THE HECTIC LIFE OF BRUNO MASSEL
Bruno Massel is one very busy man. Not only is he a TV host, as he hosts Truck U and Garage Squad on Velocity, but he is also an NHRA reporter for select races throughout the season. On top of that, when he can, he also competes as a drag racer.
“I literally have every hour accounted for, so at the beginning of the year, I sit down with the producers from the Garage Squad -- and we’ll also look at the NHRA calendar -- and we’ll also have to factor how far I am from an airport," Massel said. "We also factor in when we have a live window and what time we might be done. We also consider how long it would take to get to an airport and be back around 6 am the next morning to be on set for the Garage Squad shows. I’ll leave Thursday night right from set and get on a plane -- and all that plays in. It’ll literally take me a week to come up with a schedule that works, then we still have to fit the Truck U schedule in and what races I can work -- and what races I can actually race at.
“Also, I have to figure out being a dad and husband. It’s definitely juggling to say the least. The only way I can make this work is because everyone is willing to make it work. If they weren’t, it just wouldn’t happen. I have to give thanks to the people at the Garage Squad and the NHRA to allow me to do what I do.”
Due to his TV taping schedule, he cannot stay for any Monday races for the NHRA.
"With the NHRA stuff, if we go into a Monday situation, I have to leave Sunday night and I cannot stay, because I have to be at production in the morning," he said. "With the Garage Squad show -- and depending on what’s being shot -- the first and last days I have to be there, because I open and close the show. They do give me a day off from time-to-time -- and it’s OK, because you can hide it in the show. But on those two days -- beginning and ending the show -- I have to be there. I’ll never be there on a Monday with the NHRA because I have to be back at work the next day. If there is a Sunday rainout, and this has happened a few times on Monday, I wasn’t there. Lewis Bloom will fill in and pick up the slack -- who does a great job by the way.”
Massel said that his Truck U is in its 13th season. It is also based out of Florida. On this show, they are able to shoot three episodes in four days.
But with the Garage Squad, that is a totally different beast. It takes seven working days for every one hour episode. They're on set for 70 days a week and it is shot near Chicago, Illinois.
Presently, there are 13 Truck U episodes per season. And 10 Garage Squad shows per season. In the past, there has been as many as 26 Truck U shows, he said.
“Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you," Massel said. "We’re based off of a 10 hour day. Some days, we’re there an hour early and others days, we’re there six hours at night. It’s hard to say so you’re doing it 70 days a year for Garage Squad. With the Truck U stuff, we’re doing 12 hour days for four days a week. I’d have to do the math, but it’s a lot. I spend a lot of my time on a production set.”
Massel said that his NHRA responsibilities were a change for him. Prior to getting the job, he did not do live TV before.
“Once the camera goes on, yes," he said. "But everything else around it was a huge learning curve, because I’ve never done live TV before. Even though everything isn’t live with the NHRA, the way we shoot it, the vast majority of it is shot like it’s live TV in terms of production and live TV. That took some time to get used to. A lot of people do not realize we have someone talking to us through our ears at all times and you hear programming in your other ear. I have enough voices in my head as it is, so it takes some adjusting to tune those voices out and making sure you’re doing the right queues you’re getting and make it seem all comprehensive during a broadcast. It literally takes it to the next level. The studio shows I do gave me a baseline, but it’s the next level stuff that I don’t think a lot of people can appreciate unless you’re actually put in that position.”
He said he is still adjusting to his NHRA role. He said he considers himself a work in progress.
"You are the most critical on yourself," Massel added. "I have been doing this since I started to fill-in for Jamie Howe when she was on maternity leave back when the NHRA was with ESPN. I did four episodes one year, then 10 the next. When the NHRA moved to FOX, I’ve had a good game plan, as I’ve had some episodes underneath me. From me being a racer, I felt a comfort level, but the initial ESPN days, it was a lot of stress and a lot of anxiety because I was feeling my way through it. I put more pressure on myself because it’s a sport that I really love and it’s the one thing that I drew up around. My whole family watches it and my kids do, too. Plus, all my peers are there. So to me, I hold it in such high regard because I have such a passion for it and I’ve been around it all my life. It’s the one that I don’t want to look bad at. I put so much pressure on myself because I care about the sport.”
Massel said they may be able to fix their mistakes, if they make one. But sometimes, he said, sometimes they cannot.
“It depends on how much the turnaround is,” he said. “If we’re doing a show, where the finals are live, we’re in live mood all day. If something goes bad, there isn’t time to go back and fix it. They’re taking it in to production and turning it around so fast. They’ll take it into the truck, as it is live, and feed it back out again. When it’s the next day, or hours later that day, they’ll give us some leeway and if you said something completely wrong, they’ll potentially give you an opportunity to go back and fix that. But from a reporter’s aspect, you have one shot to get it right.”
