Racing community rallies to offer support to celebrated announcer

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

A generation of race fans still know him as the voice of Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Bill Connell, the man on the microphone at LMS for four decades, is one of motor racing’s most celebrated announcers.

From red clay dustbowls like the old Concord Speedway to large facilities like Daytona and Talladega, his unique style and unbridled enthusiasm brought the excitement and intensity of racing to a fever pitch.

“Bill Connell was a true maestro behind a track public address microphone,” said HA “Humpy” Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe’s Motor Speedway. “He knew how to take an event and make it bigger than life for the people in attendance. He truly loved the sport and that came across in his work. His voice was bigger than life, his heart even bigger.”

Connell also plied his talents across the airwaves for countless syndicated radio broadcasts. He produced and hosted his own television show, “The Pros in Motorsports,” for 14 years and appeared in more than a half-dozen motion pictures, including “Days of Thunder,” “Stroker Ace,” “Last American Hero” and “Hard Driver.”

Bill Connell is, by the very definition of the term, a true motorsports legend.

Despite his legardary status, a bout with kidney cancer in 1998, followed by a series of complications related to chronic diabetes, have created both physical and financial hardships for Connell.

To help cope with mounting medical expenses, a group of Connell’s peers have banded together to created the Legends Helping Legends of Racing. A special fundraiser is scheduled for 11 a.m.- 4 p.m., Saturday at Memory Lane Motorsports and Automotive Historical Museum. The museum is located at 769 River Highway (Hwy. 150, Exit 36 off I-77) in Mooresville.

The all-day event will bring fans up close and personal with drivers and cars they aren’t likely to see anywhere else.

The $8 admission will include a tour of the museum — which houses well over 150 vintage NASCAR racers, sprint cars, drag cars, antique autos and special interest vehicles — as well as a chance to visit with drivers, crew chiefs and mechanics from racing’s past and present who will be participating in this landmark gathering. Among the racing icons already confirmed to attend the function are Bobby and Donnie Allison, Harry Gant, Buddy Parrot, Little Bud Moore, Jim Vandiver, Neil Castles, and Don Tilley.

A special motorcycle ride from Tilley Harley-Davidson in Statesville to the museum will be held in conjunction with the Legends Helping Legends of Racing fundraiser. Registration for the motorcycle ride will be held from 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. in the Tilley Harley-Davidson showroom at 1226 Moreland Drive in Statesville. Don Tilley, Buddy Parrott and Harry Gant will personally lead the motorcade to the museum.

For more information, contact Alex Beam at 704-660-6936 or Vicki Kress at 704-872-3883. Visit the Web site at