MRN Announcer Spotlight: Alex Hayden
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on June 18, 2014 | 11:00 A.M. EST
Alex Hayden has worked with MRN since 1997.
Get to know Alex Hayden - Pit Road Reporter - in this week's edition of MRN Announcer Spotlight. Alex currently resides in Goldsboro, N.C., and can be heard on a majority of MRN's NASCAR broadcasts.
Q: When did you first become interested in broadcasting?
Hayden: I grew up near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. My dad was a photographer, so we got to spend a lot of time at the track. But I was a race fan of everything. We went to short tracks and to Michigan a lot because it was a quick drive up there to see NASCAR racing. We listened to MRN all the time when we couldn’t watch the race. I loved listening to the broadcasts and what they did. One thing led to another, I got to audition and I guess I fooled enough people to get where I am.
Q: When was your first broadcast with the Motor Racing Network and what do you remember about that day?
Hayden: It was February 1997 at Rockingham, North Carolina Motor Speedway. It was a Busch (now Nationwide) Series race. Allen Bestwick and Barney Hall in the booth. Joe Moore was in Turns 1 and 2, and I was in Turns 3 and 4. Winston Kelley, Jim Phillips and Marty Snider were in the pits. I was terrified because I literally just started auditioning for MRN three weeks before. Prior to that, I had never done any play-by-play, never worked at a short track or worked in radio at all until the previous summer, when I got a couple short-track announcing jobs. So within a span of nine months, from never doing it to being on the air with MRN, was phenomenal. I was scared to death that day, but everyone was really kind to me so it was really great.
Q: How did you get involved with the Motor Racing Network?
Hayden: One of the promoters at a short track secretly recorded me and sent the tape to MRN without me knowing about it. I didn’t find out until after the racing season had ended and MRN called me. John McMullen, who was the executive producer at the time, gave me a call and said he would like to set up an audition. It was the off-season so we had to wait until January. Back then, the Truck Series was racing at Walt Disney World Speedway. All my family is in the Orlando area, so I had a place to stay. I auditioned down in the turns at Disney World.
Q: Who were some of your broadcasting role models growing up?
Hayden: I was a huge fan of Barney Hall and Mike Joy is another one I would call a role model. I really loved listening to Gary Thorne, who was with ESPN for a long time doing hockey games when ESPN had the NHL contract. The way he delivered, the smoothness of his voice and the way he described things was unbelievable. Now, Thorn is the radio voice of the Baltimore Orioles and through the world of technology, I’m able to listen to him call baseball games. I still do it. I still go outside in the yard, put something on the grill and listen to Gary Thorne call a baseball game.
Q: What is the best advice you could give someone who would like to pursue a career in motor sports broadcasting?
Hayden: Slow down, say what you see. Realizing in racing, these cars are going 190 mph, you are not going to out-talk them. So slow down what you are saying and get a good, composed thought out. You have to be able to say something, but say it legibly and make people understand what you are saying. As long as you keep your pace slow, you're going to be fine.
Q: Where was the first race you attended as a fan?
Hayden: So many of them ... as I said, my dad was a photographer so we were going to Winchester Speedway for sprint car races, Midget and Silver Crown races. Anderson Speedway, Eldora Speedway was right across the border from Muncie, Ind., where I’m from. Also, Indianapolis Raceway Park, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500, which I still go to every year. But my very first race probably was a figure-eight in Anderson.
Q: Your acting resume includes appearances on WB-TV's "One Tree Hill." How did you become interested in that and what are some of your other performances?
Hayden: Oh boy (laughing) ... I was confused about what I wanted to do with my life when I was at East Carolina University and I still am. I had an uncle that worked at Universal Studios in Orlando and he said, "I can’t get you any kind of roles or big parts, but I can get you an audition." So I went down there not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, auditioned for a couple things and got them. I was fortunate enough to work for Universal Studios as a character actor doing some different things. When I wasn’t doing commercial shoots or things of that nature, I would work in the park itself. I was on the opening cast on the "Jaws" ride. From there, I moved back to North Carolina to do racing and live in the eastern part of the state. Wilmington, N.C., is "Hollywood East." There are a lot of television shows and motion pictures shot in Wilmington. I decided that just for fun, let's go down and see if I can weasel myself into something else. I talked with a talent agency, they signed me up immediately and within a week or two, I was doing bit parts on TV shows. It’s fun to do because it’s an experience.
Q: You are always posting photos of you golfing when you are not at the racetrack. What is your handicap and where are your favorite places to golf?
Hayden: I'm an 11 handicap and my favorite places to play are anywhere in the Orlando area. My uncles and cousins live there, and I spend a lot of time there. There are so many good golf courses in Orlando ... Rock Springs Ridge in Apopka, Zellwood Station Country Club ... there are just so many good places. Obviously, any of the Disney ones are championship courses so we get to play out there quite a bit, too.
Q: What's your favorite restaurant to visit on the NASCAR circuit?
Hayden: Hidden Treasure in Ponce Inlet, Fla., when we're in Daytona Beach. Ponce Inlet is where the lighthouse is and it’s called "Hidden Treasure" for a reason. Not many people know about it - I guess, until now. It’s an indoor-outdoor seating establishment right on the water. Literally, boats, manatees and dolphins are swimming around as you are dining.