Dec 6, 08:03 AM
Artie Kempner, Coordinating Director of NASCAR on Fox, and Pam Miller, Pit Producer
When we all turn on the television and turn up the volume, we notice that the Fox NASCAR broadcasts are terrific productions.
The whole broadcast is at the standards that we want.
This incredible sport is being enhanced by many great people, obviously!
The wrecks are shown just the way we want. The commercials are being cut short. The shots of the racing are really good.
We think, “Who could be behind this amazing work of achievement and pleasure?”
There are a lot of amazing people, and I’ve become quite a good friend of one of them, Artie Kempner. Artie is the Coordinating Director of NASCAR on Fox, and directs all the Nextel Cup Broadcasts, as well as many of the Busch races.
If you really believe that he would have some good things to say due to the amazing Fox broadcasts, then you should read this interview. I put Artie on the hot seat by asking some very interesting questions, some personal, some professional. I think you’ll enjoy my interview with him.
His answers are as inspiring as the great coverage you watch every week, directed personally by him with the help of his great Fox team.
His answers really let you know a lot about what goes on behind the scenes at a NASCAR race. This is an inspiring interview by a good personality in the world of NASCAR, Artie Kempner.
You have told me that you grew up in Merric, New York. Is it famous for something?
Merrick’s most famous person would probably be Debbie Gibson. She was a pop teenage singer in the 1980s. Merrick would be infamous as the home of Amy
Fischer, the teenager who was involved with Joey Buttafucco in a terrible tabloid cheating/shooting affair. I don’t personally know Debbie or Amy, though.
I think my Mom knew Amy’s mother.
What did your Dad do for a living?
My Dad was an insurance agent. He retired a couple of years ago, and he and my Mom live in Lake Worth, Florida and play a lot of golf and cards—plus
they watch NASCAR races now!!
Was your house you grew up in ritzy?
I grew up middle class in a nice home, but it was not ritzy. My brother and I shared a room (he is two years younger) until we were both teenagers.
What color was your room?
My room was mostly blue (my favorite color), but I had all kinds of posters, team pennants and other sports stuff all over it.
How was playing sports as a kid?
I lived to play sports as a kid. Our neighborhood had a lot of kids around the same age and we played football, basketball, street hockey, roller hockey,
baseball and even golf. I also played ice hockey a lot.
Did you have brothers that played sports with you?
My brother bobby and I played a lot together, mostly golf and hockey. He was usually the goalie. I think I sent him to the emergency room four times for
stitches by hitting him in the mask with a shot. My Mom learned to handle blood pretty well!!
You mentioned you played lacrosse. Is it as dangerous as they say it is?
Lacrosse is a terrific game. Yes it is played with sticks, but no, it is not dangerous. It can be physical because they allow checking, but it is a lot
of fun. The sport is very big on Long Island, where Merrick is located.
What was your favorite subject in school?
I loved history, and still do. And also simple math, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division.
Your least favorite?
Hard math like calculus. I took it in high school and college and still haven’t figured it out. I should probably ask Matt Borland and Ryan Newman for
some pointers. As engineers they would really understand it!
You said that as a family you attended some races when you were young. Where is Freeport Speedway?
Freeport is the next town over from Merrick. It was a 1/4 mile dirt track I think, and they raced modifieds and did some demolition derbys as well.
Is it still there?
They tore it down when I was in jr. high and built some stores.
How long did it take for you to learn how to drive?
It didn’t take me long to drive, but I must admit I failed my first road test!!
What was your first car?
1969 cutlass supreme with a 455 hp engine. It had been my Mom’s and when she got a new car I lucked into getting it. Only problem was that it only had a
two barrel carb, so it didn’t have the speed that a teenager really wants (thank goodness for that!!)
Did you do any of those rebellious bad things in college in the 70s?
If you call shaving your head with your teammates rebellious, then that would be about it. I enjoyed life in college, but never did any drugs, never ever
smoked (sorry RJ Reynolds), and didn’t drink too much, too often. One thing I am proud to say is that I have never driven after drinking!!
Did you check out the cheerleaders when you played football?
Of course I checked out the cheerleaders, and I would advise everyone to!! I can say that I never dated a cheerleader, though I did date a couple of
girls from the kickline/dance team!
If so, does your wife know this?
She knows that I still look at the cheerleaders, but never ever touch!
How was the 1980 Gatornationals drag racing competition?
It was the coolest thing! I could not believe the sound of the engines and the power when they took off. It was awesome.
