Friday, February 13, 2015

Turning point for Daytona, NASCAR featured on TV special

In NASCAR’s rich lore, a singular afternoon in 1979 plucked the sport from the ranks of the also-rans to national prominence.

It came in the third turn of the last lap at the Daytona 500 when Donnie Allison got in a duel with Cale Yarborough for the finish. They both spun out in their wrecked cars as Richard Petty roared by to win.

Allison and Yarborough started boxing and driver Bobby Allison dove in to his brother’s defense.

Bobby Allison holds race driver Cale Yarborough's foot after Yarborough kicked him following an argument Feb. 18, 1979, when Yarborough stopped his car during the final lap of the Daytona 500. Allison's brother Donnie was involved in a wreck with Yarborough on the final lap, which made Bobby stop. AP file photo.

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“And there’s a fight … between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison!” cried CBS race host Ken Squier, who gave Daytona the nickname of “The Great American Race.”“Tempers overflowing; they’re angry; they know they have lost, and what a bitter defeat.”

And what a victory for the sport.

It was a day of firsts, and the fight wasn’t one of them. It was the first time the Daytona 500 had been televised in its entirety, and it harvested a record rating.

By coincidence, a huge storm had paralyzed the populous Northeast and Bill France Jr., NASCAR’s president, had lifted the telecast’s traditional blackout in the South. CBS had a huge audience for the 500, once considered a poor television bet because the race went on so long.

But Squier knew people would watch, and the day’s accidents, capped by a middle-weight bout, made the 500 a staple on CBS for more than a decade and elevated Southern-centric NASCAR to a new national audience it had never courted.

NASCAR finally had its buzz.

Fox Sports 1’s “The Perfect Storm” (7:30 p.m. Friday) is an hour-long documentary that taps the memories of many of the still-living participants in the historic race.

Mike Joy, now a play-by-play announcer for Fox, was covering Turn 2 for Concord-based Motor Racing Network that day and provides one of the memories in the special.

“In its first live telecast of the Daytona 500, CBS got a good race, a thrilling, crashing finish and a post-race brawl in front of a huge, mostly snowbound TV audience,” he says. “NASCAR couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Squier, who co-founded Motor Racing Network in 1969 and called races for more than three decades, is one of the sport’s foremost broadcast figures.

“Without being too wordy, he made these drivers into larger-than-life heroes,” Joy says. “As he often said, they were ‘common men doing uncommon deeds.’ Ken gave the event and its aftermath such a tone of great importance and excitement. His call left no doubt that this was the biggest thing ever to happen to stock car racing, and that stock car racing had, that day, become a very big thing.”

Other voices in the special include longtime Charlotte Observer race writer Tom Higgins, Yarborough and the Allison brothers, Richard Petty, CBS analyst David Hobbs, MRN reporter Jack Arute, then-president Jimmy Carter and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who saw the race as a spectator.

Following the special is another produced by NASCAR Productions, “1979 Daytona 500,” (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1) hosted by Earnhardt Jr., which features a 30-minute version of the race studded with pop-up video inserts.

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Charlotte native returning to Channel 9 as reporter

Brittney Johnson
WSOC (Channel 9) has hired Brittney Johnson, who will join the reporting staff on March 30.

Johnson, who grew up in west Charlotte, comes from the NBC station in Little Rock, Ark., where she worked for the last five years and is weekend anchor. Before than, she worked at a station in West Monroe, La.

She is a graduate of Howard University with a master's degree from the University of California/Berkeley.

WCNC morning host Ira Cronin leaving for Colorado

Ira Cronin
After 14 years at WCNC (Channel 36), Ira Cronin is returning to the West, starting next month as a morning host at the NBC affiliate in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Cronin started at WCNC in 2001 as sports anchor and later moved to morning host. Cronin came from a sports job in Salt Lake City. He is a native of Albuquerque, N.M.

Cronin's departure marks the second this year of a high-profile, longtime personality. Investigative reporter Stuart Watson left WCNC in January. More changes can be expected in the months ahead as the station's new owner, Gannett, begins to put its imprint on the NBC affiliate .

Friday, February 6, 2015

Kiss radio names new talent lineup

New morning teams at Kiss is, from left, LauRen Merola, Roy Brown and Steve Maney. 

Charlotte's pop Kiss radio, WNKS-FM (95.1), unveiled its new lineup Friday for morning and evening shows, including a new team built around morning host Steve Maney.

