By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
MACKEYVILLE -- It was a night out with friends at the Chemung Speedrome in Chemung, N.Y., that got Carol Houssock hooked on auto racing.
Nineteen years later, she is one of a handful of females who is announcing on the grass-roots levels.
On Friday nights, her smooth style fills the air at the 1/3-mile Clinton County Raceway, a two-hour trip from her home in New York Southern Tier.
She started announcing at the asphalt tracks and continues today on Saturday nights at the Shangri-La II Motor Speedway in Tioga Center, N.Y.
It was a combination of circumstances that led the Cornell graduate getting into motorsports.
"The Bodine family (NASCAR drivers Geoff, Brett and Todd) owned Chemung Speedrome at the time and it was something to do one evening and after watching the races, I was hooked," she said.
A native of Elmira, Houssock's day job is the Director of Chemung Volunteer Action Corps.
Her first big race in person was the 1976 Daytona 500. The race was the first to be televised with flag-to-flag coverage and the last-lap crash and fight between Richard Petty and David Pearson.
In 1986, after living out of the country for a while, Houssock watched Geoff Bodine win the Dayton 500 on TV.
"That's when I thought that I needed to start getting involved in the sport again," she said.
With few races being shown on TV back then, Houssock reached out to the local NBC affiliate in Wilke-Barre to find out who won.
"Every Sunday night I would call the sports department to get the race results as there was no racing coverage on the radio back then as no stations were carrying the Motor Racing Network," she said.
As luck would have it, a country radio station came on the air near where she lived in Wilkes-Barre and she went there to see if the station would carry MRN.
"When I left, the station manager gave me a time-slot for a weekly motorsports show," she said.
Her show "Start-Finish Lines" debuted in the winter of 1989 on WDLS. She was on the air until the station was sold in 1995. Her first interview for the show was with the late Dick Trickle, the 1989 NASCAR Rookie of the Year.
Among the local tracks she was doing driver interviews at for the show was Evergreen, now Mountain Speedway in St. Johns.
"While I was there at Evergreen, there was an independent cable station that was broadcasting the races. They asked me if I would do the color commentary and victory lane for their show, The Checkered Flag Racing Series," she said.
Over the next three years, she did broadcast from Penn National, Big Diamond and Flemington.
In the winter of 1994, Dino Oberto, then the announcer at Evergreen, was leaving. The track asked Houssock if she would like to the be announcer.
"I told them, 'I can't do that, I've never done play-by-play and I don't know how to entertain a crowd,'" she said. "Dino helped me a lot. I had a very rough beginning."
Houssock remained the track announcer until 1999 and recalled that no one ever questioned her role in male-dominated position.
"They viewed me as one of their own from doing the driver interviews for the radio show," she said.
After doing some announcing at Woodhull Raceway in Woodhull, N.Y., for then promoter Vern Wasson, he invited her to join him on the mic when he took over Clinton County five years ago.
"Working with Vern is really a lot of fun, but it was a big adjustment for me going from asphalt to dirt as the terminology is so different," she said.
"For me, announcing has been and always will be about the driver," she said. "That's the way I want it to be."