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Get to Know WKA Team Member: Jake Tretow

CONCORD, NC -  If you race in the Manufacturer's Cup or Winter Cup you definitely should be able to recognize Jake Tretow.  Jake flags the start/finish line and is probably one of the best flaggers let alone one of the biggest racing fans out there.  Jake grew up racing karts on the paved oval courses and now is a legends car racer.  He loves being at the races, watching all the battles and enjoys the jokes and camaraderie that comes with being apart of the WKA race staff. Read more about Jake, his racing and flagging life below in this interview:

How many years have you been in the racing world?

"18 years, since 1999."

Have you ever raced? If so, what and for how long?

"I raced WKA pavement oval from 2003-2007 and now I race legends cars."

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What made you want to work for the WKA?

"It was a great opportunity to learn more about karting and have a great time with some awesome people."

What does a day in the life look like at the WKA races?

"I'm at the start/finish line all weekend (Friday-Sunday) flagging and watching every race."

What is your favorite racing series to watch?

"Weekly short track racing is by far the best racing there is, whether it is on pavement or dirt."

What do you enjoy most about WKA races?

"The people are awesome and I enjoy watching large groups of karts battle for wins."

Which race has been your most memorable so far, and why?

"I have worked the races at Daytona for the past 3 years.  It's really cool having the Manufacturer's Cup, Road Race Series and Dirt Series all at the same place. "

 Is there anything else you’d like to share?

"Racing is the best addiction there is, but I'm a firm believer that if you are not having fun [at the races] you are in the wrong business."

Get to Know WKA Team Member: David Coates

PORTAGE, IN - If you didn't know David Coates and I had to describe him to you using only three words; energetic, positive and passionate would immediately come to mind.  David is absolutely on fire for working WKA Manufacturer's Cup races, not to mention all the other cool hobbies he participates in like playing percussion in a band, photography, and hiking to name a few.  David raced for 12 years and continues to hold the same enthusiasm for karting as he had when he was racing in his younger years.  If you ever come across David at the races, he is easy to spot because he always has a huge smile and kind words to say to all the drivers.  Read more about David below in his interview:

How many years have you been in the racing world (Either a racer, fan, working for a racing organization)?

"Getting close to 50 years that I have loved the sport of racing. My passion for racing began at an early age, [probably around 4 or 5 years old] My dad would take us to Illiana Motor Speedway, one of the Midwest premier paved half mile ovals. The love for the smell of race fuel, rear end grease, hot brakes, burnt rubber and peanuts will forever be etched in my mind. Saturday nights were always the best when we were “going to the track!"

Have you ever raced? If so, what and for how long?

"I raced for 12 years at Club Level at MRP [Michiana Raceway Park] in South Bend Indiana from 1992-2004. I also ran in all four Portage IN. GP’s and all three South Bend Regional Airport GP’s. I ran Yamaha Pipe and HPV 4- Pipe my entire career. I met a lot of great people during those days that I still call friends today."

What made you want to work for the WKA?

"I had worked multiple WKA events at MRP [as an MRP employee] and really liked the camaraderie I saw in the WKA staff. Dennis Long, a long time flagman for WKAand multiple other series, took me under his guidance when it came to flagging races knowing I was very interested in his position, and led me to Buddy Long. The rest is history. Buddy, as well as the entire WKA organization have welcomed not only me, but my son [Alec] to my multiple positions with the Man Cup Series which I am grateful for."

What does a day in the life of you look like at the WKA office?

"Well I am not in the WKA office, LOL but a day in the life of me can have a lot of variables! I live my life on “10”! I have multiple hobbies….I am a musician and play percussion every chance I get weather it is in my shop or with a band. I love Photography, I cannot get enough camping in, in a season, I love the beach, sunset’s and hiking. My wife and I enjoy working in our yard. And more important than anything, I have a beautiful wife, three amazing kids and two totally awesome grandkids [that are into all kinds of fun stuff] that I enjoy more than anything previously mentioned! Life is GREAT, just crazy busy."

What is your favorite racing series to watch?

"Well I would think the appropriate answer would be the WKA! ;-) But since I can’t watch it for the enjoyment of it all, I will have to go to series “B”, I LOVE USAC SPRINTS AND MIDGETS as well as INDY CAR!! Saturday night short track, Late Models and Modified’s……….Well, it don’t get better than that either!!!"

What do you enjoy most about WKA races?

"The family atmosphere. Not only amongst our officiating team, but I am a “people person”, and the relationships that I have, and continue built around the paddock with not only the racers,  but the families makes the long days and weekends on your feet worth it!"

