Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Petty News Conference Live - 11AM on SPEED

Here is the official information from SPEED about live news coverage:

SPEED will interrupt regularly scheduled programming Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET to bring viewers live coverage of the Petty Enterprises press conference from the Lowe’s Motor Speedway media center. Hosted by Kyle Petty, the press conference will address the future of the organization, introducing a new CEO and offering a driver lineup and sponsor packages for 2009 and beyond.

The folks at NASCAR Now already broke the news, here is their update:

NASCAR's most famed organization has called a news conference for 11 a.m. ET Wednesday at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Among the expected topics are a partnership with Boston Ventures Management and the re-signing of Bobby Labonte.

Veteran Hartford Courant writer Shawn Courchesne is naming names, and it is a big surprise to those of us in the TV world:

It's expected that 45-year old David Zucker, a former executive vice president of ESPN and former CEO of Playboy Enterprises and Midway Games, will be announced as the new CEO of the 60-year old racing organization.

Variety.com is not very kind to Zucker in terms of speaking about his recent exit as the CEO of Midway, the video game company. Here is the story in full. One sentence below will set the tone:

This one isn't exactly a surprise to those following Midway lately: CEO David Zucker was shown the door today after years of big losses and no revenue growth.

So, what could be a very interesting press conference will take place live on Wednesday at 11AM Eastern Time on SPEED.

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A Face You Rarely Saw, A Voice You Can Never Forget

His distinctive voice cut through movies like Stroker Ace, Greased Lightning and The Last American Hero. It was the kind of voice that made everyone sit-up and take notice.

When you heard Bill Connell's voice began to rise, you knew it was time for action on the track. That is Connell above in the 1970's at the old Metrolina Speedway.

On a rainy and dreary day, NASCAR fans would be milling around the concession stands and souvenir rigs at the racetrack while the weather cleared. It was Connell who could snap the fans back to attention as he dramatically would say that he wanted "all drivers to return immediately to their cars on pit road." The cheer that went up instantly could be heard for miles around.

Connell was a staple at the Lowe's Motor Speedway for over thirty years. "Bill Connell was a true maestro behind a track public address microphone," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, former President and General Manager. "He knew how to take an event and make it bigger than life for the people in attendance. He truly loved the sport and that came across in his work. His voice was bigger than life, his heart even bigger."

Over the years, Connell was also heard on MRN, PRN and many other racing radio broadcasts. He and his son Mark traveled around originating a weekly TV show called The Pro's In Motorsports. Using a pick-up truck and a trailer, Connell plied his trade on the road for decades.

Connell was called Big Bill for a reason. His weight and complications from diabetes took a toll on him over the years. In 2003, he called one last race at LMS and then stepped-away from the microphone. In December of 2006, a group of racing buddies including the Allisons, Harry Gant, Ned Jarrett and Buddy Parrott took part in a fund raiser to help Bill with his medical expenses.

The end came in May of this year at a medical center near his longtime home in Landis, North Carolina. Bill Connell was only 61 years old. Here is a link to his tribute page.

In this new and fast-paced NASCAR media environment, several tributes and brief news stories went online reporting Bill's passing. Many were gone the next day, replaced with the feuding millionaire drivers and the battles over racetracks and dates.

Connell's lasting legacy will only be in the minds of the fans who were lucky enough to attend a race when the voice of the PA Announcer ruled the track. It was long before scanners and cell phones and Sprint's all-in-one Fan View. A single voice talked to fans when they arrived, called the entire race and then wished everyone a safe drive home when they left.

In a way, Bill Connell made a whole lot of good friends at the racetracks over the years. Not many fans had a chance to see his face, but millions had a chance to hear his voiceand the excitement it brought to racing. It truly was a voice you could never forget.

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