Fabian Brown, a professional announcer from Waldorf, Md., has been the voice of Maryland International Raceway in Mechanicsville, Md., a short drive south of Washington, D.C., for 14 years. The Maryland native planned to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, but when that didn’t work out, he already had a back-up career underway as a professional racing announcer.
Earlier this year, Brown’s career took a major step when he was selected as the new voice of the IHRA on ESPN3. He travels to most of the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Summit Sportsman National Championship races and serves as the public address announcer, but that audio also accompanies the ESPN3 video stream.
When not announcing a Summit Sportsman National Championship event on ESPN3, Brown announces for the International Drag Bike League as well as occasional additional events. When not announcing an event, he can be found working at AMF Waldorf Lanes, a bowling alley near his Maryland home. Brown, 31, is a fan of both the Washington Redskins and the Washington Capitals NHL team; he enjoys fishing and spending time with his family. Below is a conversation with the voice heard around the country through the IHRA on ESPN3 broadcasts, Fabian Brown.
How did you get started in announcing?
Fabian Brown: “I got started doing the PA at my high school doing football games and basketball games. I was also taking a couple of acting classes. During my senior year at McDonough High School, I took a multimedia class, and we did the school’s morning announcements. We did it in a format similar to Good Morning America or the Today Show, and I was the lead anchor. That’s where I got comfortable being in front of a camera; I did it every day of my senior year in high school. After I graduated in 2004, I put in an application to audition at Maryland International Raceway, and 13 years later, here we are.”
Why drag racing?
FB: “I’ve always loved drag racing. My father took me to my first race at Budds Creek (Maryland International Raceway) when I was four or five years old, and I remember meeting Royce (Chief Operating Officer Royce Miller) that day. I told him I was going to work for him one day, and who would have thought 14 years later, that I would end up working for him. I was hooked on drag racing when I was four or five years old, and then the opportunity came along to audition at MDIR; when this announcing thing got moving, I realized pretty fast I’d found my calling. And now I’ve moved up to become the voice of the IHRA.”
Did you ever think about trying to be a driver?
FB: “I thought about it; it’s one of those things where I tried it early on in my announcing career and realized I wasn’t any good on the Christmas tree so I thought I’d be better behind the microphone than on the racetrack itself. I’ve thought about giving it another shot. Maybe one day in the future, if the right opportunity comes along, I might give it another try, but I’m definitely happy with my involvement in the sport right now.”
Is the IHRA Summit Sportsman National Championship on ESPN3 the biggest thing you’ve done in your career so far?
FB: “It is, and when Mike Dunn called me in February to ask me if I wanted to do it, I was shocked. Here’s the president of the IHRA, one of the most respected people in drag racing, calling me, a kid from Maryland, to ask me to be the voice of the Summit Sportsman National Championship. At first I thought he was kidding with me, but then we started talking. I realized how serious he was and that this was a huge opportunity for me and my career. I was shocked that I was chosen, but I’m really honored to be a part of this big step for the IHRA.”
And now you’re working with Mike on every one of these shows; what’s that like?
FB: “Working with Mike Dunn is one of the biggest joys of not only my career but in life. Here’s a guy I watched on TV from when he drove for Darrell Gwynn and before that Roland (Leong) years ago. I never thought I’d meet the guy, but then here I met him at Memphis last year, and now I actually get to work with him. It’s really an honor; he’s a great guy. He gives you his opinion on things, but he’s also a great motivator. When things maybe didn’t go the way I planned, he’s there to motivate you. And he’s accessible whether it’s business or personal, he’s a great guy to work with, and I’m honored to work with him.”
You’re not at Maryland anymore; you’re working on your first national championship series, and you aren’t calling it just for the people at the track, you’re also calling it the ESPN3 viewers. How is it different?
FB: “The only thing that’s really different is reaching more people. The first race I did, I was a nervous wreck leading into it. I talked to Mike that Friday, and he told me the more I keep my mindset as it normally is, and kind of take the ESPN part out of it and just do what I’ve been doing since I started my career, the better off I’ll be. Now I get to talk to the fans at the racetrack, but I’m also reaching out to fans across the country that may not have been exposed to the IHRA before. Now our partnership with ESPN3 allows us to reach folks from coast to coast. They can tune in and find out about our series, our drivers, our sponsors and what the IHRA is all about. Believe it or not, some folks that have watched the ESPN3 broadcasts have come into the bowling alley, and they say, ‘Aren’t you that guy that does the drag races on ESPN3?’ It’s kind of cool when you’re getting recognized for putting a voice on a sport. Folks are recognizing the direction IHRA is going, and that I’m a part of it. It’s really cool.”
What’s the hardest part for you?
FB: “Maybe at first doing the show opens with Mike where I don’t have a script, but I have to look into that camera and talk. My mindset has to be, ‘It’s just another race,” but it’s with ESPN. Their tagline is the ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports.’ So I guess the hardest part is just not getting nervous, but when we get the first two cars down the racetrack and get to that first commercial, it’s back to normal, and everything comes natural.”
So what’s next for you?
FB: “I’m just excited to see where this goes; I’m happy to be a part of Maryland International Raceway since 2005 and definitely the IHRA. I definitely need to thank Josh Peake, the IHRA Division 2-9 director who gave me my first divisional away from Maryland two years ago. That snowballed into me traveling to Grand Bend (Ontario) and the IHRA team finals at other racetracks last year. I really appreciate people thinking I do a great job and asking me to work their events, so it’s kind of living the dream for me; for the last 14 years, I’ve had my dream job. I’m just excited to see where the IHRA goes from here.”
Do you have any announcing heroes or role models?
FB: “My biggest idols from ESPN were Stuart Scott and also Chris Berman. In drag racing, Steve Evans, Bob Frye, Dave McClelland. Then there’s James Brown who started at CBS and is now at FOX Sports. What those guys brought to the table and how they made it fun made an impact on me. It wasn’t a job for them. And this isn’t a job for me; it’s fun. I get paid to go around the country and talk about the best Sportsman racers in the world; it’s just fun. Overall, though, (the late) Stuart Scott was probably my biggest influence in this business.”