Going Postal

The sport of Auto Racing has been blessed with some great announcers, few announcers have a voice like the inimitable Steve Post, the host of MRN’s Winged Nation and MRN NASCAR Reporter. Fewer still bring such enthusiasm. The passion extends beyond racing, it extends to life and bringing joy to others. Follow @ThePostman68 on Twitter and be prepared to see a short video of a guy enjoying life, singing along to an oldie, telling you it is going to be a great day, and extolling the virtues of living “#SimplyBetter”. One other thing we like about Steve, is he shares his love of his daughters openly and we really believe it comes out in the attached photos and in one moving anectdote belo.

His Winged Nation co-hosts Erin Crocker and Ashley Stremme share their passion for sprint car racing on a weekly/almost daily basis. In a few days they “will be back”. We wanted to catch up with the man behind “The Voice”. 

TDP: In the early Winged Nation days you made no bones about the fact you were still learning sprint car racing. That possibly made people think you had no real short track background – we know this not to be the case – but one more time, can you please give us the Reader’s Digest version of your roots in the sport?

SP: I grew up going to the dirt tracks with my father every weekend.  Our home track was Five Mile Point Speedway near Binghamton, N.Y. and we were there every week.  Penn Can Speedway in Susquehanna, Pa. was a Friday night track that had an on-and-off history during that period and we were there when they were racing.  We also travelled into upstate New York to Weedsport and Rolling Wheels and to the Orange Country Fairgrounds in Middletown to watch the modifieds race.

So, while my background was not sprint cars, it was modifieds and I still love watching those racers today.

I went to college at Penn State; graduated in 1986 and was a salesman when I started working on the side at Five Mile Point doing marketing and media relations.  I then got the announcing job at Penn Can along with the marketing and public relations.   Along the way I had my own marketing agency that did program books for local tracks and was co-owner of an off-season racing expo called Speed Sport Showcase, in Scranton, Pa. Early in my journey I started as a columnist for Gater Racing Photo News (Syracuse, N.Y.).

Writing allowed me to branch out and cover not only the dirt modifieds; but NASCAR as well as other racing that took place in my home region.   It was through covering NASCAR races at Pocono, Watkins Glen and Dover that I saw that a career in racing was possible and in 1995 I moved to North Carolina to pursue that.

TDP: In these exceptionally weird times – how was your “off Season”?

SP: My off season we different and exceptionally good.  Traditionally I am not one to sit at home for long periods of time and in recent years I have not had to.  With the PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis and announcing Indoor Auto Racing events in Allentown (PA), Atlantic City (NJ) and Trenton (NJ) I would always stay busy with racing.

All those events were cancelled during this “off season”; but I did add a new one that will become an annual tradition for me.  I checked the Snowball Derby, for Asphalt Super Late Models, off my “bucket list” in early December and had a wonderful time.  While I love all the jobs I have in racing, my favorite is race fan and for that weekend I was simply that.

When I arrived home from that race, I put the suitcase away and have not used it since.  It has probably been the longest consecutive time that I have been home in at least a dozen years if not more.   While I am ready to get back racing, it has been nice to experience “normal” life for a while and re-charge just a little bit.

TDP: You’ve said your early experiences at sprint car races put a bad taste in your mouth – why was that?

SP: My early experiences with sprint cars and open wheel racing were with URC, ARDC and then ESS races at my local tracks.  While URC and ARDC were well established, ESS was just getting started at that time. 

My biggest problem was that my local tracks were not set-up to deal with cars with no starters.  The two push trucks would take what seemed life forever to get the cars started, then with the first flip the whole process would start all over again. 

I was also a “car count” guy and our local tracks would average 30 or more modifieds on any weekend night.  When sprint cars or midgets showed up sometimes it was low-20s or even teens in car count so that was another strike against sprint cars.

It is interesting because I was only a couple of hours from sprint cars in Central Pennsylvania, but never ventured that way.  But I did get to Oswego to see the supermodifieds and they had a fleet of push vehicles, so there was no delay in getting the cars started and racing.  I realized they were properly set up to host open cockpit cars.

TDP: These days, are you better known as Steve Post NASCAR guy, or Steve Post sprint car guy?

SP: That depends on who I am with.  I really enjoy the variety that I have with my coverage of NASCAR and sprint cars.  I love it all; and doing only one would probably take from my overall enjoyment of racing.  Beyond that I love all forms of racing and my longest-running gig is the Summer Shootout for legends cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where I have been for 23 years.

So, when I am in NASCAR circles, I am NASCAR guy, when I am in sprint car circles, I am sprint car guy and with the legend’s kids I am Mr. Post. As Winged Nation grew conversations with sprint car fans were fun. I would get asked what I did for a “real job” or if someone heard me on NASCAR coverage they would ask “when did I start covering NASCAR”?

