychecks for Rick’s schedule is a full one both on the road and off. With nearly 50 nights of racing on the annual schedule Eshelman estimates that three quarters of year is spent away from his Phenix City, Ala., home which can present some challenges, “They haven’t figured out a way for me to mow my lawn online yet…so that tends to be a problem, but I wouldn’t trade any of this for anything. I love it no doubt about it. This job is never boring, and if it becomes unchallenging then I know that I am not doing a good enough job. I am in a different place all the time, meeting different fans, seeing different track configurations, and learning about local drivers that join in.”
From a 13-year-old with a cassette recorder, to a voice that is known nationally; Rick has already become a legend in the world of short-track announcers. Having announced now for more than 30 years at more than 150 race tracks in 30 states, Rick has accumulated many amazing memories, and a new one is added each and every race night, “There are lots of miles and lots of smiles, and I truly have to thank my friend from high school John Wyman and his father Jack for getting me into Flat Rock. John Marcum, Ron Drager, and Scott Shultz were so instrumental to me allowing me to work with Howard Williams who was probably greatest announcer I had ever heard and Jack Pfeiffer who was my other childhood idol. Pam Hendricks gave me the opportunity to work at Oakshade and Larry Boos and Earl Baltes who brought me to Eldora, and a special thank you to everyone with the World Racing Group for having the faith in me to do this.”
For Rick, working with the World Racing Group is a dream come true, and although he loves the northern loops which allow him time to see his beautiful 2-year-old granddaughter Kaylee; there is no place he would rather be on a hot summer night than at a race track.