NASCAR & Auto Racing

Local motor sports notes: After 37 years, Gary Gerould calling final race Sunday

Gary Gerould, radio voice of the Kings, talks with Kings small forward John Salmons (5) after his team’s 121-110 victory against the New Orleans Hornets at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on April 10, 2013.
Gary Gerould, radio voice of the Kings, talks with Kings small forward John Salmons (5) after his team’s 121-110 victory against the New Orleans Hornets at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on April 10, 2013. Sacramento Bee file

In Sacramento, Gary Gerould is best known as the radio voice of the Kings. Around the rest of the country, he’s better known for his coverage of motor sports on TV.

After 37 years covering every type of motor sports, from Formula One to hydroplane boat racing, he’s hanging up his headphones. His last broadcast will be Sunday on ESPN for the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona.

“It’s been a combination of things,” Gerould said. “The NHRA is going to a new platform next season, taking things in-house, and they have a new contract with Fox Sports. Plus, I’m 75 years old. I’m going to slow it down and become more of a fan.”

Gerould has no plans to step away from his duties calling Kings games, which he has done since the team arrived in Sacramento in 1985, making him one of the NBA’s longest-tenured announcers. The NBA season has overlapped with his motor sports duties, forcing him into some frantic travel.

“It won’t hit me until next May when hoops is over,” Gerould said. “It will probably be tough to handle. I’ve been with ESPN for 11 years and have developed a lot of great relationships. This weekend may be the last time I see a lot of them. I’m a little melancholy in a sense.”

Gerould also has worked in the booth for NBC’s pro football coverage and was a member of NBC’s broadcast team for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

Gerould started his broadcasting career at KHSL-TV and radio in Chico in 1962 after graduating from Anderson University in Indiana. He joined KCRA in 1965 and left in 1977 to pursue freelance auto racing assignments, and he since has been busy as a radio and TV reporter and announcer.

“I spent 25 years doing IndyCars coverage, and I’ve had the privilege of being in the pace car twice,” Gerould said. “When you look back over your shoulder at the field of 33 cars and see 400,000 race fans ... man, the hair stands up on my arms now just thinking about it.”

Gerould has seen the world with his wife, Marlene, often by his side. He said the golden age of network TV sports coverage allowed him to travel in style, and his bosses had no problem springing for Marlene’s tickets and accommodations, too. That era is over as fragmentation of TV sports has led to smaller and smaller production budgets, Gerould said.

Gerould, who said he will call Kings games as long as the team wants him, is giddy about calling games at the Golden 1 Center downtown next season. But he’ll also continue to glance at the TV to see who is the fastest NHRA qualifier that week or who is leading the points chase in NASCAR and IndyCar.

“What a ride it’s been,” Gerould said.

King of the Wing comes to Stockton

Former CART and IndyCar driver Davey Hamilton brings his national King of the Wing sprint car series to the West Coast on Saturday at Stockton 99 Speedway.

The show, which starts at 6 p.m., will feature several other open-wheel racing series, including BCRA Midgets and BCRA Vintage Midgets.

The King of the Wing is made up of winged, open-wheel cars powered by 410-cubic-inch engines and raced only on paved tracks. Series drivers compete in Indiana, Alabama, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Idaho and Washington.

“We feel the regional series will get more drivers involved and make the national series stronger,” Hamilton said in a news release. “This is the first year, and the regionals are growing. I will say the racing has been outstanding throughout King of the Wing this year.”

Hamilton was fourth in the 1998 Indy 500 and second in the IndyCar points standings twice (1997 and 1998).

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Forsberg wins the war

Auburn’s Andy Forsberg earned his eighth Civil War Sprint Car Series title Saturday by winning the annual Tribute to Gary Patterson Spectacular at the Stockton Dirt Track.

Forsberg had a 10-point lead over two other drivers but held them off to take the checkered flag and another series title. It was his third win of the season.

He also set a single-lap track record of 13.168 seconds during qualifying.

Mark Billingsley: