How It All Got Started
I would like to share with you how it all got started for me. I have always been an active guy; loved playing with the kids, fishing, working on race cars, and working… fixing commercial doors, like dock doors. I have been fixing doors for over 34 years now and over the years it has taken its toll on my old body. A few years ago, I woke up one morning and found two volleyballs where my knees had been the night before! I didn’t walk, I waddled to the Dr.’s office, only to find out I was now the proud owner of a case of moderate to severe Rheumatoid Arthritis! YIPPEEE lucky me!
The Dr told me I should retire from my day job but since I had kids at home, and this nasty habit I had… called eating… if I wanted to keep both, I had to work. Lots of the extra little jobs I was doing were put on hold, ‘til I figured out how to live with this R/A thing. I had no intention of giving up. I just wanted to figure out how to work with it. Well after a while I saw the writing on the wall; the work on race cars was one of the things that was going to have to be stopped. The wear and tear of working on them every night was just too much.
At the time, I was the crew chief for driver Glenn Grimsley, who the previous year had won his first Track Title, in his first year of driving, and we were on a roll! We finished out the year, without second Title, and out of nowhere, I was asked to come to work with Timmy Millwood and Tom Peters at North Georgia Speedway, helping with setting up events and helping with organizing things around the track. This was a Godsend, since I would still be around racing, just in a different way. Well, during the off season, the track switched promoters, and local racer Derek Ellis’ dad, Keiff Ellis took over the track. The Ellis’ asked me to stay and sort of be the face of NGS since none of them wanted to do the PR work or interviews.
Things were going well, and were really picking up, when one Saturday night Keiff walked up and handed me the microphone, saying “Doc, our announcer, Tony Ray’s brother’s house burned last night and Tony won’t be able to make it tonight. You're the announcer for tonight”, and with that he walked off. I stood there in shock; the first thought in my mind was the fact that I cussed like a sailor. After my time in the Navy, I came by it naturally. I mean every 3rd word was either the “F-bomb” or “SOB.” I was scared; I mean really scared. All I could think about was slipping up. I ran (well as fast as I could walk) to Keiff Ellis, and told him “Man, I can’t do this”, trying to hand the microphone back to him. He was having none of it. “Now Doc, we ain’t got any choice; you’re the man.” He slapped me on the back, smiled and drove off.
Here I was, with microphone in hand and the crowd’s starting to fill the stands. I stuck the mic in my back pocket and kept doing what I do, greeting drivers, handing out the night's schedule and answering questions. We made it through the drivers meeting and I was standing in the middle of pit road waiting for our first class to roll out for hot laps when over the radio on my headset I hear “Call for the hobby cars.” I stood waiting for someone to call for them, forgetting I had the mic in my pocket, so again I hear “Somebody call for the damn hobby cars! Let's get this moving” and again I stand there, oblivious to the fact, they were talking to me. Finally I hear “Damn it Doc, call for the hobby cars!!!!” and I did…
I was still scared to death to turn the thing on, but I called for the first heat race real fast. “First heat to the track” boom I switched it off. I was still in the infield, not in the tower. I had been going to North Georgia for 20 years and I had never watched the races from anywhere but the pits; I had NEVER been in the tower, and I didn’t see that changing anytime soon. Then once again I hear on the headset, “Doc you gotta get these guys out there; they ain’t moving.” So I summoned up what courage I could and flipped the switch, “Ok drivers let’s go! Let’s get this show on the road! We got fans wanting to see some race cars! ROLL EM OUT HERE NOW!” Well I was shocked that I strung that many words together all at once, and suddenly here come the race cars! And the fans cheered!
I realized that I suddenly had a power, almost mystical, so I turned the mic on again. “Good Evening race fans. Welcome to North Georgia Speedway! It’s time to go racing!” Again the fans cheered, and when they did, I felt something, deep down inside… a little voice saying “You’ve got this doc” and thus began my career as an announcer. For the past 8 years I have done countless races, and over 200 radio shows and I can count on one hand the number of times I have slipped up. I love my job, I love getting the fans going, and making sure they have a good time.
I guess you could say I am blessed to still get to be around the sport I love so much, and to now be a part of it, in a way I never ever dreamed I would.
I have added my own little touches here and there, and I have spent countless hours listening to other announcers over the years, trying to learn, and better my craft to give the fans the best show I can.
So if you're ever around the hills of North Georgia, stop by Boyd’s Speedway at the Tennessee-Georgia state line off of I-75, or around Chatsworth Georgia, where North Georgia Speedway is, stop by and say hi. I love meeting the fans. I will close this with the same thing I say at the end of the nights racing… “Thanks for coming out! We hope to see you next time here at Boyd’s Speedway. Have a safe trip home, and remember, you can’t change the whole world, but you can touch just one life. My name is Mitch Walker. Have a great night!”