Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dick Berggren says farewell at Dover

(2008) Steve Dykes/NASCAR
"It's over at Dover."

Those words always echo in my head to remember when the last race for NASCAR on FOX is and the channel surfing begins. This year the saying means so much more as we bid farewell to a beloved member of the NASCAR family.

After a 12-year career with FOX and 31 years in NASCAR, Dr. Dick Berggren is retiring from his job as a pit reporter at the spry young age of 70.

“After the FOX portion of the year ends, I’ve always traveled to local tracks where I still enjoy sitting in the stands with a hot dog in one hand and a beer in the other, watching the local heroes,” Berggren said. “I can’t get enough of local-level racing so I’ll do more of that now.”

Berggren will continue to contribute columns and stories to Speedway Illustrated, the racing magazine he founded. Besides the magazine, Berggren has a much larger task at hand: creating an auto racing museum at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to honor racing in the Northeast.

“There is no museum of Northeast auto racing open to the public in general and which displays the area’s racing history,” Berggren said. “The Northeast has a rich racing history that deserves to be saved and displayed. We’re fund raising and accumulating things to display. Getting the museum up and running is a big job and it’ll take a lot of my time.”
Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs

Looking back


Berggren himself was a racer, launching his own racing career in 1967. He raced everything ranging from
SuperModifieds to Modifieds and even stock cars and sprint cars. Berggren hung up his helmet after a frightening accident at Boone Speedway when his car climbed the dirt bank, causing over 200 people to scatter to avoid being hit.

“In one of my heats, I got turned at the end of the backstretch — the highest-speed part of the track,” Berggren explained. “So many people were in the pits, they had overflowed to an area that wasn’t separated from the racing surface by anything other than a dirt bank. When I got turned, that’s where the car headed. I tried to head hard left, kept my leg in it hoping the car would straighten out and go back down the track. It didn't.

“I hit that dirt bank and saw hundreds of people scatter as I headed for them,” he continued. “I’m not a religious person, but in the car that night, I said a prayer as the car hit the dirt bank. ‘God, if you get me through this without hurting anyone, I won’t do this anymore.’ I closed my eyes, hit the bank, flew through the air and crashed into the pits. As soon as the car stopped, a guy stuck his head in the window and asked if I was OK. With my eyes still closed, I asked how many people were under the car. ‘You didn’t hit anyone,’ he said. I climbed out and that was it. You don’t go back on a promise like that. It’s hard because I’ve been offered rides in cars I dearly would like to race. But I won’t.”

His television career began back in 1981 working as an analyst and pit reporter for ESPN. From 1994-2001 Berggren called CBS Sports his home.

Berggren during his final race on FOX.
Credit: Beth Bence Reinle/Skirts and Scuffs
Joining FOX in their inaugural season, Berggren has been an integral member to the FOX Sports family. Whether it was his interviews or the joking from his colleagues, "Dick Berggren is so old ..." Berggren has always been in the midst of the action.

“Life will be different without FOX,” Berggren stated. “I’m very proud of having been part of the NASCAR on FOX broadcasts from the beginning. I’m dreading the 2013 Daytona 500 because I won’t be there on pit road as part of that team. That will be hard, but nothing is forever and I understand that. I’m looking forward to walking into the museum on the day it opens. That’s a whole new challenge and one I fully expect to conquer. But it’s time to move on. I’m ready. However, it would be nice to pick up a few TV things here and there. I’d really like that.

As FOX bids farewell this week, it is not just a goodbye until next year, but a more permanent goodbye to Dr. Dick. On behalf of the Skirts and Scuffs team, we wish you well in your retirement, Dr. Berggren. 

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