You said you were there as a guest of Kenny Bernstein. How do you know him?
Kenny was driving the “Chelsea King” funny car, and he and his family owned a restaurant chain called “Chelsea Street Pubs.” A couple of teammates and I
were eating there one day (maybe even having a drink), and he introduced himself and we had a nice conversation. He told us about the races and asked if
we were interested in going. He gave my buddy and I pit passes and full access. We hung out around his truck and watched the races from right near the
starting line. The only thing we didn’t get to do was drive down the track with the team after his runs. It was so much fun!!
I think that Joe D’Amato or John Force is a better driver than Kenny Bernstein. Why do you think he’s better?
I’m not sure who is better, but though I haven’t talked to Kenny BernsteIn for over twenty years, he’ll always be my favorite!!
Do you own any memorabilia that is worth telling about?
I don’t really collect memorabilia, but do have an autographed racing helmet with a WashIngton Redskins paint job that Joe GIbbs and Bobby Labonte signed
after they won the WC Championship in 2000. I bought it at our Autism Society of Delaware charity fundraiser, and someday I’ll donate back to our
organization and auction it off again!! I do have an autograph from Bobby Orr, a great hockey player, who was my sports idol as a kid. It is the only
autograph that I have ever asked for as an adult for myself.
You started your career at CBS. Were they mad when you left, or were they glad?
The people at CBS were great, but when Fox got the NFL rights they knew that football was my first love. As they say in racing, it was just one of those
deals—but a good deal for us both.
When you had to direct football and it was raining, was it a pain, or were you dry in the booth?
I sit in the cozy comfines of a remote production truck. I do worry about my crew of camera people who are out in the worst kind of elements in the
winter months. But I do love that we never have an NFL game get postponed, delayed or cancelled. The same is not true with racing.
What year did you start with Fox?
I started with Fox In 1994 for our Inaugural NFL season.
Do you know any history facts about how Fox Sports came to be?
Rupert Murdoch owned the Fox Broadcasting group, known as “Newscorp.” At the time that he bought the NFL package fox was looking to do something to have
the ratings grow for all of their shows. Buying the NFL brought more people to Fox through promotion and just having fans tune in. It was a brilliant
business move by a brilliant businessman. Mr. Murdoch is a genius and trendsetter. He spoke at some of our first meetings and has been very supportive of
our sports division. It does get harder and harder to earn money in sports with the huge rights fees that we pay for NFL, NASCAR, baseball, etc… but
hopefully Mr. Murdoch will continue his commitment to sports on Fox.
Can you describe what you do, specifically enough that if you were talking to an alien he would understand?
I basically consider myself the “quarterback” of the broadcast. I’m responsible, along with Neil Goldberg, our producer, for making the decisions on what
you see on the screen at home. The director is in charge of the live pictures, deciding what angles to show. I would need about ten pages to give an
“alien” a good idea of what we do in the truck, but I’ll be happy to give you the grand tour when you come to Bristol!!
Who is the number one guy in your kind of business? If you’re not the number one guy, then who is?
I don’t think you can say there is a number one person. Certainly I want to be the best at directing the NFL and NASCAR, but different directors are
great at different things. Bill Webb is, in my opinion, the best director of baseball games there is. He does The World Series for Fox. Bob Fishman, of
CBS sports, is a superb director and one of my mentors. He does the NCAA basketball tournament for CBS. I’m sure NASCAR fans are split on who they think
is best, but I try every race to give the viewers the best possible show, and always will!
Do you work at any particular Fox offices, or just one main one?
Our main office is in Los Angeles, but i work mostly out of my house. Because I travel about 45+ weeks (200 days), I stay home whenever I can and am able
to watch tapes and prepare from my home office.
Since you are a number one guy at Fox, tell us some behind the scenes things no one knows?
It takes the efforts of about 125 people to put a NASCAR Winston Cup race on the air. We have the best, most dedicated crew. They are not only the tops
of the industry in what they do, but they also have a passion and knowledge of NASCAR and racing. What other things don’t people know? Well we have six
mobile units that travel to every race, main unit, graphics unit, replay unit, in-car unit, Foxtrax unit, generator truck, Speed Channel unit. We always
have at least five port-a-johns. Our caterers, Steve (Main Dish) and Lloyd (Lloyd’s Catering) are both terrific and feed about 200 people per meal.
