As a child, Derek Pernesiglio sat in the stands at Islip Speedway in Long Island with his family, watching the races and dreaming of being part of the sport. Now as an adult, fans all over the country recognize him as the voice of NASCAR's K&N Pro Series.
"I've been the pit road reporter for the K&N races since 2008," said Pernesiglio. "It started as a one-shot deal with a production company just trying me out; thank goodness they liked me."
What is there not to like? Pernesiglio has experience as a racer, starting in Go-Karts as a teen and racing everything from Legends Cars to Midgets to Modifieds and Late Models, and currently races a Mini Outlaw weekly at Millbridge Speedway in Salisbury, N.C., for fun.
He also has a degree in radio and television production, as well as years of announcing experience.
"My announcing career started in 1995 at a little Go-Kart track called Medford on Long Island, which is where my high-energy style of announcing started because the karts there were turning 10-second laps, so you had to get a sentence out quick," Pernesiglio said.
Money kept Pernesiglio, now 39, from pursuing a professional driving career. But his announcing career progressed. From the karts he became the voice of the Northeast Midget Association (his father owned a car in the series at one time), then got his degree. While in school in Rhode Island he worked behind the mic at tracks such as Thompson Speedway in Connecticut, and Massachusetts' Seekonk Speedway. Management at Thompson allowed him to carry a microphone and report from pit road during Modified Tour and Busch North (now K&N Series) races.
The Pernesiglio family and the Dillner family -- including Matt and Bob Dillner, known for their work on TV and the Internet -- sat together during those youthful years at Islip Speedway.
"One night Matt came up to Thompson to visit and we got to talking. I told him I was interested in TV, so he and Bob talked to Patti Wheeler [Humpy's daughter] and I got a job with Wheeler Television right out of college as a production assistant on the original Raceday show on TNN. From there I worked my way up through the ranks to where I'm at today."
His journey "through the ranks" included 11 years working as a producer for NASCAR. Not only does Pernesiglio announce, he writes, shoots and edits, and runs a production company that produces marketing, bio and sponsor videos. As the voice of the K&N Pro Series, he does more than just walk through the pits talking into a microphone.
"I also take equipment to and from the track for the TV truck, and I courier the video back to NASCAR Productions in Charlotte," Pernesiglio, who now calls Charlotte home, said. "When I land from a race, the first thing I do is drive the video, timing and scoring data back to the Hall of Fame."
It may sound like a lot of work, but for Pernesiglio it's gratifying.
"Our TV crew are racing people, too," he observed. "Director Tim Deroin used to drive Modifieds on the Whelen Modified Tour, producer Alan Dietz is the announcer and public relations director for PASS South, broadcast spotter Joe Catania is a respected crew chief in Northeast racing circles. To be a fan of this type of racing, then to have a job in it means the world to me. One of the things I love is when guys like Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne or Kyle Larson get their first NASCAR win, they talk to me before any of the top-three national series reporters; it's pretty cool to have that bragging right."
As is the case with any racing journalist, Pernesiglio would love a shot at reporting in NASCAR's top-three series. But he loves short track racing because "it's close-quarters, fast-moving action; you get to see more battles," and as a fan of all forms of motorsports, he can be happy behind the mic anywhere.
"I take a ton of pride in being a part of all broadcasts because I've been that little kid sitting in the stands, I've been a crew member, a driver, announcer; I've worked in a lot of different positions."
But for now Pernesiglio is happy being the voice of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. He's come a long way since he saw his first race at that Long Island bullring known as Islip Speedway.
Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.