NASCAR & Auto Racing

Former Charlotte TV sports chief joins NASCAR's media arm

Longtime Charlotte sportscaster Chuck Howard is shifting gears - he's going to work for NASCAR.

Howard, former sports director at WCNC (Channel 36) and host of the "Power Hour" on WFNZ AM (610, 1660), will become news producer for the NASCAR Media Group this month.

Howard will develop shows and stories for television, radio and Internet outlets as part of a larger effort by NASCAR to connect with local news outlets nationwide.

"Local media do not tend to report on the race unless it's in their market," Jay Abraham, chief operating officer for NASCAR Media Group, said Thursday. "This will make it easier for them to cover it."

In the new Hall of Fame campus in uptown, NASCAR is building two high-definition TV studios, a production hub and a glassed-in CNN-style news center where tourists can see the media operation in action.

NASCAR is also installing HD cameras at major race shops in the region so it can link local stations to drivers or race teams for on-the-spot interviews. Howard said he will help stations make those connections as well as develop stories for NASCAR's media outlets.

"I couldn't have written a job description more in my wheelhouse," said Howard, who was a NASCAR fan when he moved to the Charlotte area from Buffalo in 1995.

Beginning Monday, his 10 a.m. show on WFNZ will be replaced by the "Frank and Buck Show," with former Panthers Frank Garcia and Brenston Buckner, said operations manager D.J. Stout. Both have co-hosted on other WFNZ shows and will continue in those roles, Stout said.

NASCAR Media Group, now based on Stuart Andrew Drive in south Charlotte, will consolidate operations at the Hall of Fame complex beginning in 2009, Abraham said. Since 2002, the unit has grown from about 35 people to 180.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007; mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com

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