It's hard to imagine a drag race without New Jersey native Bob Frey. The self-described "skinny, geeky, bald-headed guy from Waterford in South Jersey" has been the full-time voice of NHRA Championship Drag Racing since legendary baritone Dave McClelland retired from the booth more than a decade ago.
For fans and competitors alike, Frey's quick wit, unmatched mental database of statistics, and peerless rapport with drivers make him an integral part of each national event.
"I'm the luckiest guy I know," the 60-year-old Frey says without hesitation. "I have a wife who loves me, kids who are happy, grandkids who are spoiled, and a job that's like stealing money; I have no complaints.
"They say maybe 5 percent of the population enjoys their jobs. I'm definitely in that 5 percent. If I wasn't announcing the action I'd be in the stands, so to get paid for sitting in the best seat in the house and talking about something I love is a blessing."
Frey got his start in 1966 at New Jersey's Atco Raceway, which is within earshot of Frey's home. Atco's track announcer was leaving for another job, and an open-mike contest was held to find his replacement. Although he was just 20 years old with no experience, Frey won over the fans, and a career was born.
"I didn't know what I was doing, but I talked a lot," Frey said. "I went there to race a car with a couple of my friends. Out of the three of us, I had the worst elapsed times, so they told me to check the motor, but I couldn't get the hood open. Then they suggested the announcer's contest. Do you think they were trying to get rid of me?"
Frey's vast knowledge of NHRA drivers is unmatched and the respect he's gained among the sport's stars make him NHRA's best announcer.
Frey took to the microphone with gusto and announced every event at Atco. He even stayed involved during his time in the Air Force while he was stationed at nearby McGuire Air Force Base. Jobs in radio and through an advertising agency he co-owned sharpened his announcing skills to the point where he could pursue his passion full-time.
He began announcing at NHRA divisional races around the country, and he'd occasionally fill in for McClelland at national events. Additionally, he proved himself invaluable with an exhaustive statistical database that is the backbone of every ESPN television broadcast.
"I really work hard at my job," Frey said. "I take a lot of pride in what I do, and it just so happens I enjoy statistics. I believe they make me a better announcer.
"In the early days, we'd be at a race and Shirley Muldowney would be lining up against Don Garlits, and people would ask, 'I wonder how many times they've raced each other?' There were really no stats like that at the time, so I just started going back through old National DRAGSTER magazines [he owns every issue ever printed] and the old race results. I put together charts for each driver and just went from there."
Frey's unmatched knowledge of the sport and self-deprecating sense of humor continue to entertain and inform fans across the country and around the world via the Internet. Though his celebrity has grown exponentially, he remains a fan at heart.
"I have announced thousands of drag races, but I'm still really excited about every single pass I report," Frey said earnestly. "It's wonderfully flattering when people recognize my voice or stop me to say they enjoy my commentary, but I'm the one that should be thanking everyone else because I've made a living out of something I enjoy immensely."
This story is copyright 2007 by the National Hot Rod Association. It may not be reprinted or reused in any way without the express written consent of NHRA.com.