Manchester Native Mike Massaro Continues On Top Of NASCAR Broadcasting World ‘In The Pits’

Republished from the Hartford Courant 

By Shawn Courchesne
Special To The Hartford Courant

Mike Massaro (Photo: NBC Sports Group)

Mike Massaro (Photo: NBC Sports Group)

When Mike Massaro graduated from Emerson College in 1992, he wanted to be a local sports anchor.

That never materialized, but a family’s love of motor sports sent him in a different direction.

This week, with NASCAR closing in on crowning its 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion, Massaro will be on pit road at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday holding a microphone for NBC Sports as one of the most recognizable faces in NASCAR broadcasting.

Massaro, of Ellington, works for NBC Sports as a pit reporter for their coverage of Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series events. He also serves as a studio host and feature contributor for NBC’s NASCAR Across America.

Massaro has spent the past 17 years working for national broadcasting platforms covering NASCAR.

“I had a career path that I was thinking about when I got out of school, but it was not racing,” Massaro, 45, said. “In my mind’s eye, I wanted to be a local sports anchor. The guy that did the two- or three-minute sportscast on the local news every night. That was I wanted to do, or thought I wanted to do.”

Massaro’s father, Tom, had been involved as a crew member for years helping local modified racing teams at the short tracks of Connecticut and the Northeast. So Mike was around tracks as a kid growing up in Manchester.

“I got out of school and it was so difficult to find a job,” Massaro said. “My dad, in his speech to me, said, ‘Look, you’re trying to do this mainstream sportscasting, but you know stuff that others don’t that might help get an advantage. You know racing, you’ve been around it your whole life. Why don’t you pursue that?’ He said it worked for Jack Arute Jr., it worked for [Windsor native and longtime Fox broadcaster] Mike Joy; they started at Stafford and went on to big things in television.

“My dad, he talked in a manner that really convinced me that maybe it was a good idea.”

After a year spent bartending after college, Massaro approached Jack Arute Jr., the son of then Stafford Motor Speedway owner Jack Arute Sr.

At that point Jack Arute Jr. was considered one of the most recognizable names in motor sports broadcasting for his longtime work covering IndyCar racing and NASCAR.

“It was right before the Spring Sizzler in 1994,” Massaro said. “My dad asked me to go talk to [Jack Arute Jr.] and volunteer as an announcer at Stafford. I did because I felt I owed it to my dad. But in the back of my mind I thought what was going to happen when I approached Jack was going to be the same thing that had happened every other time I approached anybody about getting a job in radio or TV, which was basically rejection. I was kind of expecting that, and it was completely opposite.

“I walked up to Jack right after the driver’s meeting at the Spring Sizzler and I told him I had just graduated from Emerson College and that I wanted to become a sportscaster and I’d love to volunteer at Stafford as an announcer. Jack didn’t even hesitate one breath. He said ‘Can you start Friday?’ I was kind of blown away by that. I started that next Friday and I remember being as nervous as I’ve ever been in my life driving to the track that night, and I was probably that nervous for the rest of the season.”

Said Jack Arute Jr.: “When he showed up, I looked at it and related it the same way to when I called [legendary motor sports broadcaster] Ken Squier out of the blue to start my broadcasting career. I think it’s easy to say that guys like me and Mike, we always wanted to remember that someone helped us and we had an obligation to help someone in the next generation.”

Jack Arute Jr. said he recognized very quickly that Massaro had something special.

“The thing that he had is an inquisitive mind,” Jack Arute Jr. said. “What I mean by that is that too many people, what they do is they live on cliches and live on throwaway lines. What I loved about Mike was when he was doing play by play or whatever, he listened to the answer, and then the follow-up question was always the home run.”

After volunteering for a year at Stafford, Massaro became the track’s public relations coordinator in 1995. In 1996 he got his first opportunity working national NASCAR radio broadcasts for the Motor Racing Network.

Zooming To Charlotte

In June 1999 Massaro moved to Charlotte, N.C., for his first full-time opportunity in television, working as a reporter for Inside NASCAR on the old The Nashville Network.

