Behind the Scenes of PRN's "Fast Talk"

Doug Rice hosts "Fast Talk" every Monday on Performance Racing Network.
Credit: Rebecca Kivak for Skirts and Scuffs
In a studio nestled on the first floor of Charlotte Motor Speedway, the hot topic is always NASCAR. Whether the racecars are at NASCAR’s home track or hundreds of miles away, it’s all fodder for “Fast Talk” on the Performance Racing Network.

The weekly radio show broadcasts live from the Smith Tower of the Concord, N.C., racetrack every Monday night, 52 weeks a year. “Fast Talk” includes a mix of commentary, interviews and call-ins. The broadcast is heard on more than 200 radio stations around the country.

For 19 years, PRN President and General Manager Doug Rice has hosted “Fast Talk.” The show features a revolving door of star-studded co-hosts, including Kyle Petty, Hermie Sadler, Kenny Wallace and Jeff Hammond. Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne has even gone behind the microphone as co-host a few times this season.

When Rice recently invited me to the studio watch a live broadcast of “Fast Talk,” I was eager to go behind the scenes of the long-running show. The following are my observations from the Sept. 19 broadcast. The topic at hand was the Geico 400 at Chicagoland, the kickoff race of the Chase that was postponed to Monday following a rain delay.

The hosts

Rice has one of the most recognizable voices in all of NASCAR. He has covered the sport for more than 30 years, with a voice that perfectly conveys the pep and emotions of racing. Rice co-anchors all PRN race broadcasts and offers commentary in NASCAR specials and shows like SPEED’s “The 10.” NASCAR fans who play “NASCAR 2011: The Game” will recognize Rice’s voice from introducing each race. (Sharing voiceover duties in the game is Mark Garrow, Rice’s co-anchor on the PRN race broadcasts).

The rotation of co-hosts on “Fast Talk” started after the death of 1972 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Benny Parsons in 2007. Parsons had co-hosted the show for its first 14 seasons. As I sat in the studio, it was clear Parsons’ memory is held dear. Two signs hanging in the control room referenced the beloved co-host: “Benny Parsons Highway” and “Benny Parsons NASCAR chairman.”

On the Monday I was there, it was Kyle Petty’s turn to co-host. The outspoken driver-turned-broadcaster hosts more than half of the “Fast Talk” episodes. Petty said it’s easier for him to maintain hosting duties because he’s not an active driver.

“This is fun,” Petty said.

Petty, who is an in-booth race announcer on TNT and a co-host on SPEED’s “Race Day,” told me “Fast Talk” is the only radio programming he does. He enjoys both kinds of broadcasting work, but likes that radio allows for direct interaction with his audience.

“That’s the fun part,” Petty said.

Rice said he likes the interaction with his co-hosts. Whether a driver, a former crew chief or well-know personality in the sport, each brings something different to the table.

“I genuinely learn a lot from them,” he said.

Rice also said a sense of humor is an asset to hosting the show.

“The interplay between co-hosts is at its best when you have people on with a good sense of humor,” Rice said.

The studio

A small but dedicated crew records “Fast Talk” in a 20-by-15-feet state-of-the-art studio.

The black-and-red carpeted room is fitted with five microphone positions and computer monitors for Rice, his co-host and guests. As the host, Rice has two monitors and a switchboard. During the show, Rice uses the latter to play audio clips of driver soundbites. As for the monitors, one has Internet access, which Rice uses to retrieve any news updates and check Twitter for listener questions. On the other, he keeps track of the show’s callers through the call screening system. Co-hosts and guests also have access to the call screening system.
A look inside the studio where "Fast Talk" is recorded.
Credit: Rebecca Kivak for Skirts and Scuffs

Across the glass from Rice and Petty is the control room, the domain of Alicia Lingerfeldt, PRN’s director of broadcasting and “Fast Talk” director and producer, and Harrill Hamrick, technical producer. Kent Bernhardt is the production coordinator.

Back in the booth, scrawled on a standing whiteboard were topics for the night’s show. Talking points included “Tony Takes Chicagoland” and “Harvick Vaults to No. 1.” Before the show, Lingerfeldt came into the studio to run through some more topics, suggesting Denny Hamlin’s disappointing run, as well as Matt Kenseth’s penalty for being pushed on the last lap.

The studio itself is only a few years old, the result of an ambitious project to update PRN’s facilities and meet the network’s growing needs. The new base of operations includes two studios and two control rooms with top-of-the-line equipment, a green room for guests and staff offices. The crew moved into their new digs three years ago, Hamrick said.

Once a month “Fast Talk” leaves the studio and broadcasts live from the Speedway Club, on the upper floors of Smith Tower facing Charlotte Motor Speedway’s frontstretch.

The format

After a 30-second countdown, “Fast Talk” went live promptly at 7 p.m. ET. The hour long show has six segments, with five commercial breaks.

Rice and Petty, sitting at Rice’s right, talked exclusively for the first two segments, breaking down the Geico 400 at Chicagoland. Sitting with the duo, I could see their camaraderie in action. Rice and Petty often made eye contact and played off one another.

