Behind The Scenes

NHRA anchor Dave Rieff relishes ‘butterflies and nerves’ before calling U.S. Nationals

Dave Rieff (L) and analyst Mike Dunn. (Photo courtesy of Lewis Bloom)
Dave Rieff (L) and analyst Mike Dunn. (Photo courtesy of Lewis Bloom)

A few years ago, Dave Rieff got a phone call at 6:30 a.m. that altered his day in a big way. He was in Indianapolis and was going to be spending that day as a pit reporter on ESPN’s telecast of the final day of the NHRA’s biggest event, the 2010 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. But instead, Rieff was told that ESPN’s NHRA lead announcer Paul Page was ill and rather than pit reporting, Rieff would be in the anchor chair that day.

“It was a day that went by in an absolute blur,” said Rieff, who this year was named as ESPN’s NHRA lead announcer. “The next thing I knew before I even had a chance to let it soak in, I’m standing in my backyard in Omaha, Nebraska, asking ‘did that just happen?’”

This weekend, Rieff and ESPN’s NHRA team will be covering the 59th running of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.

John Force's Funny Car in the 2012 NHRA Nationals. (NHRA)
John Force’s Funny Car in the 2012 NHRA Nationals. (NHRA)

Eleven hours of TV will culminate with six consecutive hours of final eliminations coverage on Labor Day Monday, Sept. 2, starting at noon ET on ESPN2.

“It’s ‘The Big Go,’ the one race you just want to be a part of,” said Rieff. “It was the central meeting point for the East Coast racers back in the day and the West Coast racers and just over the years it has evolved really into a stand-alone event.

“And what’s cool about it is everybody just wants to come out and see it and be part of what this event is,” he said. “And people do, they come from everywhere.”

With ESPN having more hours of TV than normal for NHRA events, and the prestige of the U.S. Nationals, Rieff feels the pressure of his position but relishes it.

“I said to my wife ‘I’m getting ready to call the biggest drag race in the world,’ and the butterflies start immediately,” he said. “And I love butterflies, I love nerves, I love that sort of thing, because what that does is get you on point, it gets you focused. You just try to control those emotions a little bit.

“We have the best team,” he said. “These are long-hour days but they are rewarding days because of the work that the people on this crew do.

“It’s simply amazing to sit back and see the finished product.”

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