WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- He moderates the largest, oldest and most consistent summer community gathering in the Piedmont Triad. This marks Randy Pettitt’s 11th season as “the voice” of Bowman Gray Stadium. He’s the public address announcer for the NASCAR racing there every Saturday night between late April and mid-August.
And even though he took about an 18-year hiatus between the years 1995 and 2012 to pursue some other interests, Pettitt returned to the microphone in 2013 and hasn’t slowed down since.
“Bowman Gray grabbed me when I was a kid, and it’s never let go,” he told me during a recent weekday in an empty stadium. “I’ve travelled to more than 100 race tracks across the country, worked in a variety of roles and this has always been my favorite. It still it.”
Pettitt grew up in southeastern Winston-Salem a few blocks from Bowman Gray. He remembers hearing the roar of the engines on Saturday nights. His first shot at attending a race happened when he was a little more than 5 years old.
“My mom and my uncle brought me and I’ll never forget it,” he said. “It came a big thunderstorm and it started pouring rain right before the races were going to start. We had to run out to the car. And you know I cried all the way home.”
And although he doesn’t get quite as emotional when rain cancels or postpones a race today, his childlike fascination with what happens at Bowman Gray is hard to let go. Except, perhaps, during the week when it comes to his day job.
Pettitt is the director of sales and marketing for Strutmasters, a company in Roxboro that specializes in suspension conversion kits.
But he puts in hours of preparation for his work at Bowman Gray every week.
“Obviously, a big part of the job (at Bowman Gray) is entertainment,” he said. “We’re all here to put on a show. It is a sport. The racing is what started it all. It’s why most people come to watch. But, let’s face it, I believe everybody’s here because it’s entertaining too.”
Pettitt’s wild and colorful outfits, shoes and sunglasses are part of that entertainment factor. He says he’s lost count of the many different outfits he has in his closet. But he hasn’t lost the memory of what prompted his wardrobe in the first place. And it dates back to when he returned to announcing at Bowman Gray in 2013.
“One night I was in a pair of khakis and a golf shirt,” he said. “And we had some military members here. And they were in full fatigues. And here I am sweating and complaining about wearing a golf shirt and these guys and gals are in full fatigues. You know, if they can dress up in full uniform, why can’t I?”
Pettitt told me he also approaches these Saturday nights at the races with the fans in mind.
“Folks come to Bowman Gray to forget about the real world, to forget about all their troubles and to leave that outside the gate,” he said. “And they come here and they immerse themselves in the action and entertainment. And, you know, our job is to put on that show and help people forget about their cares and troubles.”
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