One animated exchange came while the two were talking about Kevin Harvick’s second-place run and takeover of the points lead. Rice said, “I know when you and I did the little, sort of, back and forth a couple of weeks ago, neither one were really high on Kevin. I don’t want to put words in your mouth--”

“No, no no,” Petty interjected.

“But he was never my favorite going into the Chase,” Rice said.

“And he’s not my favorite now, I’m sorry,” Petty said, as the two laughed.

“You’re still selling Harvick, you’re not buying,” Rice said.

“I’m still not buying it,” Petty said. “But we’re going to go back to Brad Keselowski. How do you argue first one week, and second the next week? He seems to be … that group seems to be coming back at the right time. You know Kevin said it, he said we started strong, we were strong the first eight or 10 races, and we took a vacation and disappeared the middle part of the year. And I know that they said they tried some stuff, and they went down some different roads, and that’s just code word for saying ‘we didn’t have a freakin’ clue what we were doing,’ OK?” – Rice breaks into laughter – “I’ve worked on race teams and I know that! But whatever they went back and focused on, they seem to be in the right place.”

The outside of the PRN studios on the first floor
of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Credit:
Rebecca Kivak for Skirts and Scuffs
“So can I use that in my next manager’s meeting here?” Rice joked. “When Marcus Smith (president of Speedway Motorsports Inc.) calls me – ‘we’re trying some new stuff Marcus, we’re experimenting!’”

When the second segment of the show got under way, Rice and Petty discussed Hamlin’s performance and the Kenseth penalty, which Lingerfeldt had suggested before the show went live.

Rice and Petty started taking callers in the third segment, and fielded questions from phone, email and Twitter for the remaining segments. (Rice even gave my Twitter handle a shoutout!) Questions ranged from Justin from Georgia, who wondered why Kyle and Kurt Busch get so mad after they lose races – “what’s the deal with that?” he asked – to Dale from Nashville, who wanted to know how the technology of Sprint Cup cars has influenced the setups of late models.

One segment included the weekly Goody’s Mailbag feature, where listeners submit questions online and the hosts pick one to read on-air. The listener whose question is chosen receives a prize package from Goody’s Headache Powder. Listeners can send their questions for Goody’s Mailbag online through PRN’s website. This week’s winner was Lanette Williams from Weldon Spring, Mo., who asked, “Which team do you think has been holding back their equipment and capabilities and will really come to life now that they’re in the Chase?”

This particular installment of “Fast Talk” didn’t have guests, but the show regularly features NASCAR’s top drivers and personalities in the garage. In recent weeks, the show has welcomed Jimmie Johnson and Darrell Waltrip to the booth, as well as call-in guests Kurt Busch and Darian Grubb, crew chief of Tony Stewart’s No. 14 car.

The control room

The control room is a 7-by-15-feet space where Rice told me “the magic happens.” And indeed, while you hear Rice and Petty make their own magic on the radio, what you don’t see are Lingerfeldt and Hamrick working the controls behind the scenes.

The two sit behind the glass at a desk with no less than five computer monitors. Lingerfeldt monitors two of them. On one, she promotes “Fast Talk” on Twitter, tweeting topics and the show’s 800 number to encourage listeners to call in. Lingerfeldt also screens the radio show’s callers; she uses the other monitor to manage the call screening system. Lingerfeldt types in each caller’s name and a short description of what he or she wants to talk about, which Rice can see on his computer monitor in the booth.

A wider view of the studio. Behind the glass is
the control room. Credit: AI Design Group's website
Lingerfeldt is able to talk to Rice and Petty during the broadcast through their headphones, which allow for two-way communication between the studio and the control room. She counts down to airtime before a commercial break ends. Lingerfeldt can also look up information on the Internet if a question about a topic arises during the broadcast and feed the answer to the co-hosts.

Hamrick monitors three of the computers. One records the show, which will be made available on the “Fast Talk” website about 15 minutes after the broadcast ends. Hamrick also has access to the call screening system so he can control the callers’ volume level. The remaining monitor tracks the segment times and commercial breaks.

The show’s start and end times are set, Hamrick said. “Fast Talk” must start right at 7 p.m. ET and end right on time at 7:59:10 p.m. However, there is more leeway for the lengths of the segments in between, Hamrick said. Each segment should last around 10 minutes. But if one segment goes too many minutes over - say by about four minutes or so - that will affect the length of the next segment, making it shorter. The full length of the show, including commercials, is about 59 minutes, 50 second long.

Signing off

And now it’s my turn to sign off. Many thanks to Doug Rice, Kyle Petty, Alicia Lingerfeldt and Harrill Hamrick of Performance Racing Network for letting me sit in and watch the tremendous work they put into “Fast Talk.”

In addition to its weekly Monday slot at 7 p.m. ET on PRN, “Fast Talk” can also be heard on SIRIUS-XM Channel 90 on Wednesdays at 11 p.m. ET.

To listen to the show I observed or other episodes of “Fast Talk,” visit the show’s website at

Motor Mouth is a weekly column in which Skirts and Scuffs lead editor Rebecca Kivak spouts off about the latest NASCAR happenings. Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below. To read past columns and other posts by Rebecca, click here.
Behind the Scenes of PRN's "Fast Talk" Behind the Scenes of PRN's "Fast Talk" Reviewed by Rebecca Kivak on Sunday, October 16, 2011 Rating: 5