Which race has been your most memorable so far, and why?

"2016 Man Cup at New Castle. Three 100 degree days in a row set a president for any and all races to follow!! Makes all of the others a cake walk! That was nothing short of BRUTAL!!"

 Is there anything else you’d like to share?

"I would just like to thank Buddy Long and the entire WKA Organization for not only believing in me, but also for allowing my son to be a part of this Great Series. Being able to enjoy and share a passion for racing as a national race official with my son……Well work cannot describe! VERY BLESSED, AND VERY APPRECIATIVE FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY!! THANK YOU!"

Get to Know WKA Team Member: Xander Clements

WOODSTOCK, GA- If you have raced in or have come to watch a race in the WKA Manufacturer's Cup or Winter Cup, his face may not look familiar but his voice just might.  Xander Clements has been announcing in both of these WKA series for over the past year now and the race action has never been more exciting.  A fellow kart racer himself, Xander conveys the excitement of every move down the twists and turns of tracks all over the Eastern seaboard. He definitely has a voice beyond his years.  Not only does Xander announce, he is friends with many of the racers and often is a source of support and coaching.  Read more about Xander in his interview below:

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

"Woodstock, Georgia."

HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE RACING WORLD? 

"My earliest involvement in the sport takes me back to before I can really remember. When I was really young, my parents were both still working, so my grandmother on my dad's side babysat me often. She also did the same for many of my cousins, and my older cousin Mason stored his Power Wheels monster truck at her and my grandfather's house. I really wanted to drive it, but I was way too small to reach the pedals. After constant nagging, my grandmother finally gave in. She took her walking cane and used it to press the gas gently while I steered around her driveway, and I've been hooked on the sport ever since." 

HAVE YOU EVER RACED? IF NOT, WHAT SPORTS OR HOBBIES DO YOU ENJOY?

"My parents never could afford to buy a kart and a full time mechanic, so I never got started as young as I would have liked. I was always looking up brochures and websites online of every different discipline of entry level racing I could find, though. Mini cups, Bandoleros, Legend Cars, Baby Grands, 1/4 Midgets, 1/2 Midgets, and of course, go karts. But without any mechanical background (my dad is an English major and my mom works in IT) we were still scared of jumping in and running our budget out in a few weeks by not knowing what we were doing.

The summer I turned 9, the local indoor karting track began hosting weekly camps. $199 for five days from 9-5 of non-stop racing, arcade games, coaching, lunch, and hanging with other 8-12 year olds. We did a ton of these weekly sessions, and when I was able to convince the promoter of the track's adult league to open a junior division, I finally got my start. 

I ran three seasons, placing 2nd in Junior Semi-Pro the first season, winning 11 of 12 races and the championship in the season, and then winning the championship in Junior Pro in my final season. 

After that, we took a break from the indoor league as we had reached the top, and began to save up. About a year later, we took a trip down to Barnesville, GA, to watch the club races at Lamar County Speedway. We found a friend from the indoor league racing there, and that was the one connection my parents needed to get involved in the sport with confidence. We bought our first kart a few weeks later.

I eventually graduated from that club after a year and a half and raced my first few national races in 2014, beginning with WKA Daytona KartWeek. In 2015 and 2016, we couldn't afford to race as much and only made one national, but this year I am racing at least five events and possibly more."

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO WORK FOR THE WKA? 

"Well, when I began racing at Barnesville, I asked one the club's board members if I could announce the races I wasn't driving in. Since we had no announcer at the time, he gave me a shot, and I announced every club race there ever since. When WKA Gold Cup returned to the track in 2015, Steve Roberts of Roberts Kart Shop referred Buddy to me to call the action. He even offered to cover my pay for the weekend because he believed that Buddy and everyone would like my announcing so much they'd pay him back in full.

Long story short, the weekend was a success, and when Buddy asked me if I was available for Daytona, I was over the moon. I ended up getting to announce the entire Winter Cup and Manufacturer's Cup seasons for 2016, and am getting to do it all over again this year!"

WHAT DOES A DAY WORKING FOR WKA LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

"While I don't work in the physical offices, my day normally begins with picking up my announcing binder that Buddy prepares for me for each race. I make a few announcements in the morning to let everyone know our plans for the day, and if we have a wireless mic at the track, wander through the paddock to say hi and welcome all of our racers. 

I really enjoy getting to connect with the drivers and their families at the track, and in most cases I get to do that. However, once qualifying gets under way, I am 100% focused on announcing everything on track until we throw the checkered flag on the last race of the day. After that, I normally wander around again to say hi with any racers I didn't get the chance to talk to yet in the weekend."

