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The Dave Despain Show

Dave Despain on the set of his new show on MAVTV.

 

Their names and faces are familiar: Bob Jenkins, Bob Varsha, Mike Joy and Dave Despain. They’ve brought motorsports events into your home for decades. Varsha and Joy are still on TV most race weekends, but Jenkins is for the most part retired. Despain almost rode his beloved motorcycle off into the sunset a year ago when the Speed Channel and his popular WindTunnel show went away in favor of Fox Sports 1. The key word here is almost.

Enter Forrest Lucas, MAVTV and a contact that helped get Despain back into a television studio where many think he belongs.

Look for John Force as one of the many guests on "The Dave Despain Show".

Look for John Force as one of the many guests on “The Dave Despain Show”.

“When WindTunnel went away, I called Forrest Lucas and asked him if there was still a place on TV for an in-depth interview show,” Despain said. “At that point, riding off into the sunset was still a possibility if Forrest had said ‘no, I don’t think there is.’”

But Lucas, who is the founder and president of Lucas Oil and the owner of MAVTV, is also a big supporter of auto racing. He thought a show of that sort deserved a spot on his cable channel, which features many grassroots racing events.

“We talked it over,” the 67-year old Despain said, “and basically made a deal to create such a show that will begin April 25.”

And so was born the Dave Despain Show. Along with its 26 episodes are five live racing events, ranging from the Chili Bowl indoor midget classic to several dirt late model races, which Despain will host.

Of the various shows Despain has been involved with in his 40-year broadcasting career, many were slanted toward current racing news and occasional interviews with big-name guests – similar to the WindTunnel format. But both Lucas and Despain share a love for the grassroots level of racing and the personalities who race there.

“It (the new show) does play into my philosophy about the kind of grassroots racing I like to watch, “ noted Despain who made an early name for himself as a PA announcer and reporter at events as varied as AMA motorcycles on Midwest dirt tracks and midget and sprint cars at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

But the grassroots interviews will have to share air time on the new program with an A-list of guests who have jumped at an invitation to share their story on a relaxed, one-on-one interview show with an interviewer whom they can trust but who also isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions.

“There was lots of talk regarding who the guests should be – guests who might not otherwise get an opportunity to be on TV. We left it at that and thought we’d see who we could get, and as it turned out, we got a pretty abundant lineup of what I would call superstars and legends. We decided to ride that horse as long as it will run,” he noted.

So look for a mix of Dan Gurney, Kyle Larson, John Force and “Uncle Bobby” (Unser), combined with dirt-trackers from the Chili Bowl and late-model stars like Scott Bloomquist.

“It’s a privilege and an honor to sit down and have an in-depth conversation with them. We’re used to hearing these people in 15-second sound bites if we’re lucky. We go on and on as long as I have a question and they have an answer. We’ll cull from that the best half-hour for each show,” Despain explained.

And what about the need for a different type of show that centers on all aspects of racing news and isn’t just NASCAR centered?

“I’d love to see that,” Despain stated. ”There have been several iterations in terms of that type of format, and they’ve had various life spans going back to Motorweek Illustrated and SpeedWeek, but I fear that there’s not a sufficient audience for that to even create a demand for an interest-specific show. The Speed Channel gave that concept its best shot, but Fox turned Speed into something different…and racing would only be a small part of it.”

So later this week Dave will be at it again, doing what he does best: getting across the racers’ point of view to the fans instead of his own POV.

Despain explained why Jeff Gordon liked being on WindTunnel as a guest or host: “Jeff told me that one of the things he liked about coming on our show was we wanted to talk about stuff that other shows didn’t talk about, not to create controversy, but (to) see the racing world the way it really is rather than how the PR people try to spin it.”

Despain is back with that kind of refreshing take on our sport; tune in.

Interviews with DD tend to cover a wide variety of subjects. Here are some interesting notes:

  • Despain says that he does have a Bucket List of races and places he hasn’t had a chance to visit yet. “The Indianapolis 500 is one that might surprise you, but we spent a lot of time with ESPN at the track doing 96-hours of coverage, often with no cars on the track, prior to ABC moving in for time trials. Saturday morning I did my last report. I jumped on my motorcycle to go and do the PA for the motorcycle races at the Springfield (IL) mile on Memorial Day.” Other races he hopes to attend include the Knoxville (IA) Nationals sprint car classic and the NHRA National drag races on Labor Day weekend. “I want the starter there to let me go down to the launch pad between the fuel dragsters.”

 

  • “Once I went to Indianapolis with some guys for the motorcycle races at the Fairgrounds over the Labor Day weekend. Couldn’t get a motel room and found out that the drag races were out at IRP. So we went out to the middle of a cemetery on 38th Street where no one would see us, rolled up our leather jackets and laid down on the ground and slept there. We were awakened by the sounds of the (drag) cars way out in Clermont (IRP).”

 

  • And who was his favorite co-host during the ten years of WindTunnel ? Why the unpredictable Robin Miller of course. “He was the most difficult just because of the way his mind works – and that’s not a criticism. He is what he is and no artifice about it. I love his openness and frankness. He’s pretty old school, and I like that.”

 

 

 

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”