For almost 40 years, Modified fans had the pleasure and good fortune to hear Warren Ruffner call the races at tracks throughout the Northeast. Yet, while this unique and knowledgeable announcer is most associated with calling the events at the old Reading (Pa.) Fairgrounds, his classy style and professional delivery was known to fans and racers everywhere.
He has also been cited by many of the sport’s current best track announcers as the man who was their idol and the one who got them interested in handling those demanding duties.
A radio advertising and real-estate salesman by trade, Ruffner’s skills at the microphone found him branching out into local radio and television work.
In the early 1960s, he served as the voice of the weekly Reading Fairgrounds television program that appeared on WPHL-TV 17 in Philadelphia. And he also called the IMCA Florida Sprint Car Nationals from Tampa for ABC-TV’s “Wide World of Sports” and reported USAC Championship racing action on NBC Radio’s Monitor Network.
But Ruffner’s role as a track announcer really came about by accident in 1955. At the time, he was the president of the old Reading Stock Car Association (RSCA) which was then sanctioning flathead-powered 1930s coupe racing at Reading. But when the regular announcer wasn’t able to continue in that capacity due to other obligations, he was pressed into service and continued with his efforts behind that microphone until the legendary half-mile track – which became a full-time Modifieds-only facility in 1963 – closed in 1979.
In addition to his love and knowledge of the sport, Ruffner made attending the races exciting for the fans as they always knew that something special was in store each time that he was at the microphone.
His voice had a tone and excitement that commanded the listener’s interest, he involved the fans in his presentations and he did not lose sight of the fact that focusing on the drivers and what was taking place on the race track were the two most important things when it came to his announcing.
The list of tracks where Ruffner worked prior to his retirement in 1994 includes such Pennsylvania short tracks as Reading, Hatfield, Allentown, Williams Grove and Big Diamond.
He also made the calls at Bridgeport and Harmony Speedways in New Jersey, plus he announced the events at such major racing venues as Pocono Raceway, Trenton International Speedway and the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, and during DIRT’s annual winter trips to Volusia County Speedway in Florida.
Also he was the traveling announcer with the renamed Racing Sanctioning Corporation of America incarnation of Lindy Vicari’s RSCA which presented special Modified events at tracks throughout the region.
Warren Ruffner died on January 8, 2011.