“While I was working for [the Motor Racing Network] I became friendly with [Rhode Island native and longtime NASCAR broadcaster] Allen Bestwick. He had been working in television in Charlotte for quite some time. He asked me to send a video reel to a production company in Charlotte that was producing a show for TNN called Inside NASCAR.

“I put together this really rough tape. I didn’t hear anything from anybody for while. One day I came home from work and there was a message from a producer in Charlotte saying they saw my tape and they liked it and they needed a reporter. I called them back and he asked me if I could start the next week. I lived in Connecticut at the time. I didn’t want to say no. I said yes. I’d been married to my wife [Kristin] a couple years and we were living in an apartment. I looked at my wife and she knew what I wanted to do, and she said ‘Why not just go?’ I packed up my little Acura Integra, I threw as many clothes in there as I possibly could and I moved down to Charlotte by myself and lived in Allen Bestwick’s house for a week before I found my own apartment.

Mike Massaro working a rainy race weekend for NBC (Photo: NBC Sports Group)

Mike Massaro working a rainy race weekend for NBC (Photo: NBC Sports Group)

“I lived down there for a month and a half by myself before my wife moved down. That’s how it started on that show, Inside NASCAR. Later in 1999, as a product of Allen’s recommendation, I got my first pit reporting job, with NBC. I was doing NBC’s first Sprint Cup race, which was a Winston Cup race then [at Homestead-Miami Speedway]. I was on their first broadcast and that’s how I met a lot of the NBC people.”

But a full-time opportunity with NBC Sports would have to wait.

As NBC prepared for its first full year covering NASCAR in 2001, it stocked its broadcast lineup with personalities from across the networks already covering the sport. That led to Massaro’s landing at ESPN.

“NBC hired a lot of the ESPN people and ESPN had a lot of holes to fill and they called on me to be a reporter for RPM2Night,” Massaro said. “So I started with that, also doing reports for SportsCenter.”

Massaro remained at ESPN until late last year. At ESPN, Massaro worked in all facets of the network’s NASCAR coverage, from being a reporter to pit reporting and show hosting. After last season, ESPN no longer was a NASCAR event broadcasting partner. NBC returned to the sport, and Massaro joined the coverage.

“The NBC opportunity was incredible,” Massaro said. “To be back on pit road, to be a full-time pit reporter, was something that I had wanted to do for a long, long time. At ESPN I wasn’t a full-time pit reporter. I was kind of a part-time pit reporter, part-time host and jack of all trades for the last five years. What NBC offered me was an incredible opportunity to do what I really wanted to do, which was be on pit road and be part of the varsity team. They’ve allowed me to do that.

“It was tough. I had been at ESPN for 14 years and certainly everybody I worked with there I felt like was family.”

Massaro, a 1988 East Catholic-Manchester graduate, played on a pair of state championship football teams for the school for coach Jude Kelly. Today his 14-year old son is a freshman at the school. He also has a 12-year old son, Anthony.

“It’s hard to explain, but when you’re at the track and you’re in the NASCAR community, when I get on that airplane after a race weekend I feel like I’m going into a different universe,” Massaro said. “I come back to Ellington and my life is completely different than it is at the racetrack. It’s so hard to explain. But it’s great to be home near my extended family. … This is where my heart is.”


  1. Of all the New England short-track announcing grads that followed Ken Squier, Jack and me, Mike is the most professional, most accomplished and is well-liked. I expect you’ll find him sitting in the play-by-play seat someday, continuing a proud Stafford heritage.

  2. I hope he does, Mike Joy! I attended high school with Mike, and am proud to say we were on the same State Champion ECHS Football team together. I’m originally from Tolland, and we heard the roar of Stafford every Friday or Saturday night from my house! I never knew so many of you announcers were from New England! Must be the water! Great article on Mike’s rise to where he is at. He’s a true professional, and his reporting is always crisp and solid. Hope to get out to a race to shake his hand again soon! (I’m in Colorado – no races here, but the Furniture Row Truex Team is right down the road!) NBC does a great job, too! The Final looks to be ‘wicked awesome’!

  3. Nice job Mike! All the best to you. I know you’ll do well going forward and make us all proud.

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