By Lee Booze: From North
Picture four guys sitting around talking on a Monday night, bench racing,
reliving the past weekend's action. I'm sure it happens all the time across
northern Ohio throughout the summer months. Now add a microphone and a
couple of racers and you've got the "Last Lap" on WFRO. Scott and Andrew
Barman, Brian Liskai and Mike Linder have just about as much fun on the
radio as anyone can, they do simply because they love the sport.
The idea of a radio show about Fremont and other area speedways came
about as soon as the Ford's reopened the track in 2000. As Scott Barman
explained, "Jim and Doug Ford talked together, but Andrew and I were doing
"Racing World" at that time. Jim said something about starting our own
show. Fremont Speedway should have its own show. I said I'd like to be
included in that." Both Scott and his son Andrew were commuting to Findlay
each Saturday morning to do a show. However, trying to fit it in between
Friday and Saturday night's racing was tough. "Saturday's driving to Findlay
shot the whole day. Jim and Doug talked to WFRO and they were willing to
try it. On May 7, 2001 we started our own show. He talked about it right
from the start, but it took a year or so get it going." Liskai explained
why the show didn't start earlier on. "To be honest there wasn't a lot
of effort put forth that first year. There were just too many things to
worry about the first year with the race track. After the track got settled
down and things got running we had time to go down and talk to the people
But would two shows about auto racing work in the same region? Wouldn't
there be conflict between the two shows? Brian explained, "I don't think
so, because Dwight (Allen) does NASCAR, IRL, CART. From the get-go we were
going to exclude that. This show was going to be for the local guys. Let's
face it, he's in Findlay and we're in Fremont--Fremont, Ohio--the capital
of racing in Ohio. There are just more race fans around here than other
parts of the state. Plus we were on a different time slot."
Barman added, "There's really no competition at all. We're on Monday
nights and he's Saturdays. Add with that the totally different formats.
We even cooperate helping out with Dwight's show."
Liskai further explained the difference between the two radio shows.
"Dwight's busy. He doesn't get around to a lot of races because of other
sports commitments. We're able to get out and come to other racing events
and to talk to people. During the racing season I call in to Dwight's show
every Saturday to give the Fremont report. It works out real well.
From the beginning the show was hit. Listeners picked up right away
and have remained faithful to the weekly gab-session. As Scott said, "People
started coming up right away saying that they enjoyed listening to the
show. They told us it sounded like we had a lot of fun doing the show.
There were a lot of positive comments all the way around." The show spread
by word of mouth. Plus a few plugs from the track announcer did hurt either.
"Once we started announcing at the racetrack, tune into the 'Last Lap',
I think that helped tremendously," said Liskai.
Its hard to gauge the impact of the "Last Lap" on the Fremont area public,
but both Liskai and Barman are optimistic about the show's ability to attract
new fans. "I think the show does both (help regular fans and draw new ones
to the track). Especially early on when we were on in the drive time. A
lot of people were coming home from work and heard that and they were encouraged
to come out and see what was going on at the track," noted Liskai.
The format really hasn't changed since the beginning. Brian, Scott and
Andrew briefly report the weekend's racing and interview guests. One guest
however, became a permanent part of the crew. When Mike Linder joined in
the fun full time, the show rounded out its knowledge base with a full
time racer in its midst. Mike explained how he ended up on the show..."People
tell me I can talk. I came on as a guest, and I enjoyed doing it. I had
been on Dwight's show a couple of times as a guest and had fun doing it.
I have fun doing the show period. I don't know why there's an attraction
to radio, I never wanted to do that in the past but these guys are fun
to do it with and we have a great time. It's only an hour out of my week
and there's not much prep time. Scott does all of the worrying."
Barman indicated why Linder was a natural choice for the spot. "I was
always impressed with Mike, cause he could talk from a different perspective.
I thought it would be nice to have a driver. I am a fan. Before I started
doing this I was up in the stands watching. Mike can explain things. Especially
after he ran the non-wing show to compare the two." Barman noted, "If Mike
does have a tough weekend we do rub it in on the show a little bit."
Linder replied, "Trust me its better than what I get back in the garage."
With the four of them yak-ing away each week, you would think eventually
they'd run out of things to talk about, or worse yet, run out of people
to interview. They keep things going however, without spiraling into a
pit of negativity. Brian smiled and said, "The show is very upbeat. You
find it very hard to get guests to come on if you start bashing people."
Barman also said, "We try not to say bad things about any racetrack. People
who understand the sport and attend know the work that goes into it. We
really want to stay positive."
Looking back over the short time the "Last Lap" has been on the air
one show stands out. "The night we had Johnny Auxter, Darl Harrison, Davie
White and Jim Linder. It was a great show," said Barman. "We didn't have
to do anything. We'd announce we're going to a break and they were still
talking. We'd come back from a break and they were still talking! It was
their show. I loved it."
Liskai added, "Rick Ferkel and his boy were great. Paul Kistler did
an outstanding job. Chad and Brian Kemenah, Greg Wilson. We've had some
fun guys and there's still some fun guys we'd like to get on the show."
Linder jumped in with a list. "The old timers I'd like to see are guys
like Rollie Beale, The McCunes. These would be the perfect guests. More
of the deep history of the speedway is what I'd like to see. The past champions
and the like. The coupe era or when they were just switching over to sprint
cars. With Jim Ford running the place right now is verging on being as
good as that time period. It could be that good again."
Liskai threw in his two cents. "Boy, I'd love to have Harold McGilton
and Gug Keegan. Just to talk about the old days." Then he added, "The ultimate
guest? AJ Foyt."
With all the great conversations on the show, does it ever get tough
to fill an hour? Barman laughed and responded, "Sometimes when we're short,
Brian can clear his throat for half an hour. But, really we've been fortunate
that we've never really been short."
"Guys ask to come on the show," said Linder. "There are so many racers
in the area." Liskai furthered the thought. "Think of all the racers that
live in a half-hour or 45 minute drive from here. The best part is just
about every person we've had on the show when they get done they say 'that
Luckily the "Last Lap" features a wide audience. "I know WFRO goes past
Toledo," said Liskai. "I have friends that live around the Mansfield area
that can pick it up." Barman added, "I know the racing Lime's from North
Olmsted can get it in, and the Kemenah's can here us in Findlay."
"We really appreciate the drivers coming over on a Monday night after
a long weekend of racing," all three agreed. The "Last Lap" is now found
in its 7pm permanent time slot on 99.1. Sure its just four guys sitting
around talking. But, it is informative, thoughtful and most importantly
fun. That's what they set out to do, and without a doubt, they've exceeded
their own expectations.
(Author's note: The fourth member of the group Andrew Barman was absent
the evening of the interview. I would not want to minimize the importance
his input to the show.)