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The Finish Line
In Memorium

by Chris Martin

The great drag racing announcers: Bret Kepner knew more about the sport, Dave McClelland sounded like he was having twice the fun, and Bernie Partridge was…well, I guess you could say, he was uniquely Bernie. You could say the same thing about the one of a kind Steve Evans, who was found dead in a Las Vegas hotel room on November 1.

For my money, there was no greater voice in the history of the sport when it came to hawking the sport. Evans, 58, certainly became known to a younger generation of fans, say late 1980s to present, for being the top end guy in Diamond P and TNN coverage of NHRA national events. As a coasting Top Fuel, Funny Car, or Pro Stock racer approached whatever return road after a race, the one guy he wanted to see coming to his car was Evans. That meant he had won.

But Steve Evans' greatest claim to fame for this listener was as the voice that worked the mike while manager at Lions Dragstrip in its last year of 1972 and in the glory years of the Bill Doner/Steve Evans West Coast Raceway Park syndicate in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Brash, cocky, confident-no one was better than Evans and his wacky cohort in exhorting fans to get their butts out to Orange County International Raceway or Irwindate Raceway to see something that would rival the "Resurrection" itself.

"If you only go to one race all year, you must be at Orange County International Raceway this Saturday night for 100 Funny Cars! I didn't say 16, I didn't say 32, I didn't say 64, I said O-N-E H-U-N-D-R-E-D Funny Cars! The pits at OCIR will look like a fiberglass forest on Saturday night.

"Who'll be there? How about world champ Don 'the Snake' Prudhomme's five-second U.S. Army Monza; Tom 'the Mongoose' McEwen; all the way from Dallas, Texas, Raymond Beadle's 'Blue Max' Mustang; '240 Gordie' Bonin's Bubble-Up Monza; Bob Pickett and the U.S. Marines Firebird; Ed 'the Ace' McCullough's 'Revellution' Plymouth Volare; and-in his final West Coast appearance of the year-none other than 'Jungle Jim' Liberman with 'Jungle Pam.'"

Then Evans would pause…"How do you like it so far? I couldn't name 'em all if I had five minutes." Then on he'd go….

During any OCIR Funny Car biggie, there would be a few final races at the end of a round featuring (to put it politely) "leakers." Doner would say to Evans on the tower mike, "This could be brutal, Steve," anticipating a fire or some such holocaust.

A sympathetic Evans, ever playing to the crowd, would respond, "Brutal? Here's 5 to 1 that says they don't survive the burnout!"

Evans' delivery was totally original and for helter-skelter, edge-of-the-seat pitching, was one of the most imitated voices on L.A. radio. He'd start out in a radio ad touting a race at the top of his lungs. He'd announce the event, the night, the date, and the stars, sounding for all the world like he'd been blown through the roof of a meth lab. Then he'd tune it down a notch. He'd reason with the listener. You really should be there. You like Funny Cars, you like Top Fuelers, let me hear one excuse as to why you shouldn't or can't be there. Then he'd kick it back into gear, boosting the track, the dates one more time, and give the directions on how to get there.

After listening to his spiel, a drag race fan in his car probably felt like he'd been wresting a wolverine.

The San Gabriel valley, California native, whose NHRA announcing career dates back to 1966, went to his first drag race at the opening of the original San Gabriel Raceway on March 5-6, 1956, and he had been to a drag race or another form of auto race probably every weekend since.

When miking on television, he'd cover everything from drags and swamp buggies to IRP and World of Outlaw sprint cars, which incidentally was what he was to cover at Las Vegas when he passed away.

In later years, Evans wasn't as over the top in his delivery. He was more knowledgeable and his pacing, vocal inflection, and timing were calmer and, for my money, unmatched. It was this writer's hope that some time in the future NHRA would have seen their way to have McClelland, Evans, and Bob Frey as their key tower announcers at the biggies, but the first two had big television commitments and that couldn't be.

As far as TV went, Evans had been with NHRA's shows for more than 20 years, hitting networks like ABC, NBC, and TNN. He also hosted "NHRA Today," which aired probably 500 shows between 1990 and 1998, and worked nearly the same number of shows for ESPN's "Speedworld" where he and mike partners Eli Gold and Frank Hawley recently closed shop.

In the late 1960s, Steve Evans was even an editor of National Dragster.

He could do it all. He was a one of a kind guy, who I and countless others are going to miss very much.

Note: Check out the Drag Racing Online archives for Steve Evans' "My First Time." To hear some of his work, a priceless 60-minute tape and/or CD titled "Be There" contains radio ads featuring Evans and a few other great on-air motor-mouths. Finally, if you can find a copy of the video tape "American Nitro," you'll see Evans call the entire 1976 NHRA WCS race at Fremont Raceway.


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