-DW drinks so much coffee sometimes that he has to make “pitstops” three or four times a race
-Dick Berggren gets to the garage area an hour before it opens just to make sure that no one beats him to a story
-Pam Miller, our pit producer, and one of the few woman on our crew takes care of us all and worries like our own mother if we’re not in a good mood. She
also is the most knowledgeable non-racer/crew chief person that you will ever meet, and everyone loves her!!
-I drink about a gallon of gatorade during each race, and make as many pit stops as DW
How much money does Fox get from the commercials (and other percentages)?
I leave the money stuff to the sales guys, but whatever it is, we probably need to make more of it to make ends meet for Fox.
Did you think as a child that you would be this famous? That you would be doing what you are doing?
Josh, I really don’t consider myself famous, though it is nice to get notoriety. I feel blessed to be in the position that I am in and having a great
family and a great career. When I was growing up I didn’t know anything about what went on behind the scenes of a sports television show, but I can tell
you that I watched enough events on TV that it doesn’t surprise me that I ended up working in this crazy business!
What have you learned about sports that most people don’t know?
It’s more mental then physical at the highest levels.
Does your wife support what you do? Does she mind if you’re too busy?
Marcy is not only a great wife and mother, but my number one supporter. Because she also works in sports television, she also understands what I do and
can help me with situations. I consider her to be my partner and she often lends me advice and helps me get through tough situations. As far as being
busy, it seems nowadays that we are all too busy. I mind being busy with work when it takes me away from my family. As I write this, I’m flying to
Detroit for our Thanksgiving Day game. It will be the second straight Thanksgiving that I won’t be able to spend with my family due to work commitments.
But I also know that I’ve been working my way up to the position that I’m in, and I can’t wait to direct the Thanksgiving Day game and have families all
across our great country enjoy the work of our crew! Next year Marcy, Matt, Ethan and Jack are all coming to the Thanksgiving Game in Dallas and we will
What are your plans for the future of Fox?
My plans are to continue to strive to be the best director I can be, and for our broadcasts to always improve. We need to challenge ourselves, evaluate
what we’re doing all the time and make sure that we are always moving forward for our audience.
Did you ever do any work with Michael Jordan?
I met Michael Jordan a couple of times back in the late ’80S when I worked at CBS and we broadcast NBA games.
You were named Coordinating Director of Fox In 2000. I have some questions for you. Is NASCAR better to direct than other sports?
I love all sports, though NFL and NASCAR hold a special place. NASCAR is the most difficult to direct, by far. With a field of 43 cars on the tracks, 43
teams in the pits, and anywhere from 1/2 mile to 2.66 miles of racetrack to cover, it is a labor of love and controlled chaos! We usually have at least
45 cameras for a race, and we use them all!! Even at The Super Bowl, we probably won’t have that many, and our typical NFL game has “only” 14 cameras.
I have always wanted a good career In NASCAR. Since you are already so involved with NASCAR, would you say that it’s the best sport to be involved in?
I think your interests and your own passions dictate what is the best sport. The people in the NASCAR community; drivers, crew chiefs, team PR people,
the fans, are terrific. It makes all the hours of work worth it.
What is your favorite race in NASCAR history?
I remember watching the great Allisons/Yarborough battle at Daytona as a teenager, and that still stands out to me. Recently, any race at Bristol or
Richmond. They are so exciting to watch—and direct.
When you were young, did you think nascar would ever be this popular?
No. I just thought it would always remain a regional sport—but I’m glad people around the country are enjoying it as much as I have for the past 19
Did you ever talk to Bill France personally?
Yes I have. I was fortunate to sit in his suite for the 2000 daytona 500, and I spent about 15 minutes watching the race with him. His passion for the
sport comes right through. He is a brilliant leader and innovator.
Was Bill Elliott strong because he was young or was it something else?
If you’re talking about the mid ’80s, when he set all of those records at Daytona and Talladega, I think that he and his brothers just found something
extra to create more horsepower. They were ahead of the rest, both literally and figuratively.
What are some of the deleted scenes on the great fight at Daytona in 1979 between Allison and Yarborough?
I don’t know of any.
What grandstand were you in?
I was watching in my dorm room at the University of Florida.
How well did you know Dale Earnhardt? Was he ever mean to you?
I wish that I would have gotten to know Dale through our Fox/NASCAR connection, but his tragic death in 2001, our first Fox race, precluded that. He was
my racing idol, and I only met him a couple of times. He was never mean.
You said you interviewed him In 1985. Was the Earnhardt interview your best?
