Hanging Up the Mic
Storied announcer Alvin Dilldine steps away from full-time announcing By Van Abernethy
Beloved announcer Alvin Dilldine has officially retired from fulltime announcing after a celebrated career that has spanned just over a half-century . Dilldine retired in June , four days shy of his 80th birthday . He ’ s perhaps best known for his tenure at Piedmont Dragway , calling the action of the legendary Big Dog shootout and many other events . He ’ s also been a familiar fixture at Rockingham for many of the big bracket races held throughout the year .
A longtime resident of Kernersville , North Carolina , Dilldine ’ s travels took him all over the Carolinas , and also deep into Florida and Michigan , as his ability to excite a crowd with both humor and extensive racing knowledge was well-known and sought after .
Long before he found his way to the announcer ’ s booth , Dilldine was first exposed to street racing by his good friend , Ronnie Beal . “ Ronnie invited me to tag along one night , and there must have been 600 people lined up for a mile on both sides of the road ! After I saw all the people and all the cars , it just kinda stuck and I was hooked on racing !” Dilldine recalls .
Piedmont Dragway was actually the first organized dragstrip Dilldine ever saw , and he quickly landed a job in the 1960s working on the starting line , and in the coming years even became part owner of no less than 13 different race cars .
His big break into announcing came in 1972 , and completely unexpectedly when then-track owner Alfred Williams asked Dilldine to bring a case of water to the tower . “ After I got up there , Alfred says to me , ‘ Come over here and talk to these people while I go down and work on the scoreboard .’”
Dilldine wasn ’ t the least bit interested in talking over the PA , but Williams insisted . “ Well , while I was up there , I begin to think about working in the air-conditioned tower versus working down on the starting line with the sun beating down on me , so in about 30 seconds I made a career decision !” Dilldine laughs .
It was a decision that served him well for the next five decades , and he feels fortunate to have witnessed the early careers of racers such as Rickie Smith , Don Carlton , Bill “ Grumpy ” Jenkins , Sam Carroll , Ronnie Sox , and many more . “ I saw all of those guys ... often on the same day !” he beams .
Dilldine promptly fell in love with the sound of high-winding Modified and Super Stock cars . He also witnessed the Pro Stock match race circuit during the boom years . He was present for the launch of Pro Modified , as well as Piedmont ’ s Big Dog series , and all sorts of other regional gatherings that followed .
“ I feel blessed to have also been exposed to things like Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars and all sorts of door cars . I came out of Sparta , Tennessee , where we plowed with a mule and rode in a wagon , so my career in racing has been both funny and supernatural !” he insists .
When it comes to announcers in the sport who inspired him , he says Bob Frey was among his biggest influences and helped shape his own announcing style .
Dilldine has also worked for so many different track owners , he says he ’ d hate to start naming names because he ’ d certainly leave someone out . “ I ’ ve gone to a banquet before working for one man and leave working for another ,” he laughingly recalls . He was once invited to announce at Dunn-Benson Drag Strip ( now GALOT Motorsports Park ) for a weekend and wound up staying five years .
It was always an adventure , and Dilldine was up for almost any gig . Exactly one week before his 80th birthday , he still had the energy to pull off a trio of 15-hour days alongside Steve Earwood at Rockingham during a big event . “ Believe me , I was tired after that and my wife , Linda , worries about me these days because I ’ m so old !” he laughs . “ Even though I still feel pretty good , I ’ m retiring simply because it ’ s time .”
As for his retirement plans , he hopes to do some traveling with Linda , and says he still plans to do some announcing on occasion at special events . “ I ’ ve learned a lot and I ’ ve been blessed by a lot of different people . It ’ s the people in racing who ’ s made up my life , not the cars in particular , but always the people ,” he smiles . DI
PHOTOGRAPH BY GREG BURROW
28 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 177