5 Minutes With Brian Lohnes
Lead photo courtesy RBPhotography / DragIllustrated.com
To NHRA drag racing fans, you’ll likely recognize the voice of Brian Lohnes as the lead play-by-ply announcer for FOX Sports televised races. Or maybe you spotted his byline on BangShift.com, a fun car-guy website he cofounded almost 15 years ago. Maybe you’ve listened to his Dork-o-Motive podcasts about all things racing, or his Instagram “90-seconds of Weird History” reels. Perhaps it was when he was part owner of the East Coast Timing Association, or you watched online as he covered Drag Week or other MotorTrend TV specials.
In short, the guy is all over the map researching, writing about, and covering just about anything with engines or wheels. We caught up with him to ask a few questions about racing, history, and tractors, but you can learn more by giving him a follow at @brianlohnes.
Goodguys: If you could go back to any era of motorsports, where would you land?
Brian Lohnes: This answer has changed for me over the years and probably will again, but currently I’d like to dive in around 1915 or so. It was bedlam and people were just trying so much wild stuff. The more I study that era the more I just want to see it for myself.
GG: Would you have ever thought that calling races at New England Dragway as a teen would lead to working the NHRA broadcast booth alongside Tony Pedregon?
Lohnes: Absolutely not. It wasn’t even on my radar that I could consider doing what I’m doing now. As weird as it sounds and with all its twists and turns, it’s reasonably linear. We look at a doctor or a lawyer and can see that path. Study hard, go to school a long time, you graduate, and the piece of paper says you are what you are. I kind of did the same thing but with drag racing. I went to college and got a journalism degree, worked jobs doing stuff like managing truck fleets, but all the while my graduate school and professional education was traveling to all the races I could do, somehow defying company vacation policies, and gaining experience to put me in a place to land a few races with the NHRA for 2014. Since then, I have done every national event as a PA announcer and for the last five years on the television broadcast.
GG: It takes a lot of parts to propel a car and driver to over 300mph consistently; what part of a drag car impresses you the most?
Lohnes: The space between the ears of the crew chiefs, mechanics, and driver. When all of them have it right, it’s pretty magical to watch. When it is not right the results are spectacular for all the wrong reasons.
GG: What is one of your top memories in your journalism career?
Lohnes: Riding shotgun in a rally car with the late Ken Block was exceptionally awesome and terrifying at the same time. I did it at a rally school in the wilds of the New England woods and it was just the most bonkers thing. How the car accelerated, cornered, and had braking capability on dirt blew my mind. How much fun Ken was and how calm he was really impressed me.
GG: Where do you come up with topics for your Instagram 90-secods of Weird Racing History You Might Not Know? (Give them a listen @brianlohnes on Instagram)
Lohnes: From being an Olympic-level dork. Ha! Honestly, they are all topics I may know a little about or that I know happened but then I dive in to get information and deliver it in that quick format. I have a notepad of scribbled topics that I’ll not finish in 50 years. Just a fun hobby to have.
GG: What is some of the best advice you’ve received in your career?
Lohnes: Never stop reading. If words, spoken or written, are to be your stock in trade, you need to keep consuming them to keep fresh, creative, and innovative. A love of reading is the best gift I was ever given.
GG: How about any advice for someone just getting started on a career path in the performance industry?
Lohnes: No matter what aspect of the industry you plan on starting in, there’s a universal piece of advice I give on how to start: Be humble and limitlessly curious.
If you arrive somewhere and think you already know it all, you can never learn. You’ll be dissatisfied no matter where you go. Once you start somewhere, become a sponge. Ask questions, learn, engage, pay attention, and ultimately this will pay you back big time. This is a fantastic industry and if young talent can park their ego early and absorb as much knowledge as they can, success is a virtual guarantee.
Lohnes: I think the first vehicle I ever fell in love with was my dad’s old 8N tractor. Since then, I have been roughly as obsessed with tractors as I have been drag racing. I love the way they look, the creative mechanical simplicity of old tractors, and the fact that they were the machines that totally changed the world in terms of agriculture. I currently have a 1940s Ford I am working on and will eventually swap a Flathead V8 into.
GG: Would you rather have a modern muscle machine or a vintage muscle car in your garage?
Lohnes: I think an L72 427 Biscayne is my ultimate muscle car. Bench seat, four-speed. Greatness. Or maybe a Super Duty Catalina, or maybe an R-Code Galaxie. Yeah, old stuff.
GG: What are your thoughts on getting younger people involved in motorsports?
Lohnes: It’s a bridge that we make seem way too far. Millions of kids love cars in many different ways electronically. It’s getting them to those physical experiences of racing and events that really changes the game. Kids love cars, they just love them a different way but the end result of getting them to events is the same: They are truly enthusiasts for life.
Photos courtesy Brian Lohnes