Friday, October 19, 2012

Dave "The Godfather" Moody learned from the best

Courtesy of Dave Moody
If you've ever listened to an MRN broadcast of a NASCAR race, chances are you'd recognize Dave “The Godfather” Moody’s distinctive voice. The lead turn announcer for the Motor Racing Network creates excitement lap-by-lap regardless of the level of action on the track.

As the host of Sirius Speedway on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, he banters with guests, amicably bickers with co-host Angie Skinner and chats with denizens of the world of NASCAR.

But it is when he interacts with citizens of NASCAR Nation that Moody truly shines. Callers from all walks of life light up the phone lines and hold patiently until it's their turn to have the ear of the Godfather. They seek his opinion, his understanding, and even his approval of their ideas and views, which run the gamut from thought-provoking to patently absurd. Moody listens with just the right combination of interest and trepidation, not hesitating to shoot down the more ridiculous notions with respect and (mostly) good-natured derision.

Recently I was granted audience with the Godfather: an off-air phone call in which he generously shared his story and answered a few questions about the sport to which he’s dedicated so much of his life.

A native Vermonter, Moody grew up a few miles from legendary announcer Ken Squier’s race track Thunder Road. He watched races there, worked on pit crews, and ultimately began his announcing career at what Moody calls “one of the best short tracks in the country.” When Squier’s involvement with CBS became more time-consuming, he allowed Moody to take the mic.

"I think it was the summer before my senior year in high school,” Moody recalled. “And that summer he would let me do a couple of little things on the PA, you know a street stock heat or something like that. And as the summer went on, he’d teach me a little bit about how to do this and how to do that. And basically correct all the mistakes I was making and gradually over the next two or three years taught me how to do the race track public address deal.”

Moody could not have had better teachers. He said, “I joke all the time – it’s not even a joke, it’s the truth- I went to Ken Squier University and got my masters degree from Barney Hall University. Because I've been blessed enough to work with both of them and I just could not have been luckier in that regard.”

From the PA at Thunder Road, Moody moved to calling games on Squier’s family-owned network of radio stations in Vermont to the Motor Racing Network. “He (Squier) taught me everything I  know,” Moody said. “I worked for many years as the sports director at his group of radio stations up in Vermont and part of my job was to do all the play-by-play sports on his stations. Quite honestly, he was making a ton of money on me going out and calling 100 basketball games every winter. It would have probably been in his best interest to keep me right there in Vermont working for him, but he encouraged me to audition for MRN. He put in a good word for me with the folks at MRN. Of course he helped charter the network so he had a good bit of clout there, and he convinced them to give this kid up in Vermont that nobody had ever heard of an audition. He opened a lot of doors for me, a lot of doors that he didn't have to, for sure.”  

Founded in 1970 by Bill France Sr., Motor Racing Network broadcasts NASCAR races held at the properties owned by International Speedway Corp. – tracks like Daytona, Talladega, and Darlington. Broadcasts at tracks owned by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., founded by promoter Bruton Smith, are hosted by Performance Racing Network (PRN).

Connecting with MRN 

Moody’s association with MRN began in 1984, but on a limited basis calling races on the NASCAR North Tour when one of the regular team needed a weekend off, or on the rare occasions when there was a stand-alone Busch race. At the end of 1985 the promoter, Tom Curley, and NASCAR had a disagreement and NASCAR pulled their sanction. Curley simply kept the series going under a different name.

Moody explains, “The circuit I worked for is now called American Canadian Tour, ACT. And for a lot of years up in New England it was open warfare. You were one or you were the other, but you couldn't be both. I was working for ACT, and I was doing a lot of work for them. From MRN’s point of view, they kind of got told either you work for them or you work for us. And it was a pretty easy choice for me. I was working maybe four or five times a year from MRN and I was working every darn weekend for the other guys. So I disappeared from MRN for the better part of probably seven years before things all kind of smoothed themselves out again.”

Courtesy of Dave Moody
When the Truck Series came along in 1995 and MRN scored exclusive rights to the broadcasts, they needed more on-air talent, so they turned to Moody. “They were doing a lot of two and three event weekends, and John McMullen who was running MRN at the time, called me and said, 'We've got three races on the same weekend, could you possibly go to New Hampshire and work a truck race?’ I basically told him I said, ‘John I’m not looking to get back into the same old tug-of-war we had before’ and he said, ‘No no no, I've already talked to everybody, everything’s smoothed over, everything’s fine and nobody’s got any problem with it.’ And here we are 15 years later.”