I can’t say that I remember it that well. We were going through the garage interviewing as many drivers as we could during the week of the Daytona 500.
I didn’t really become a big fan of his until late in the ’80S.
How do you think NASCAR handled the death of Dale Earnhardt?
There is never an easy way to handle that type of situation. Dale was one of Mike Helton’s best friends, and I can’t imagine having to be the one to
stand in front of TV cameras and microphones and announce that a dear friend was dead. I don’t believe anyone but the medical people should have access to
his autopsy photos, and I don’t think NASCAR is hiding anything either.
I’m sure fans would love to watch races from Riverside, North Wilkesboro, and other retired tracks. Do you think they could be used as a place to have special fundraising races? I think they would make a lot of money if they did that.
I would love to direct a race from North Wilkesboro, and I think your idea for fundraising races is terrific. The only problem now is that the drivers
and crews are so busy, with 36 races, the Nextel all-star weekend, the Bud Shoot-out weekend, testing and such, it is just a hard thing to get everyone in
the same place.
Do you have a tape of how fast the races were at Daytona back before restrictor plates?
I watch the older races on “Speed Channel.” I wish there weren’t restrictor plates and that we had more passing at Daytona and Talladega, and that we had
slingshot moves for the lead off of turn 4. But the safety issue is also important, and I can’t imagine driving for three hours at almost 200 mph with a
car less then inches from my bumper and side door in every direction.
If you do, could you ever show people who had never seen that as a classic race kind of thing? Could Fox show more replays of old races, or are they just for Speed and ESPN Classic?
Speed and ESPN Classic were created for that type of show. Speed is just great for seeing the old Daytonas and other shows that can teach you the history
I think you could show a tape of all the behind the scenes fights that were deleted on Fox Movie Channel as a special event. Does that sound good to you?
If we’re covering the race and we see a fight or altercation we cover it. It is a rarity to have a fight, though tempers do get a bit hot after a wreck.
I don’t think we need a whole show though.
Do you think Talledega has always been as nice as it is now, competition wise?
With restrictor plate racing the field is so packed that all the cars are basically the same as far as horsepower is concerned. It makes for an
interesting show, but that race and Daytona make me nervous. Over the past few years I’ve become friendly with many of the drivers, and when there is a
wreck at those two tracks, bad things can happen. I think that my heart races for the entire 3 hours. When Elliott Sadler flipped at Talladega, I was
doing an NFL game and got a voicemail message when I turned my phone on from a friend. I didn’t have any details aside from “Elliott had a bad wreck
today, the car flipped over a bunch of times.” I spent the next 15 minutes trying to get in touch with his brother Hermie, and other team people to find
out if he was ok. When you care for the people in the cars, and know their families, it gives you a whole new perspective about watching wrecks.
When do the Fox preparations begin for the beginning of the NASCAR season In February?
We actually never stop preparing. We had a meeting in October with all the announcers and production people and continue to work on things that we can do
better. We always have our big meeting with NASCAR the Thursday before the awards banquet in New York. That is where we finalize plans, but I can tell
you that we never can stand still—or someone else will pass us!!
When do the Fox preparations begin for each weekend’s races?
The trucks arrive on Tuesday, and the crew begins running cable, setting up cameras, building the compound on Wednesday morning. People In Los Angeles
are editing features and animations and we all get together on Thursday or Friday morning.
I think it might be a good idea to leave the commercial break if there is a wreck so that you might see it live. What do you think?
I agree!! We will try to “bust” out of commercials when a wreck happens more often.
Do you think the fans would like to see everything that happens right after the race instead of a commercial break?
Yes, and we would like to show them more. The only problem is that we have to sell commercials to make back the money that we paid for the rights fees.
It is a no-win situation, but I can assure you we don’t won’t to miss anything, ever.
Would you call yourself a know-it-all about NASCAR?
No way. I may be a big fan, but I’m no expert. If I want to know something I go to one of our announcers, pit producer Pam Miller, graphics producer
Patrick Perrin, or our technology wizard, Nelson Crozier.
The best NASCAR video game in my opinion is ‘NASCAR ‘98’ because you could lap the field instead of all the cars up with you? What do you think? Do you play video games?
I don’t play video games, though my boys are getting an X Box for Christmas. I may have an opinion soon!
Does Fox participate in the creation of any of the racing video games that are made? If not, maybe you should (“Fox Sports RacIng”)?
We have partnered with other groups, and I have been a consultant on some NFL and NBA games for VC Entertainment who develops games for Sony.
