ESPN kicks off its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series coverage this weekend with the Allstate Brickyard 400 from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We took time out to speak with ESPN’s lap-by-lap announcer, Dr. Jerry Punch
Named ESPN’s lead announcer for NASCAR coverage prior to the start of the 2007 season, Punch has been associated with ESPN since 1984. He has served as sideline reporter and play-by-play man for the network’s college football broadcasts but his primary role has been motor sports. He started as a pit reporter for NASCAR races and has been part of the Emmy Award-winning broadcast crew covering the 1989 Indianapolis 500.
The North Carolina native worked as a mechanic and driver in high school and college, when he was also a walk-on, backup quarterback for North Carolina State. Following several years as a mechanic and driver on the short tracks of the Carolinas, Punch began substituting for the track announcer (Ned Jarrett) in 1975 in Hickory, N.C. He then covered NASCAR races for the Motor Racing Network on radio beginning with the Daytona 500 in 1980. He branched out into television in 1982.
Punch received his medical degree from Wake Forest University in 1979 and became an emergency room physician. Twice in 1988, his two careers dramatically combined. In Bristol, Tenn., in August, Punch revived driver Rusty Wallace, who crashed in practice and was not breathing. Then in November in Atlanta, Punch joined the rescue effort to save Don Marmor who crashed in an ARCA race but survived.