When it comes to local auto racing there is not much that Rod Biehler hasn't done. To this day, Biehler continues to inform fans of the on-track action as a race announcer whenever the green flag flies at both Little Valley and Bradford speedways.
While Biehler, of Eldred, Pa., has undertaken many responsibilities over the years, he is best known as an announcer at tracks in Genesee and Erie counties. His long career also includes stints in the Southern Tier and northern Pennsylvania. He also at one time or another has either promoted or co-promoted race tracks, still promotes a long-running motorsports mall show and once hosted a racing radio program.
He even drove race cars in the early days of his motorsports career.
Biehler says that it's his love of the sport, and what he termed "the good-natured" people that he has met in the racing community, that have kept him motivated.
"I think people who are not involved in motor racing don't have a clue of the people who put the show on," Biehler said. "I mean you meet all different kinds of people. It's like anything else in life. There's good people and bad people but the majority of them are good. I'd say that if I asked the majority of people in racing if they'd do something for me or I needed help they'd do it for me. That's means an awful lot to me.
"I've been promoter in the past at three different tracks, McKean County, Genesee and also at Bradford (Pa). As far as announcer, I've been at Freedom, Holland, Genesee, McKean, Little Valley, Bradford, Circle K - which is now gone - Fulton in a special show up there."
Biehler's list of racing activities does not stop there. Each March, Biehler is the sole producer of the Olean Center Mall Stock Car Show and Motorsports Expo. Except for a few seasons when Roger Morris helped, it's been Biehler who has presented the expo, which serves as the annual sneak peek at the upcoming local racing season.
"This past year was the 35th year that I've done that mall show," said Biehler, who is station manager of radio station WZKZ in Wellsville.
Biehler recalled his days as a driver many years ago.
"I drove race cars a couple times," Biehler said. "I've driven Street Stocks at Bradford back in the 1970's and I drove Go-Karts when I was much younger."
As is often times the case Biehler got involved in racing at a very young age through a family connection."My uncle, the late Dick Soules, had a jalopy car, a 1937 Ford that he raced at Roulette (Pa.) Raceway. They used to sneak me in to the pits in the back of that car and I just kind of got hooked on it and 50 some years later I'm still involved in racing."
At one time Biehler hosted a local radio show but recent time restraints have curtailed that element of his career for now.
"I hosted racing radio shows for about 15 years but I don't do that anymore because I've got other obligations now at the radio station so I don't have the time to do it," Biehler said. "I think most fans who know me would know me from either my presence as a race announcer or through the Olean Mall show."
While announcing at hundreds of motorsports events during his career, Biehler recalls the first time he ever picked up the microphone to announce a stock car race.
"I graduated from college, went to broadcasting school in Washington, D.C., and in 1966 I went up to Bradford Speedway and I heard the announcer and I thought, 'Geez, here I am just a young kid wet behind the ears' and I went to the owners and said, 'Hey if you ever need a good announcer give me a call.' It wasn't too much longer, a couple weeks later, that I got a call and that's where I got my first job. It was at Bradford Speedway."
Biehler considers a race track announcer to be a vital link between a race track's management, drivers, sponsors and most importantly its fans.
"By far, the announcer is very important," Biehler said. "The flagman is super important, the scorers are extra-important. I've done everything at a race track you can do. I've even flagged. Announcing for me is the easiest and most enjoyable. It's just fun to be part of the show. Probably the best part of being an announcer is going trackside and talking to the feature winners. That to me is a lot of fun.
"When I'm announcing the race I watch and see what different things go on and what things make that race something special and keep that locked in my brain. Then I'll go down trackside and say 'Hey why did you do this? What happened there?'"
No one survives the busyness of many years in the sport without core support. Biehler knows his biggest supporter has always been, his wife Joanie.
"The big thing is I've got a wife who allows me to do it," Biehler said "Actually I met Joanie at Bradford Speedway. A friend of hers introduced us and we went out and we've been married 30-plus years."
As this season rolls along, Biehler will continue to announce at both Little Valley and Bradford. Biehler has stood the test of time and the local auto racing community continues to be the better for it.