Chris Carter, Motorcycle Journalist and Announcer, Dies
Chris Carter, the witty and knowledgeable motorcycle journalist and announcer, passed away this morning according to friends and industry associates.
Carter became an institution at Daytona Beach’s Bike Week. Every March he made the trek from his home in England to spend a few weeks helping Daytona International Speedway credential the media and VIPs. In addition to his credentialing duties Carter’s busy Daytona included hosting a popular nightly radio show and being a major cog of the announcing team for the Daytona 200 and its support events.
With his encyclopedic knowledge of the sport, Carter both entertained and educated American audiences since first coming to announce in the U.S. in the late 1970s.
Carter’s family grew up working at and running motorcycle races in England, so Chris was around the sport all of his life. As he told it, normally the very last position to be filled by club race organizers is race commentator.
“You offer the position of speaker to 90 percent of the people in the club and they’ll all beg off,” he said. “When they came to me, I asked ‘Where’s the mic?’ So, from the time I was 12 I was a commentating at the races.”
Carter also went on to becoming one of the leading journalists in all of motorcycle racing. He worked for a variety of publications, covered every aspect of motorcycling and was involved in publishing racing books as well. He knew all forms of racing from motocross, to speedway, road racing and flat track.
Carter’s announcing style endeared him to racing fans. They knew he wouldn’t BS them. He called it like he saw it and was able to add a lot of flavor to the commentating by way of knowing the riders and being able to convey interesting side stories about a rider’s personality or things they did in their off time. While Carter said he liked to claim laziness guided most of his career decisions, his attention to detail showed the hard work he put into getting to know his subject.
It didn’t hurt that Carter felt no need to pull his punches behind the microphone.
“The older I get the crotchetier and more vicious I become in what I say on air,” Carter admitted in a 2008 interview. “In many ways I feel I’m fairly unique. Most commentators are polite and politically correct. They say the right things. I’m happy to speak my mind. Most people in the end know when it’s tongue in cheek or when I genuinely believe what I’m saying. If a race is boring, I’ll say, ‘Oh my god, this is boring.’ The fans or the viewers will say, ‘He’s right this is an absolutely dull race.’ Whereas some commentators might feel the need to jump up and down and feign excitement when there is none.”
Carter created a party atmosphere at his Daytona Beach radio show and encouraged the audience to participate by cheering or booing when they heard something that struck them. He gave away t-shirts and would host quizzes. His live shows became a happening.
Other personalities tried to start shows at Daytona over the years, but they’ve failed to capture the spirit of Bike Week like Carter is able to do.
“Everything I do in my commentary I try to have fun,” he said. “If I can find humor in what I’m talking about I get excited.”
Carter’s irreverent interviews were legendary. Rider’s often served as foil for Carter’s jokes – “You can’t really enjoy racing that pig of a motorcycle,” he might say.
If he interviewed the right rider the combination of the two trading verbal jabs and working off of each other’s energy was magical. Randy Renfrow was always a great interview for Carter. Renfrow was quick enough that he could dish it right back to the sharp-witted Carter as fast as he got it. Tom Kipp, Kevin Schwantz, Scott Russell, Jamie James, Chris Carr and Nicky Hayden all gave some of their best interviews when chatting with Carter. He always loved the repartee with Chuck Graves, first as a rider, and later as a team owner. With mischievous in his voice, Carter famously called him “The small, but perfectly formed Chuck Graves.”
Carter was a one-of-a-kind personality and a person who dedicated his life to motorcycle racing. His passing leaves us without one of the greats who worked tirelessly to do his part to give listeners and readers a deeper glimpse into the personalities of our sport.