One of Massel’s favorite responsibilities, he said, with the NHRA is calling the action.
“The fun thing is, I get to do the Pro Mod shows with Brian Lohnes, as well as doing the Lucas Oil shows with Alan Reinhart,” Massel said. “It’s a lot of fun to do these shows, because the way it’s done, you’re just standing in front of a screen calling what’s happening. It’s like a rapid fire type of situation, because everything is happening right after each other. It’s a lot of fun, because there’s a lot of emotion and there’s no lull in the action. Alan and Brian are great to work with. I have a blast doing those shows. For me, I feel like I have an unfair advantage, because I grew up around the sport. And I raced in a lot of these categories. Plus, I've been a fan of these for so long. Pro Mod, my dad worked on them so I know them on a personal level and I raced with them during the IHRA days before they came to the NHRA.
“I've been a fan of the sport -- and an active participant -- before I got to be on the TV side. It makes it easier, because I have a pretty good feel of where everybody is at and the personalities of the people. That's because I've been around it so long. The classes to me are second nature that it makes it easy. Comp is my love. It's my passion and where I've made my livelihood. But I really like calling Pro Mod cars. I think they're so fun and so exciting to watch. It's never a dull moment in Pro Mod. We say it each week -- if you watch the show each week -- you have as good a shot as winning as anyone. [In Norwalk], we had the No. 16 car in the final round. They're really fun to watch. They're my favorite non-Mello Yello Series to call."
Earlier this year, Massel competed, while also working his job with the NHRA. This happened at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina in April.
Massel presently has 125 points. He has competed in two events in his Blackfire Wax, Autogeek.net, and Bruno's Automotive Products Competition eliminator car.
“The way my schedule is this year, I have two weekends off that I won’t be working. I already used one in Topeka. The next one will be Dallas. We experimented with something new this year in Charlotte, as well. It was something to see if it was doable or not. It seemed to be doable, because my bosses at the NHRA have been so great. I think they like the fact that I’m out there competing and being connected to the fans and the other drivers, while it gives me some street cred. It also allows me to keep me out there to feel what it’s like to race in all aspects of it. Initially, people were standoffish about, but now, they embrace it and it’s gone well. I also raced in Chicago and won during my first race weekend off in Topeka. Maybe I need the weekend off? It felt like I needed that weekend off. Brainerd is the next one I’ll race at.
"Sometimes, I have my NHRA on FOX shirt underneath my fire suit. I've done that back in the IHRA days when Bill Bader owned it. I actually raced and worked at all of the events for a couple of seasons. There was actually one moment where my Top Dragster was sitting at the starting line at Budds Creek, Maryland [Maryland International Raceway]. I had my fire suit pants and jacket on and started an interview with a Pro Mod guy, then once the interview was done, I was taken on a scooter to the starting line. As I came down the track with my dragster, the guy was still holding the microphone and singing a Kid Rock song. You kind of get in a flow and you make it work. I have a couple of people helping me this year. My dad has my back at the races, but now he's burnt out, so he helps me at the shop. Adam Drzayich and Steve Moore help me out at the track. They'll take over the show and I'll just need in it and drive when need-be. That's why I'm able to do this."
The two-time champion wants to chase points one more time in an attempt to potentially become a three-time champion. Not only does he want to do it for himself, but he also wants to see his kids have those memories, as well, if he can accomplish it with his schedule.
"I love the competition," he said. "I played ball in college, but it wasn't meant to be, because I had a lot of injuries. That's when I pushed drag racing. I needed something to feel that competitive void -- and drag racing was able to do that. I feel like I'm getting the itch to chase it once again. There's so much that goes into winning a championship. My last one was in 2012 -- and my kids were a lot smaller than so I think it'll be neat for them to experience it. Plus, I think they'll be able to remember it more -- and it'll be memories that we couldn't get back. I want them to see it more so than me. I'm not going to lie, I want to experience it again, too. It's nice to go out there and see that you can still do it. It shows you that you're not washed up and you can still drive the car. It shows that you can put a game plan together and see it come to fruition and execute. As a racer, it's a rewarding experience to say the least. There’s some of that, too. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t for me, as well. I still have the competitive spirit in me.
“It’s definitely possible. But I would have to make some concessions, especially early in the year and there would be a lot of traveling to make it work. And I would have to attend races at odd places when we’re off. But if all the stars aligned, I would love to make it work one more time. There’s a couple of double Divisionals that have popped up over the years. And I would probably have to make a couple of those to get four races in during two race weekends. They are usually Thursday-Friday, and then Saturday and Sunday."