Reality is NASCAR is my primary job and pays the bulk of the bills.  Sprint cars are such a passion and Winged Nation has allowed me to get involved there and carve out a fair number of weekends at the dirt tracks. 

TDP: When you, Craig and Kendra Jacobs started Winged Nation – did you have a mandate from MRN, with expectations from the higher ups, or was it more of “Give it a try and we’ll see where it goes?”

SP: It was most-definitely a “give it a try…”.

Our parent company, International Speedway Corporation had bought a general motorsport website called “RacingOne.com”.  At that point in time message boards were the hot gathering place and NASCAR Cup Series was number one and World of Outlaws was second as far as popularity there.

During our off-season summit in 2010 they mentioned that and asked if anyone wanted to do a “radio show” about sprint cars, and my hand went up immediately.  For that year “The World of Outlaws Report” was what I did, which is what podcasts are now. 

The year 2010 was the 50th Anniversary of the Knoxville Nationals and our World of Outlaws Report was doing rather good; so, the idea was to do a one-hour “NASCAR Live” (our MRN flagship show) preview show of that Nationals.  They wanted me to get a co-host and that was a no-brainer.

Kendra and I worked together earlier in our careers on the Texaco/Havoline account with Robert Yates Racing and Ricky Rudd.  We spent all our time talking sprint car racing anyhow, we figured why not put microphones in front of us.  So, we did a Knoxville Nationals Preview Show.

For that show we had Bobby Allen (Anniversary of his Nationals win), Danny Lasoski and Brian Brown as our guests.   We had a good show and the numbers seemed to support it as well.  Over that off-season we decided to pursue something bigger than the World of Outlaws Report and in 2011 Winged Nation was born. 

Kendra was the key to it all because she is royalty in the sprint car world, and I was just some radio guy.  We hoped it would be successful and worked extremely hard on many fronts.   In the end I do not think any of us had a clue as to how big it would get. 

Not bad for a “give it a try” venture.

TDP: A couple of years ago Winged Nation went from 60 minutes to 30 minutes – Why? Is less more?

SP: MRN has had several podcasts and at the time the decision was made to make them all uniform in length.  In the radio business we work with hundreds of radio stations, so our radio shows are specific in length.  Winged Nation was a 60-minute show, others were 30 and the decision was made to make them all 30.  

It was then we added a second show, now our Thursday podcast, to work as a preview program and to still get the 60 minutes of content.  While personally I was not in favor of the move, it turned out to add significant growth in our viewer/listenership. 

Human nature is that when we are sent a video, or podcast or even a joke from a friend one of the first things we do is see how long it is.  The reality is more people will commit to 30 minutes that will commit to a 60-minute show.  So, the decision really helped us grow in numbers.

Now we are certainly not tied to those 30- or 60-minute windows, so we just go with the flow of the interview and see where that puts us.  Some good interviews are six minutes long and some good interviews are 22 minutes.

TDP: You have shared your fitness journey and it truly is inspiring. What set you on the path, and how hard has it been to stay on that path?

SP: Ironically, it was sprint car racing that set me on that path.  Kendra, my former co-host turned marketing director at Knoxville Raceway, came up with the idea of a 4.10-mile run.  I had not done any exercise since those crazy Presidential Testing things we did in high school.

Kendra wanted to promote that people could walk, also that there was going to be a beer stop or two along the way.  Who better to encourage others this that a beer-drinking walker like me?  So that is how it started.

As I was walking the neighborhood section of the course, Don Sweet (Brad’s father) ran up alongside of me and slowed down to walk and talk.  He asked if I ever ran, which I told him not and he talked about how he did intervals (running then walking) and really enjoyed it.   After a short while of walking he said it was time to run again and off he went.

For whatever reason that really struck me; and after Don had ran off, I decided to try running for 30 seconds, which I did.   Then after catching my breath, I did it again. 

 A strange thing happened — I actually survived it. 

As the race ended, I made a big show of “sprinting” to the finish line and everyone had a good laugh.   As I drove back to the hotel to shower that morning, I thought to myself that I could do that.

Quietly I started going to a local park and running a little, while walking a lot.  That Knoxville 4.10 race was in August of 2018 and on November 2 of that year I ran my first actual 5K.

My most recent race was my 31st race and it has been an amazing journey.  I have come to learn that I am never going to be an Olympian and while I strive to hit “PRs” (personal records) the biggest accomplishment is just being there and doing it.  Recently I did my first 8K (5 miles) and now I am looking for a 10K that fits into my schedule.

An added blessing to my life running has brought is a great friend group here in my hometown of Concord, NC.  The running community is wonderful and through run clubs at local breweries I have made some great friendships, those strange, non-racing friendships. 

Those friendships have helped keep me motivated.  And a little advice from 7-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson who told me early in this that he (the guy who last year ran the Boston Marathon) struggled with motivation.  He always had to have the next challenge planned, so, it is rare I do not have my next race planned. 

