If you think of Ron Krog as just a race announcer, that is perfectly fine. Over the past three decades he has established himself as one of the best announcers in the Midwest.
But Krog’s impact on racing in the region is much, much bigger than that. He is a booster of dirt-track racing in the upper Midwest, an ambassador of sorts behind the mic.
A resident of Fergus Falls, Krog currently announces weekly at three tracks – KRA Speedway in Willmar, I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls and Viking Speedway in Alexandria. He not only talks about the action and the drivers at the track he is currently at, but he also talks heavily about drivers and events held at other tracks in the region. As an example, at I-94, he will heavily emphasize the action and activities at I-94, but also during a few minutes of down time during a caution flag, talk about upcoming events/previous results at tracks like Viking Speedway, Casino Speedway, or Sheyenne River Speedway, among many, many others.
Why? It’s all about keeping racing as a thriving enterprise across the region.
“We’ve got to keep all of these racetracks strong,” Krog said. “There’s different fans in different places (to reach). If we can keep all of the tracks doing well, we’re going to be just fine. Let’s keep this racing strong.”
That approach has made him one of the most popular racing announcers in the Midwest. How popular is he? At I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls, there is a large sign on the outside of the building saying who the voice of I-94 Speedway: Ron Krog. How many track announcers have a sign like that?
One thing that Krog started doing in the 1990s – and has made him popular with drivers, fans and sponsors alike – is announce the hometown and sponsors of each car as he goes through the pre-race lineup. He walked through the pit area and compiled the sponsors on each car, put them on a card, and would use the cards once the lineups were available from the scorers.
“The thing I tried to do, I really got on the sponsorship deal in the mid-90s,” said Krog during a recent weather delay at I-94. “I was watching NASCAR and they have sponsors, why can’t we do our sponsors? I started using that…that helped. The racers like it because their sponsors are getting a little plug.”
Krog’s announcing career started in 1985, ironically while he was still racing weekly at Viking Speedway. Wee Town Outlaw Speedway outside of Fergus Falls, which closed in the early 1990s after rising water engulfed the rural track, was looking for an announcer.
“At Wee Town, they needed somebody there. The other guy was doing it part-time and they said why don’t you take a whirl at it so I jumped in,” Krog said. “It worked good, No. 1 I was racing, I was right out of the car. I was there, I knew what was going on. But I didn’t know a damn thing about the announcing. I wasn’t a very good race announcer when I started. It was a battle. But I learned.”
Shortly after, Viking Speedway’s announcing position opened when Don Domine, the announcer at the time who also was highly popular, stepped aside as his daughter was running for the title of the Miss Minnesota. Viking officials called Krog, who took over in 1988 and has been a fixture behind the microphone since, a time spanning almost 30 years. In fact, Krog was inducted into the Viking Speedway Hall of Fame in 2016.
Soon, Krog’s announcing options — and popularity in the region — grew. Madison Speedway called and hired him to work with Maynard Meyer, and the two formed a popular duo that entertained fans for several years. He added Fiesta City Speedway in Montevideo to his weekly schedule, and he was now announcing three nights per week.
“For a couple of years, I was really traveling,” Krog said. “It was 100 miles each way.”
Krog then added Buffalo River Speedway in Glyndon, to his weekly announcing duties, meaning for a while, he was announcing four nights per week. He moved to I-94 – which was in his hometown of Fergus Falls — in the early 2000s when the track was an asphalt facility. He also was hired to replace the legendary Rod Miller at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo in the mid 2000s.
Krog also has worked nights at Ogilvie Raceway, Norman County Raceway in Ada, Princeton Speedway, North Central Speedway in Brainerd and at the Yellow Medicine fair races in Canby. He also has worked the Wissota 100 at Dakota State Fair Speedway in Huron, S.D., for the past several years.
Throughout that time, Krog has met a lot of people – drivers, pit crew members, fans – who he says have made the announcing job rewarding. Not to mention he just loves watching drivers compete.
“The people are the first thing. There are so many great racers and families out here,” Krog said. “I have so much fun with these guys. And I think (it’s) the excitement of watching these guys. It’s amazing what they do. The talent pool is so deep right now. The race cars have changed a lot from when I raced in the 70s and 80s.You’ve got a pile of people that any one of them can win on any given night. It’s fun to watch.”
A secret to Krog’s popularity and longevity as an announcer? Preparation – and lots of it. On Monday nights each week, Krog compiles the list of feature winners for all 50 tracks in Wissota. That includes every feature winner of every Wissota division. He has a yellow spiraled notebook where he handwrites every winner at each track. Once he has entered the feature win information into his laptop, he uses a orange marker to highlight the name in the notebook showing that is has been entered into the laptop. He does the same for local IMCA tracks as well. Needless to say, the notebook is full of handwritten driver names.
But the preparation has even changed, thanks to the availability of information on the internet. That includes track websites, myracepass.com and Twitchy Race Reports. Often, in the past, if he wanted to find out info on another track, it was either talking to drivers or fans or making phone calls.
“We relied on each other, to talk and visit with people,” Krog said. “You had to go through and see a guy in the stands and ask him, ‘what happened at Fiesta last night?’ It’s changed so much. (It used to be) phone calls, reading newspapers, waiting for All the Dirt. Now, it’s click, right at the tip of your fingers.”
His laptop driver database includes 4,000 drivers. The driver profile includes car number, hometown, sponsors, track championships, feature wins – pretty much anything you’d like to know, or would need to know, about a driver. When he is going through a lineup, he goes into each division and punches in a car number (or adds a letter after if there is more than one driver at a number), and all of the info is right there.
“It’s a process, and you accumulate it over the years,” Krog said of that information.
Krog said his wife, Rita, has been “fantastic” about supporting his race announcing career. She tailgates at I-94 weekly with family. A few years ago, he retired from his job as a dispatcher at Golden Ring Trucking in Fergus Falls, a business owned by his brother, Jerry. (His nephew, Brian, races weekly at I-94 and Viking in the Modifieds).
Now in his 60s, Krog has cut back from four nights a week to three (KRA, I-94 and Viking are his regular tracks). He had announced on Sunday nights for 27 years before deciding to reduce his schedule by one night per week.
That doesn’t mean his passion has waned, or that he doesn’t love being part of weekly racing. He reminds a fervert supporter of stock-car racing as his work behind the mic indicates.
“Sometimes by the end of the season, I can tell I’m a little tired,” Krog said. “But it’s funny, two weeks after the season ends, I’m wishing, why aren’t we racing. I’ve had that happen many years.”