The year that Fox covered the last race at Infineon Raceway, did you have some of the wine that they have? Or did someone get it because of where the race track is?
When we go to Sonoma, Marcy always comes out with me. we enjoy the wine country and the wine together. we always go to the Speedway Charities benefit
that is hosted by Steve Paige, the Infineon track president. We spend the weekend (when I’m not working), with Jon and Nancy Lassiter. Jon is the
creative genius behind Pixar Animations. He created, wrote or directed (sometimes all of the above), “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s LIfe,” “Finding Nemo,” and is
working on an animated movie called “Cars.” “Cars” will be released sometime in 2005.
One of my favorite things ever done with Fox was the squirt gun fight with Jeff Hammond and Chris Meyers. Was that planned?
The great squirt gun war was pre-planned by the pit guys, but I had no idea about it until it started. Matt, Steve and Dick didn’t want anyone to know.
It was a complete surprise to Chris and Jeff.
Is NASCAR as it seems to the public, or is there a whole other world underneath? If so, good or bad, is it something the fans should know about?
Overall NASCAR is great! The drivers are mostly good and caring people. It is the most fan friendly sport by far.
Does NASCAR involve itself with Fox to the standards that many other people want?
Of course we talk, but for the most part we handle the race coverage and make sure that our standards are high. We do focus groups about what people
like, and we all check the internet to see what the viewers are writing. It is the only sport where the fans really weigh in on what they like, and don’t
like about television coverage.
Do you think NASCAR Is completely different than it used to be, and is it going to change much in the future?
It is always going to change, and I hope for the better. There is an evolution of sorts that happens. Technology is more important than ever. Engineers
now make more of the decisions then drivers and crew chiefs. Wind tunnel numbers, engine dyno reports and other technological information determine set-
ups for each race. DW told me that Junior Johnson could just look at a car and figure out a way to make it go faster—those days are over.
What do you think NBC and TNT do with their broadcasts that is better than Fox’s?
Their graphics package is very nice.
Do you think you’ll ever stop broadcasting NASCAR?
Not until I’m old, real old, and they put me out to pasture.
Would you ever want to interview me?
Absolutely!! Anyone who can ask such interesting questions must also have some interesting opinions!
Do you think it would be a good idea for me to interview different famous racing personalities on a weekly Fox special?
I think it would be great. You could do announcers, production people, camera operators, replay technicians, in-car specialists. We have a whole lot of
interesting and smart people to choose from.
Or could I do a NASCAR reality show that could make up for the loss of the weekly races during off season?
NASCAR is working on its own reality series. I don’t think they’d welcome the competition.
I’d like to ask you some personal questions about your wife, Marcy, and your boys, Matt, Ethan, and Jack. Are you patient in the car with your kids when they’re bored and being bad?
I’m pretty patient, but more importantly the boys are pretty well behaved. We usually listen to Radio Disney in the car, and when we go on longer trips,
Marcy reads books to them. They also always bring their own books to read. We recently got a new truck and I sprang for the DVD player. They love it,
but the rule is that they can only watch DVD’s when the trip is 90 minutes or longer.
What are your sons’ favorite things to do with you when you’re home?
Matt and Jack likes to play chess, throw the football around, ride bikes or just hang out and watch sports or a movie. Ethan, who is autistic, enjoys
puzzles and we watch “The Lion King” and other Disney animated movies together.
What would Marcy say is te thing that upsets her the most about you?
I can be a tad impatient at times and forget to think before I speak.
What does she do when she’s mad at you? How do you get her un-mad?
It depends how mad I’ve made her. She might just walk away, raise her voice to match my level, or just laugh at me. The best way to get her “un-mad” is
to apologize and talk about it. We have a great relationship because we talk and communicate!
What store do you like to visit first in the mall?
Ethan really likes the mall, so that’s when I usually go. It is a treat for him, and he just loves the Disney store.
What is your favorite color?
Do you like fruits or vegetables, or both? Or none?
I like everything except sprouts and raw carrots
My Dad likes to play golf, and so do I. Did you ever play golf at Pebble Beach?
I worked on CBS Sports’ coverage of the Pebble Beach PGA event from 1983-94, but have never played the course. I’d like to someday.
Can I send you some information on Tourette Syndrome? Or on some of my other disorders?
Of course you can.
I am looking forward to meeting you at Bristol. I want to share more of my opinions on Fox with you.
I can’t wait!!!!!!