That all has served as motivation for me.

TDP: Tell us about #Simplybetter –

SP: I have been so blessed in every facet of my life and I like to share that with people.  We all want to get to certain goals; there are two challenges to me.  First getting to the goal, but maybe more importantly the patience to get to the goals we set for ourselves.

It struck me that this quest is really a journey, and a test of patience.   But, over the course of time what can be accomplished is amazing.

I LOVE the idea of better.  The beauty of better is that it assumes no starting position, which is neat.  So, you could be “down in the dumps” or “on the highest mountaintop” and can still be better.   We all want to be better; the challenge is getting there.

Years ago, I started a financial plan from Christian money guru Dave Ramsey.  His plan is “baby steps” through several stages on the financial journey.  I put myself in a terrible spot financially and honestly had no hope of ever digging myself out.

I did a little “baby step” and then another and then another.  And while I am not out of the woods, I can see the end of the woods.  It is a place I never, ever thought I would see. 

 The steps are really nothing genius; they are quite simple but added together it is really altered my life.

I got thinking about all aspects of life – career, financial, family, health, etc. – and have applied baby steps to those.  Each step is simple and the patience to hang in there is the challenge.  But, over the course of time it has been amazing to see the results.

I am in the early stages of some podcasting with these ideas to share what I have learned.  Currently I am in the “building inventory” stage as well as getting the “nuts and bolts” of the podcast phase and look to promote this more over the spring months. 

It is really a blessing the life I have, and I just hope and wish that joy for others. 

TDP: This question is very serious, but I always worry about those that work so hard to bring joy to others, is it hard to be the “up/positive” person? Is that who you are, or is that who you make yourself be?

SP: That is a great question and one I love to talk about.  First off, I AM that upbeat ALL THE TIME.  And while it is a wonderful dream world for me, it has challenges for those around me.

One of my children has wrestled with anxiety issues for most of her life.  A parent like me might be the worst thing for someone who deals with those as I contributed to the problem.

As we were meeting with counselors, I was sharing with one how I handle things and it was easy and I just do not understand why all things must be so difficult.  The counselor looked at me like I had three heads.  

I will never forget; she asked my daughter to leave and close the door behind her. 

That counsellor TORE ME APART!   She was aggressive and let me know that not everyone saw the world like I did.  She told me that my happy spot and my simple solutions for everything was likely contributing to my daughter’s anxiety, because it made her believe that there was something wrong with her.   

Initially I was very defensive about this, but then it struck me how difficult that must be for my child.   While it did not change who I was, it did make me aware that not everyone is wired like I am.

The good news is that my daughter is doing well with managing her anxiety; she has done an amazing job understanding herself.  I really believe the session is what helped get me in-line so that I could be part of the solution and not a contributor to the problem.

So, while I am genuinely that positive person; I now temper that understanding that not everyone comes with built in “Rose Colored Glasses”.

TDP: Do you ever see the divisive split in the US ever being healed? I’m talking about sprint car fans vs NASCAR fans.

SP: I think it is significantly better now that it was previously. The reason is Kyle Larson. 

We saw some of that back in 2017 when Chip Ganassi, Kyle’s NASCAR car owner at the time, allowed him to run the Knoxville Nationals – a direct breach of their agreement about racing the night before NASCAR activity. 

If you will recall, Kyle ran the Nationals and nearly won that Saturday night. The next day at Michigan he did with the NASCAR Cup Series race. 

I have never seen our Winged Nation social media channels more flooded with love of NASCAR; so that day really stands out to me.  

And then what Kyle did last year is another story of binding the two factions together.

There is a building bond between the “big leagues” and the “grassroots” of racing.  Kyle Larson has certainly been the leader of that, especially in the sprint car and midget world.   Recently Chase Elliott ran the Chili Bowl and there was a lot of crossover interest.  Not sprint cars, but Kyle Busch races a fair number of grassroots events a year, and just last week Denny Hamlin indicated he was going to return to his roots.

Also, one of the changes in the NASCAR structure is the shorter weekends. Historically drivers would be tied at the track on Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s and a NASCAR race.   The pandemic initially and cost savings over time has had NASCAR shift to many one days shows; and that will yield some sprint car starts for some NASCAR drivers.

So, there is always a natural pride in whatever segment of the sport you prefer; I do think the divide is less now that what it has been in the past.

Bonus Question: Now that your hair is longer can we soon expect you to rock corn rows like Brayden McMahan?

I love the McMahans and Brayden reminds me of a bit more mischievous version of a younger me.  His positive spirit is certainly something I relate to; and like me he has grown up in a wonderful family.

But, with that being said; it’s a “hard no” for me on corn rows.  First off that looks like it hurt, and I avoid pain at all costs.   Second, one day at the track in the sun and my scalp would be toasted, and well — I avoid pain at all costs.