Get to know Jeff Striegle in this week’s Motor Racing Network announcer spotlight. Jeff is a booth announcer for NASCAR Cup Series broadcasts and also calls some Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races in the Turns.
Q: How did you become interested in broadcasting and how did you become involved with the Motor Racing Network?
Striegle: I was racing Formula Indy cars for 12 years before cost and raising a family forced me to find another hobby. My hometrack was/is Berlin Raceway (in Michigan). At the time the track PA announcer had been with the track since its beginning in 1951 and was looking to step down. I was fortunate to work with him for about a year and half before we began thinking about radio. We developed a race broadcast there which we patterned after MRN. I did that for five or six years and sent an audition tape to the Motor Racing Network. I was given an opportunity to go down to the 1996 Daytona 500 weekend and did my audition under the watchful I eye of Joe Moore. The idea of landing an opportunity with MRN was really just a challenge at the time and wasn’t anything I originally figured I was going to do. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to audition and even more so to work with such a talented group of people that today are like family to me.
Q: How old were you when you started racing?
Striegle: I was 23 when I started. We bought a car called a Formula Indy and raced open-wheel cars for 12 years or so. It was part of the reason I got involved in broadcasting. I was invited to be a guest on a racing show, the guy was taking some time off the following week and apparently, he liked the interview so much he invited me to host his show for him. That was the first time I did any radio. When I got out of racing, I wanted to stay involved in some way. My passion was driving, but raising a family and doing all that racing and traveling just got expensive so I had to get out.
Q: Did you ever race stock cars?
Striegle: I ran some at Berlin but only as a fill-in. I always wanted to race stock cars, but I couldn’t afford to do it. My passion was open-wheel and I loved racing the cars we had.
Q: How many trips to Victory Lane did you make and where do you keep your trophies?
Striegle: We won quite a few times. I won a championship back 1986. I had the experience of both the highs and lows of auto racing. The trophies are all packed away in the basement. I used to have them out proudly on display but after a while, they slowly made their way downstairs. Maybe one day, I’ll get them back out.
Q: What do you remember about your first broadcast with the Motor Racing Network?
Striegle: I was invited to be a part of the network as a turn announcer. It was a Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. The thing I remember most about that was calling the trucks “cars” all day long. On the cue channel during every commercial break, they kept reminding me that those were trucks, not cars. It took a little while. I was working with Mike Bagley, who was in the booth that day, and he immediately became my coach and mentor. We had a good time and developed a great relationship from that point on.
Q: You were the co-founder of RacingAwareness, which supported Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Tell me how that was formed and the charitable impact it made in the 10 years.
Striegle: Gordon Food Services, where I was employed for 22 years, was the title sponsor of the NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in 2003 through 2006. Part of our promotional opportunities was to entertain customers. We got the idea that on Fridays and Saturdays, when things weren’t quite as busy on race weekends, we could bring kids down from area hospitals and showcase auto racing to them. We quickly realized that auto racing had a tremendous positive impact on kids and was a diversion for those who were going through health issues. I will always give credit to Tony Stewart, who was the first of many NASCAR stars to support our idea and provided a one-on-one experience that became our motivation. When we stopped being involved in NASCAR as a sponsor through GFS, I thought it would be the right thing to do to take this idea back to Grand Rapids and try to use this same opportunity but on a more local level. So we formed (in 2010) a business and a charity at the same time called RacingAwareness. Our business side ran the race cars, as our marketing platform, with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital on the side. We formed a charity side which raised money to support the hospital. 2019 was our 10th and final year. In all, we raised and donated $600,000 to help support childhood cancer research. In addition, we reached thousands of people associated with HDVCH through hospital visits and at track opportunities such as our annual Superheros Night at the Track, presented by RacingAwareness.
Q: Tell me about the race team and did you have any celebrity drivers race for you?
Striegle: We enjoyed a lot of success; far more than I could have ever dreamed possible. Over our 10 year run, we ran a Modified (for 10 years), two Super Late Models (for nine years) and a Mini Wedge (for two years). The cars competed weekly at the Berlin Raceway. We had AJ Allmendinger drive our Modified and he won with it. We had Mike Skinner drive the Modified and he won with it. Johnny Benson drove our Super Late Model and he won in it. In all, 11 drivers over ten drove our race cars; 10 have recorded victories. In the end, RA cars won 72 feature events and 9 track championships: 5 Modified, 2 Super Late Model and 2 Mini Wedge.
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