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE RACING SERIES TO WATCH? 

"Karting is by far the most exciting form of motorsport. In karting, it's a rarity to watch a single driver pull away to an easy victory, but in car racing, it's a rarity to watch a pack of drivers battle for the win on the closing laps."

With that said, I'd have to say either Australian V8 Supercars or NASCAR when it goes to road courses. Both put on a fantastic show."

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WKA RACES?

"I really enjoy practice being able to spend time throughout the weekend meeting and speaking with all of our racers. Karting is an amazing community of people, and seeing the smiles on parents faces when they hear their kid's name over the PA system is simply priceless."

WHICH RACE HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE SO FAR?

"That would easily be the first Daytona KartWeek I announced, at the beginning of the 2016 season. Working out of a hot and humid trailer with the windows open let in the roar of nearly 250 entries every time they opened up the throttle down the front stretch. I wore my voice out that weekend by being so excited to be calling the action. 

I also got to meet and make friendships with some pretty amazing people! Rob Howden was working the EKN broadcast that weekend, and he has since become a great mentor of mine. Chris Wheeler has also helped me a ton as he is a great announcer in his own right, and I consider him a good friend as well. There are a ton of other amazing people I got to meet that weekend - far too many to name."

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?

"I just want to thank everyone at my WKA home track in Barnesville, GA for always supporting me. Without all of them, I wouldn't have been able to get any of the opportunities I'm enjoying right now. Karting is filled up with great people, and I hope that I can make a quarter of an impact on someone that the GSKA group made on me."

Get To Know WKA Team Member: Buddy Long

CONCORD, NC - You might recognize Buddy Long as "THE VOICE" behind the NASCAR Xfinity, Truck and Cup race series but did you know that he is a vital part of the WKA team?  As the WKA Operations Director, Buddy is a key component of planning and creating successful race weekends.  We thought you should get to know a little more about the WKA Team, so we are getting this party started by getting to know more about the man, the voice, the legend, Mr. Buddy Long!

Where are you from?

I am originally from Leonardtown, Maryland, about an hour south of Washington, DC, two hours south of Baltimore.

How did you become involved in racing?

I became interested in stock car racing when my Dad took me to my local dirt track, Potomac Speedway in Budds Creek, Maryland. I was about 12. I never had the desire to race, I just love watching and participating in other ways.  In total, I have been in racing for 37 years.

How did you get the opportunity to be a race announcer?

My inspiration for announcing came from my love for reading my racing paper out loud. It not only helped develop my announcing style, it also helped me to remember things about racing better by reading out loud.

By the age of 15, I was the track announcer. I didn’t even have a Drivers License yet. I worked at Potomac for many years and I also announced at many other tracks including Dorsey, Hagerstown, Southside, Langley, East Carolina to name a few.

I auditioned for Motor Racing Network, and have been working as a NASCAR announcer for MRN for the last 17 years, doing Truck, Xfinity, and Cup races, as well as being the PA voice at Daytona and Homestead.

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How did you get into the karting scene?

I began working at karting tracks in the mid nineties; Amelia Motor Raceway and Virginia Sports Arena, as well as pa at Richmond International Raceway. The late Ricky Carpenter of Virginia Sports Arena brought me down to be one of the announcers in 1995 to work the George Kugler Memorial at Charlotte Motor Speedway, part of the North American Karting Championships. Drivers back then included Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli, now racing Formula One.

From there, I worked various events as an announcer for WKA until 1999, when they were looking to hire a full-time Operations Director. The radio station I was working at in Maryland was about to be sold. So I made the leap to North Carolina.

Which is your most memorable race?

Karting: Introducing all the Italian drivers at the NAKC at Charlotte and butchering their names. They laughed. Also playing the wrong CD. Instead of the national anthem at this international race, I played Sugar Pie, Honey Bun. Not my best moment.

NASCAR: Announcing the starting lineup for the Daytona 500 this year on National TV. It was a great honor.

Which racing series are your favorite?

In karting, I enjoy all series.  In NASCAR, I prefer the Truck Series, and in Dirt racing I like Late Models, World of Outlaw and Lucas Oil Series---or my hometown track when I am home on a weekend!

What do you enjoy the most about WKA events?

What I enjoy the most about the WKA events is breaking through the barrier of the US vs THEM. I love my karting family very much, and there isn’t a thing I wouldn’t do for them. And they know that.  I am very approachable. In my profession, announcing and WKA, that’s everything.  I love the sport and its people.

For a glimpse into a recent MRN broadcast with Buddy, CLICK HERE.