May 1, 02:01 PM
Anyone who has been following racing for any length of time remembers the informative and fun racing news show on ESPN called ‘RPM2nite’. This is how many race fans became familiar with the friendly and knowledgeable John Kernan, the host of the program.
Kernan’s love of racing began as a young man racing in moto-cross, then veered off into broadcasting as a pit reporter. He has accumulated a lot of fans with his unique style of reporting, and all of them would love to see him return to a nightly show like ‘RPM2nite’.
I enjoyed asking John Kernan these questions and hearing his replies, and I am sure the cawsnjaws.com readers will, too.
I understand you grew up in Irondale, MO. Is it famous for anything?
I don't think it's famous for anything. Only 300 or so people live there. It's very, very small.
Who lived in your house when you were growing up? Who did you get along with the best?
My two older brothers and, of course, my Mom and Dad. Both of my brothers were at least five years older than me, so we didn't hang out together.
Did you have a favorite toy or hobby when you were little?
I loved anything to do with airplanes and speed. One of my favorite toys was a little electric plane that you flew around in circles. I also had a mini-bike and would build jumps to get major air. I had a Go-Kart too, but it didn't work too well running around the field next to my house, it was made for pavement and there really wasn't anywhere for me to run it, so we sold it.
What did you like to wear to school when you were in high school? This wasn't when you started liking colorful ties was it?
I pretty much stuck to blue jeans and flannel shirts, although in high school I did sport a leisure suit or two.
Did the girls think you were a hottie?
NO! I had big thick black plastic glasses and long Elvis-type sideburns. I was never accused of being a hottie.
Did you have a car when you were in high school, and if you did what was it?
My first car was a ‘69 Ford Torino. I blew up the engine in it while trying to find more speed for a drag race. It threw one of the rods right through the crank case. So, a friend and I went to the junk yard and bought another old engine and put it into the car and amazingly, with no directions, got it to run again.
What turned you on to racing? Did you have family members or friends who enjoyed it?
My Dad took me to the local dirt track a few times when I was very young. You could sit outside the house at night and hear the cars on Friday nights. Then I started racing moto-cross when I was in high school.
I understand your first job as a pit reporter was at North Wilkesboro Speedway. There are a lot of fans who would like to see that track raced on again. Do you agree?
I loved the North Wilkesboro Speedway! I would love to see some kind of racing there again.
What is your favorite track to watch a race at?
Believe it or not, I've never watched a NASCAR race from the grandstand, I've seen them from either pit road or on top of the press box. I think I'll always hold a special spot in my heart for Martinsville because that's where I saw my first cup race way back in 1983.
What is the worst thing you ever saw a fan do at a race?
It was at Charlotte back in the mid 80's, there was this little kid playing in the dirt in the infield while his dad (?) was passed out in the lawn chair next to his car. That kid couldn't have been more than four or five years old.
What is the goofiest thing you ever saw a fan do, that still makes you laugh?
Once this really nice elderly lady came up to me and told me that I didn't look nearly as fat in person as I do on tv!
What race was the most exciting that you ever got to cover?
It would either have to be Dale Jarrett's first win at Michigan or Dale Earnhardt's victory by inches over Bobby Labonte in Atlanta.
Some fans say that NASCAR doesn't care about its fans anymore, and that it's just a big business. Do you have any comments about that?
It is big business, but I think the people who run NASCAR are smart enough to know that their business would get very small if they didn't have fans. In other words, NASCAR exists because of its fans.
What is your take on the Buschwhacking topic?
I don't mind a few cup guys running in the Busch races, but when a third to half the field is made up of Cup regulars, I don't like that.
If Dale Earnhardt were still here, do you think he would be happy with how things are going in NASCAR?
For the most part, yes I do. But, I think he'd teach the young drivers a thing or two about respect, because from where I sit most of them have no respect for their fellow competitors.
Lots of fans would like RPM2nite to come back on television. But do you want to return to a nightly racing show?
I would love to return to doing a nightly racing show. It's what I live for.
What was your best memory of doing that show?
There are way too many to even think about, but I would have to say that if I have to pick one, it would be the day Earnhardt came down to the studio after he won his last cup race. It was really neat to watch him watch the replay of the last several laps when he passed 17 or 18 cars to win the race.
What was the funniest thing that happened on air that made it hard to talk from laughing?
Just about anytime Kenny Wallace was on the show.
Have you ever gotten an award for you something you've done?
Quite a few.
If someone made a movie about you and your career, who would you like to play you?
I've become a big "24" fan in the last year so I would pick Kiefer Sutherland. No particular reason other than he plays a really good secret agent.
Have you ever eaten a Martinsville hot dog? What did you think?
I spent enough money of those Jesse Jone's hotdogs to build one of the new grandstands at Martinsville.
I understand that you know a little bit about fishing. Was this a sport that someone in your family got you interested in?
My whole family fished, so I was introduced to it at a very early age. My dad was really into it and taught me.
What is your favorite kind of fishing?
Of course it's bass fishing because it's such a challenge, especially down here at Lake Wylie.
Would you tell me a fish story if I asked you what the biggest fish you ever caught was? Was it the favorite fish you ever caught, or was there another one?
The biggest fish I ever caught was a 24-and-a-half pound red fish off the coast at Hilton Head. It's the only picture I have of me with a fish, so I guess you'd have to say it was my favorite catch. Although, I did land a decent-sized bass out of Lake Wylie last summer.
When you go fishing for fun, who do you like to take with you, or do you like to go alone?
Usually I go out with my fianc� Jennifer. She sits on the front of the boat to get sun while I frustrate myself at the back trying to catch bass.
Have you ever fallen out of a boat, or had a funny experience like that?
Fortunately I've never fallen out of a boat, but that doesn't mean it'll never happen.
Every time we go on a vacation near the beach, I want to go deep sea fishing but it never works out. Have you ever done that, and do you like it?
I've never done the real deep-sea fishing, but I would love to head offshore about 20 miles or so to try it out.
Since ESPN is expanding its coverage of professional fishing tours, does that mean interest in this sport is growing?
It certainly appears that way. The ratings for the weekend shows are up from last year.
What is your own personal favorite hint or tip for fishing that you could share with the cawsnjaws.com readers?
Don't be afraid to try new things. Like if you're throwing a Texas rigged worm and it ain't working, bite the worm in half and try again. And be patient, they'll bite eventually.
Are you married? Do you have children?
Engaged, no children.
What does Jennifer think of fishing?
She is learning about it.
What does she think of racing?
She is learning about it, but she's not hooked yet.
When you do travel, what is something that you always have with you?
I always like to take a computer so I can keep up with my email and news.
When you are at home relaxing in the evening, what do you like to drink?
I'm a Coca-Cola fan, but I have to stop drinking it by 7 P.M. or I find it hard to go to sleep.
Would you rather watch a comedy, science fiction, or an action movie? Do you have an all-time favorite?
I like all three equally, but there are several movies I can watch again and again: ‘Caddie Shack’, ‘Forrest Gump’ and ‘Airplane’. I have no idea how many times I've watched them.
I will be graduating from high school this June. Do you have any advice for me?
If you have a dream, don't let anyone tell you that you can't accomplish it. I had roommates in college who told me I'd never make it as a sports announcer, but it was something I wanted to do and I think I did okay.
I ask this question of every person that I interview: Would it be all right if I sent you information on Tourette Syndrome?
I have a good friend who suffers from Tourette Syndrome, so I'm fairly familiar with it.
Thank you, John Kernan, for taking time to answer my questions.