Dragstrip Iron was thrilled to have Bob Beck give us his back story on his start into the world of Drag Racing and what led him to the "MIC"
Without further ado....Bob's story
I am a lifelong car enthusiast. As an east coast kid, I would save my allowance to buy model cars and car magazines. I read about the drag racing on the west coast and dreamed about being part of it. I moved to California when I was 10 and literally lived on the famous Van Nuys Blvd where the cruising in the San Fernando Valley was a rolling car show Friday and Saturday nights. The SoCal car culture became an obsession to me. Too young to drive, I raced slot cars. I built wheel standers. Speed was not as important as style. I still had my magazine addiction and read about Lippencott, Rhonda, Garlits, Ivo, Prudhomme, Landy, Borsch and more. My car dream were still a big part of my life. Like many, I started working in gas stations to learn to fix cars and have the money to buy one. My budget and ideas never quite matched, but I made due with what I had. Even my high school car was nerdy kind of cool. 6 cyl Ford Falcon. It was full of JC Whittney parts. An off brand floor shifter, headers from a you weld kit, 3 carbs and a milled head. Shackles made in metal shop to raise it up. Chrome wheels (on the rear only, couldn’t afford 4). Recapped cheater slicks. Then there were custom touches. The trunk was a rumble seat. My mom stitched up the nauga-hide interior I installed. I had sprayed on window tint and a rattle can competition stripe across the hood and front fenders. As with other teens, we started our racing careers on the streets. Light to light contests and zooming down the freeway. LA Country Street Racers, now called the Brotherhood of Street racers was the first car club I joined and that got me into many races at San Fernando, Pomona, OCIR, Lions and Irwindale. After a stint in the Air Force, my interests turned to road racing. I still learned my craft on the streets, We raced up in the twisting canyons that separated Hollywood from the Valley. Now it was British sports cars that dominated my passion to drive. After college, where I majored in Radio and TV Broadcasting I scored my first real job and cars were the focus. I was an auto shop teacher. The racing now was better because I could actually afford it. I still was turning left and right rather than just going straight. One day at an event, I wanted to find out what my lap times were like, so I went to timing and scoring. As I walked up, the guy reading off times turned and handed me the mic. He said. “I gotta go run my car, here”….. Well, err um, I couldn’t JUST read off times like he did, so I started talking about the other drivers and their cars as they drove the course. I guy walked out of the crowd of spectators and said, “How’d ya like to get paid to do this?” How could I say no? I started with Motocross, then USAC dirt track. The local newspaper asked me to write an auto column for them. I was starting to live the dream. LACR opened up and the paper asked me to cover the races, so I went out to the drags for the first time in a many years. As I came in the gate and introduced myself, they sent me to the timing tower to see the track manager. He said.” You announce the races at the fairgrounds dontcha?” I said yes and he handed me the mic. I stayed at LACR for 20 years and learned a lot about drag racing and the people. In the shadows of Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and “TV” Tommy Ivo, I was asked to join the famous Road Kings of Burbank car club. I leaned more and now I was meeting the history makers I read about. I was asked to announce circle track races at Ascott for the Karts and quads. Then drag races for all the nostalgia groups like NDRA, ANRA, Goodguys and even got on the mic with Steve Evans, Bob Frye and later Dave “Big Mac” McClelland. Word got out that I wasn’t a bad announcer. So I got asked to announce the California Hot Rod Reunion and now the Holley National Hot Rod Reunion. Did a few movies, radio, TV and commercials too. During all of this, I left teaching and went to work for the OEM manufacturers. BMW, NISSAN, then lastly Isuzu and GM. The auto industry had been good to me, but the recession ended that. AAA of So, Cal. (John Force team sponsor) stepped up and now I was representing them at car shows and races as their in-house collector car guy. During a period of time when I worked for Nissan in Japan, I met Shige Suganuma, the future owner of Mooneyes. We kept in touch over the years and I was asked to announce his Christmas race one year. Doing what I did best, I started doing my thing on the PA at Irwindale drag strip for Mooneyes. About an hour into the race, Chris, from Irwindale walked up behind me and asked if I did this often. I said, as often as I can. He responded with. “Can ya start Thursday?” and now after about 8 years, Irwindale drags and Speedway has been my home alongside AAA. Also at about that time I was asked to be a guest on SPEED SCENE LIVE TV and stayed with them for 5 years resurrecting my old radio show, GAAS, Great American Auto Scene. Today, GAAS is its own pod cast show on facebook and gotgaas.com. I did do some drag racing in between it all. M/stock in AHRA in my autocross Datsun that I had taken a championship with. Set a record with it, but AHRA folded before the ink was dry on the forms. I took the dragster driving class from Fast Jack Beckman when he was lead instructor at the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School. I have also built some cars that have won some shows and been in magazines. Hey, I’m a car guy, what can I say. Drag racing has been the most influential factor of my life and I have always come back to it. From magazine dreams to the driver’s seat and eventually into the best seat in the house, the announcer’s booth.