Written By: Dillon Welch | @dillon_welch
Member of Ball State Sports Link
My high school television teacher used to say this all the time. I have to tell a story to tell a story.
Since I was literally an infant, cars have been my passion.
My parents would put little toy basketballs or footballs in my crib, and I would throw a fit until those were replaced with Hot Wheels cars. I think they eventually learned to just go straight to the cars.
In my opinion, auto racing is hands down the most incredible sport on this earth. In no other sport can one mistake lead to such dramatic consequences. It doesn’t even have to be a mistake from the driver. Mechanical failures and unavoidable collisions can be tragic, as we’ve unfortunately seen far too often in recent months. The thing is though, racing is as safe as it’s ever been.
All of these freak things have happened one right after another and it casts a bad light on this sport. But, we all understand the risk when we strap into our racecars. That risk is the most exhilarating part.
Even at a young age, I think I understood that risk to a certain extent. The speed, the wheel to wheel battles on track and the personalities in the sport thrilled me, but at the same time, I realized this wasn’t like football or basketball. My parents knew that risk too, but because it was such a deep passion of mine, they purchased my first racecar, a quarter midget, at age 7.
Now, these cars aren’t anywhere close to dangerous, but as I continued to progress, the speed and peril did too. My parents’ support never waivered and I’ll forever be grateful for that.
As time passed, the sport got more and more expensive. It came time for me to head to Ball State and work towards a Telecommunications degree as a member of Ball State Sports Link. I had a decision to make.
Do I continue to force more money out of my parents’ hands, who now have college and racing to pay for? I feel like I made a mature choice and decided to just focus on school. Racing was on hold and it was tough, there’s no denying that.
Thankfully, I was able to stay connected enough with that world that I still have opportunities to race every so often. More importantly, those connections put me in a position to combine my new passion, broadcasting, with my ever-enduring passion of racing.
For the last year and a half, I have traveled with the United States Auto Club (USAC) as their public address announcer. I raced with USAC myself, and thoroughly believe there is not a more entertaining form of racing than dirt track open wheel events.
The announcing job is great… it allows me to hone my skills as a broadcaster and it keeps me around many of my friends whom I’ve gotten to know through my years in the sport. So it really is the best of both worlds. I get to announce my favorite thing in the world for a living.
Over the course of this past summer I was in contact with the president of the Motor Racing Network (MRN), David Hyatt. MRN is the premier radio broadcast group of NASCAR. All three national divisions are broadcast by MRN and the feed is sent out to hundreds of local affiliates each weekend.
For radio-oriented racing announcers, MRN is the network. I have listened to their broadcasts numerous times over the years and have so much respect for the picture the announcers were able to create for the listeners, without the aid of television of course. That being said, I was completely blown away when they asked me to audition for them in June.
I of course accepted and a few weeks later was asked to join their team for this past weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Road America, a beautiful road course in Wisconsin. There was no debate- the answer was yes.
One of the things I enjoy most about racing is the people. There are so many great personalities in this sport that it’s a shame we don’t have our own reality television show. People would watch. At USAC, I never go a weekend without laughing. The team we have there is so much fun… you have to have thick skin though. Everybody makes fun of each other, but I think it’s a sign of us all being good friends. We spend every weekend together so it kind of forces us to like each other. But somebody will throw out an insult and you better be ready to get one thrown back at you. I love it.
The MRN guys are the same way. They spend a lot of time together and know how to make each other laugh. That immediately put me at ease. It was an extremely low-stress environment all weekend. Everyone was so nice, too. From the men and women who work behind the scenes to the announcers themselves, they were all willing to help if asked and many of them took time to offer words of encouragement for me.
The race itself was so much fun, even more so than I expected. At my audition in June, I couldn’t hardly stand up I was so nervous. But I never felt nervous this weekend. My dad of course was a big part of that. He just kept telling me to do what I know how to do and that it’s not unlike what I do every weekend, just different cars and names.
I was stationed in turn 6, right at the top of a hill. That first time they came into my view, my stomach dropped a little bit, but thankfully I got all my words out and we were on our way.
I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the whole race. I just kept thinking about how awesome this was, that at 21 years old I was broadcasting a NASCAR race on the radio network with guys who are the absolute best at what they do.
It really was a dream come true. I owe a huge thank you to David Hyatt for giving me the opportunity and to everyone who was at the track this past weekend. As I said, they all were great at making me feel comfortable and like I was part of their team. That helped me more than they know.
The goal going into the weekend was just to be solid. Not make too many mistakes, keep it simple and of course have fun. I felt like I could check all three boxes when we signed off the air. My hope is that I’ll be asked back at some point. Maybe every once in a while, maybe full time.
Right now, I’m going to keep working hard to make it full-time. But whether I call another race for MRN or not, I’ll always have this one. It was an amazing experience and one that I’ll treasure forever.