The Accidental Announcer
Caroline Wright didn’t plan on being the first female racetrack announcer in CART racing. Yet it seems that her entire career has led her to this point. And Houston is all the better for it, as we get to enjoy the fruits of her labor this month at the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston, where she will co-anchor the event with Bruce Flanders.
Wright?s career started on radio in San Antonio, but she got to Houston “as quick as could” via rock radio station KLOL. In 1992, she started racing as a hobby and turned professional in 1996. The transition from radio to racing was a natural one because she found many parallels between the two. For instance, both are volatile industries that are promotion-heavy, and both are marketing tools and an advertising medium.
To date, Wright has notched 34 victories as well as 26 other podium finishes and has set 16 lap records. She also spends some of her time coaching Ferrari owners and has even coached the chairman of Enron Broadband, Ken Rice.
It wasn?t long after her entry into racing that Wright discovered that very few individuals involved in the racing world knew how to deal with the media ? something Wright already considered second nature. Throughout her racing career she has helped to justify the money that sponsors spend on racing by enhancing the image of her sponsors and by driving sales as well as racecars. She has helped her sponsors find new business partners and leverage new business relationships.
Asked why she located to the Houston area, she says she wouldn?t have it any other way. And Houston is becoming quite a hub of racing activity.
Wright offered as an example one of her clients. Bobby Sak is the son of Trans Am driver Don Sak. Bobby drives for Grand Sport Racing located in Hitchcock just south of Houston. This season, both Don and Bobby have donated the space on the hood of their racing cars to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. As a direct result of media exposure surrounding their efforts, a missing child was reunited with her father less than a month after her image was featured. Watch for Don Sak at the Grand Prix this month ? this time the face of a Houston-area missing child will be featured on his car, and with some luck, the effort will prove equally effective.
Then there is Kelly Bradley, a Corvette enthusiast who has purchased a World War II blimp base south of town. While researching the property, he discovered that John Mecom, a prominent figure from Houston?s past and owner of the original Warwick Hotel, used to test his Corvettes on this same land. Mecom owned three out of the five original Grand Sport Corvettes ever built for racing. Bradley now plans to build a permanent racing facility called Grand Sport Speedway in the very same location.
Wright?s love of racing, as well as those in it, is apparent. In fact, her husband, Jay Wright, a NASA engineer, is a former driver. Sadly, Jay?s driving career was cut short in 1993 when he was paralyzed in a racing accident. However, he has remained very active in contributing to the sport and has been instrumental in changing car designs to increase safety. Additionally, he has designed a more affordable helmet restraint system that would help reduce neck injuries and also has been instrumental in changes to the rules so that others won?t suffer a similar fate.
So what?s the big deal about Wright announcing a CART race? Well, most announcers must wait their entire careers for an opportunity such as this. But also it signifies a new, modern era for Houston. We can boast proudly that our city was the first to have a female racing announcer. It differentiates Houston?s race from the rest.
Asked if all of the attention is intimidating, Wright?s answer is simple. “It?s just like being in my living room,” she says. “If a race is on the television, I can?t help but commentate it. The only difference at a race is that there are 100,000 other people listening in.” Count us among those who will be listening and enjoying the racing insights of Caroline Wright.