Live via Sirius Satellite 

As if he were not busy enough, in late 2003, Sirius Satellite Radio entered the picture. “Sirius came to us, to MRN, and they wanted a motorsports talk show.” Moody explained. “And for the first four years, I guess it was, we covered everything. We did NASCAR, IndyCar, Champ car, we did NHRA drag racing...We did everything.”

Moody recalled, “The first Sirius Speedway show we did was the day after Matt Kenseth won the championship. Which, you know, the timing could not possibly have been worse. It was talked about and planned, and deadlines kind of kept getting bumped back...you know how things work. Couldn't possibly have picked a worse time to debut a stock car racing show than the day after the season ends. Because every driver, every crew chief, ever team owner, with the possible exception of the champion, was either on a beach, on a cruise ship or somewhere on vacation after a long season. So we went on the air the day after Homestead and we probably didn't have 100 listeners total. We had maybe 3 guests and at that point we were so excited to get a phone call we would have hung up on the President of the United States to take a phone call. There was nobody out there. It took a while, but we kept working at it, gradually built it up to where sometimes we have 250 people listening, we think. (laughs).

Of course Moody's audience is much broader than 250 people, and with social media,  Moody’s influence reaches beyond the subscription base of SiriusXM into the blogosphere, Facebook, and Twitter. How does he feel about being influential? Moody said, “I don't know that I am. If I am, I hope it's in a good way. My job is not to tell people what to think, but to tell people what I think and to encourage them to tell me what they think."

"People ask me sometimes, 'How can you listen to all these people and their wacky ideas?' I try to explain to people that’s the whole point of talk radio. If it were just four hours of me telling the world what I think, we could maybe pull that off for a week, and then we’d have to shut it down because nobody would be listening anymore. The whole point of talk radio is to give opinions and to elicit opinions, and thank God there is no shortage of opinions in this fan base. Sometimes there’s three opinions for every person in this fan base, so that’s the good news.”

When did he discover he was good at talk radio? Moody considered that question for a moment and said, “You  know, I don’t know. That’s a really good question. Quite honestly, I did a show back on Ken Squier’s group of stations that was very similar to Sirius Speedway. It was only one night a week, it was on Monday, it was only one hour, it was 6-7, but in a lot of ways it was very similar to what we’re doing now. You know, in that you tell everybody who won the race and you run down the results and the critical moments, you talk to the drivers, you talk to the crew chiefs, and in the last half hour of the show we always opened the phones and let people call up and talk about what they thought about that week’s racing. And I didn't know it at the time. I thought we were just doing our little one-hour one-night-a-week radio show, but it was really great training for what we do now.”

“People tell me if I hadn't gone into the whole sportscasting thing, I would have made a good lawyer. Because one of the skills you need to work as a host in talk radio is the ability to think on your feet a little bit, so that when somebody throws an idea at you, you have to be able to tell them why it’s a good idea, why it’s a bad idea, or  be able to envision what they’re talking about enough to be able to drag more thought out of them. And I don’t know at what point I figured out I was good at it. Some days I walk out of the studio thinking that I have no idea what I’m doing, but people seem to like it and they keep inviting me back so I don’t complain.”

Learning from the best 

Our conversation turned to the skill, the art of asking good questions. Moody learned from the best, of course. “I learned this from Ken Squier very early on, I certainly learned it from Barney (Hall). Chris Economaki, God rest him, just passed away the other day. He told me that one time. He said 'Son, ask your question in as few words possible, then get out of the way. Because after all, it’s the answer people are interested in and not the question.'"

“You know I've never forgotten that, because Ken taught me that, too. A lot of people in our business, either consciously or subconsciously try to prove how smart they are by asking a question, and then turning it into a multiple choice question by suggesting all of the possible answers, and by the time they get done answering the question, the answer is boring because the interviewer has already suggested all of the answers. So there’s a real skill to asking a just asking question in the fewest words possible and then getting out of the way to let the person answer.”

“Squier was a stickler on that, Economaki was a stickler on that. If you got to about the second sentence of your question and you hadn't asked it yet, either one of them would reach out and just grab you and shake you by the shoulders and say, 'Get to the question already.' And you don’t get shaken too many times by Ken Squier before you learn to get to the question.”

I hope you've enjoyed the interview thus far. There's more to come. Stay tuned tomorrow for more on Dave Moody's career, Speedway Legends, and his NASCAR fantasy team! 



Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track.  
She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May, 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports. 

Follow her on Twitter @ljc777. 

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