FRENCHTOWN, N.J. — As much as we focus on what’s happening on the track, a good announcer can be a valuable guide and informant; a great one can take it to a whole new level.
To be a great announcer, one must have pure passion and understanding for the sport.
Listening to announcers Toby Kruse and Benny Grabenbauer at the local race tracks in Iowa, a young boy was inspired to pursue a job in communications.
Blake Anderson, a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in communications, grew up at Boone Speedway and began announcing at age 15.
“They’re some of the best,” added Anderson about Kruse and Grabenbauer. “Those guys are informative and entertaining, which is what I try to be. They’re the ones who got me started and taught me how to announce.”
Jump a couple years ahead and Anderson is in the midst of his fourth season working full time with the All Star Circuit of Champions. Most know him by his race day gig as the series’ announcer, but most aren’t aware of the other hats he wears.
“I’m actually the marketing manager,” noted Anderson. “I spend most of my days doing that and then announcing on race days. I handle the sponsors, our partners, I keep them in touch with what’s happening as well as handling a bunch of odd jobs that need to get done.”
What does a normal work week look like for a marketing manager/announcer?
“Mondays and Tuesdays, I’m in the office going through the past weekend, updating the website, emailing sponsors, sending recaps to the sponsors as well as pictures, letting them know what happened, who won what and what’s coming up,” Anderson explained. “I like to let them know how they’re spending their money.
“Wednesdays, I start to prep. I dig through stats, get them updated and try to figure out what cars will be there. On Thursdays, I like to get my notes in line for the weekend. I make sure all sponsors are up to date and current, if we’re on pay-per-view or not, schedule some tweets, whatever needs to be done.”
Race days are what Anderson looks forward to most. It’s what he works all week for.
“I usually try to get to the track by one o’clock,” he said. “I’ll spend the first couple of hours going through notes, make sure banners get hung and the draw gets done. Once the cars are there, I walk around to try and get a story and a feel for what’s happening, whose run well, find out if any of our partners are there and make sure to give them a little extra love.”
For Anderson, being an announcer takes a lot of prep work.
“It’s a lot,” he said. “Seventy-five percent of my work is in the marketing realm, whether it’s social media or marketing. People know me from the announcing, that seems to get more attention, but when you have a small series like we do, you have to be able to do more than one thing.”
On an average, Anderson attends 100 races a year and announces at roughly 70 to 80 of them.
Despite being full time with the All Stars, Anderson squeezes in a few extra races.
“I’ll come in as a contracted employee for Eldora, Chili Bowl or World Racing Group,” he noted. “My favorite event that I get to announce is the Knoxville Nationals. It’s my home. The Chili Bowl is up there, too. The announcers I get to work with there, they’re some of the better announcers in the country, so it’s cool to get to work with them. The fact that they asked me to announce there is pretty incredible.”
One announcer Anderson still reaches out to for advice is MRN radio broadcaster and Knoxville Raceway announcer Tony Bokhoven.
“He’s someone I still lean on to this day,” he said. “I can pick up the phone and call and he’ll tell me it, whether I want to hear it or not. He’s always there to guide me. He was very instrumental in helping me get to where I am today.”
Most would aspire to be in Anderson’s shoes but as most know, you don’t just fall into your dream job, you have to work for it.
“When I started announcing, my third or fourth year announcing, I probably announced 100 races a year,” Anderson said. “I was announcing everywhere, any race I could.”
Anderson strongly believes it’s all about networking when it comes to this industry.
“Roger Slack is the one who helped me get this job,” noted Anderson. “I met Roger after working at a small track in Iowa. It’s all about networking and meeting people. You have to get out and do as much as possible.”
At a young age, Anderson was told to go out and be willing to do anything. He still preaches that motto.
“You need to announce as much as you can,” he said. “You only get better by doing it. It’s all about networking, you need people who can give you opportunities. I started at the bottom and worked my way up the ladder. I met the right people. I know it’s cliché, but my biggest tip to anyone who wants to be an announcer is that you have to be willing to work.”
Anderson has definitely proven that’s what it takes to be a great announcer.