Joining Maney will be LauRen Merola and Roy Brown, replacing P.J. "Drex" Rener and Cassiday Proctor who left the top-40 station last month for a new job in Atlanta.

Merola, 30, has done television in her native Pittsburgh and sports radio in Miami and on Charlotte's WZGV-AM (ESPN 730). She was a dancer on four USO entertainment tours and for the Charlotte Hornets. She was Miss Pennsylvania in 2008 and represented the state in the Miss USA pageant that year. She was also co-captain of the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad.

Brown's background is less worldly. He comes from a station in Roanoke, Va., has never been on an airplane, never been to a NASCAR race and says he has never been above five stories in a skyscraper. 

Anna Sorrentino takes over the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. shift at Kiss.

 A.J Anelli 
Taking the midday shift that Proctor used to fill is Anna Sorrentino, who goes by the air name Riley. 

Taking over the night shift from Nick Felton, who used the air name Jay Sparxx and who has taken another job outside radio in Charlotte, is A.J. Anelli, who had worked for Kiss in production and promotion before taking jobs in Jacksonville and Washington, N.C. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Marty Hurney moving up fast in sports radio

Seven months after launching a new career as sports commentator, former Panthers general manager Marty Hurney is moving into management, becoming co-operator of Charlotte’s WZGV-AM (ESPN 730).

Hurney and Lanny Ford, general manager of the station since it launched and Hurney’s co-host on the air, said Monday that they have reached an agreement to lease the station from owner HRN Broadcasting.

Marty Hurney (Photo: Jeff Siner/Observer)
They are also leasing from HRN Asheville station WZGM-AM (1350), which has a sports and news-talk format. Ford said some of ESPN 730 shows may be picked up on that station, which like WZGV carries Appalachian State University sports.

Hurney started in June as a commentator on ESPN 730 in June, first paired with Al Gardner, who has since moved to Myrtle Beach, and now with Ford.

Hurney, fired in October 2012 after more than 10 years as the Panthers’ general manager, has been serving as guest analyst on ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” since March. Hurney was a sportswriter for The Washington Times before joining the Panthers’ personnel department in 1998.

He became the team’s GM in 2002 and oversaw the Panthers’ Super Bowl team in 2003. Panthers owner Jerry Richardson fired Hurney in 2012 after the team started 1-5.

Ford said that he and Hurney have formed a company named 2G Media to operate the station. He said they have a three-year contract to operate the two stations, with options to continue.

Like 730 ESPN, the Asheville station operates at 10,000 watts on the AM dial.

Before leasing the stations, Ford worked for HRN for 11 years.

Charlotte TV personalities snag regional Emmys

Christopher Clark
Charlotte composer Fred Story collected three regional Emmy Awards and WCNC (Channel 36) sportscaster Christopher Clark two in a weekend ceremony in Nashville, Tenn.

Clark won for sportscast and editing. Story of Concentrix Music and Sound Design won for composer and arranger, historical program feature and magazine program.

Tori Duncan, Blair Miller and Wendy Robbins of WSOC (Channel 9) won for evening newscast.

Fred Story
Molly Grantham of WBTV (Channel 3) won for continuing coverage on medical marijuana. Christine Nelson and Leighton Grant of WBTV  won for serious feature. 

Raycom Sports' David Barringer and Billy McCoy won for sports event and Rayom's Alex Farmartino won for topical documentary. "Duke Carolina: The Making of a Masterpiece," won for Raycom's  Jeremy Williams, John Hairston, Boris Rogers, Richard Brooke in promo spots.

Fox Sports South's Keith Wetzler, Kyle Payne, Jeff Gammage and Dan Greene won for public service campaign. 

WSOC, Tanner nominated for industry honor

Rob Tanner

Rob Tanner's morning show is a finalist for the Academy of Country Music radio award this year.

Guenn Schneider
Tanner with co-hosts Guenn Schneider, producer Chris Allen and Captain Jim have been named finalists in the major market personality category. Country broadcasters from Phoenix, Tampa, Chicago and Philadelphia are also in the running.

Additionally, WSOC-FM (103.7) is a finalist in the major market radio station award along with KNIX-FM in Phoenix, 
WIL-FM in St. Louis, WKLB-FM in Boston, and WUSN-FM in Chicago.

Winners will be announced April 19 in Dallas.