Trackside With Cavin & Kevin

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For my money, one of the best ways to spend a couple of hours a week while keeping up with what is going on in the world of the IndyCar series, is a weekly radio show that originates from Indianapolis. The show “Trackside with Cavin & Kevin” is co-hosted by Curt Cavin, the IndyCar beat-writer for The Indianapolis Star along with Kevin Lee of the IMS Radio Network, with Lee pretty much serving as the traffic cop for the show.

The show is broadcast from the studios of WFNI – 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis. It is an informal, yet informative two-hour show that normally airs live on Thursday nights from 6-8 central time. It is available live on-line at http://www.1070thefan.com or via podcast sans commercials available about a half-hour after the show’s conclusion. There is a link to their show listed at the right of this article where you can listen live, download the podcast of last week’s show or download archived shows.

The duo of “Cavin & Kevin” makes for a great combination to listen to. It is obvious that they weren’t just thrown together on the air. They had known each other professionally for many years while becoming close friends about five years ago. Together, they have a very good on-air chemistry. They will periodically have top-name guests from the IndyCar community and take calls from callers. Or like this past week, sometimes it is just the two of them talking together. It’s almost as if you are eves dropping on a couple of old friends that are sitting in a sports bar doing a two-hour session of bench-racing.

The interesting thing about these two is that although they are both native Hoosiers, neither of them grew up as rabid race fans. Curt Cavin grew up about an hour north of Indianapolis, as a basketball guy. He graduated from Franklin College and is a huge fan of the Butler Bulldogs. Curt’s grandmother was an avid Indy 500 fan and the fascination wore off on him, as he would faithfully pore over the programs from each race. He finally made it to the Speedway as a seventeen year-old for qualifying in 1982 and attended his first race in 1984. Cavin first started working at The Star part-time in 1985, and then joined full-time in 1987. Although he has covered many different sports during his time at the paper, he has always covered Motor Racing since he’s been there.

Of his many accomplishments with The Star, Curt is most proud of the project he undertook in 2004 when he literally counted and re-counted every seat at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He actually started the project while covering the F1 race in September of 2003. The entire effort had to be spread out over a six-month period. For years, there had been unofficial estimates ranging anywhere from two hundred thousand to over half a million. For the record, Curt’s final tally was 257,325.

Although Kevin Lee grew up in the shadows of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he was always too busy playing baseball during the Month of May. His only solid recollection of the Indianapolis 500 while growing up, was listening to the race on the radio each year. Kevin never visited the hallowed grounds of the Speedway until his senior year at Ben Davis High School while on a field trip with the school’s radio station WBDG-FM. The teacher worked weekends at WIBC and they went to the radio network office at IMS. Paul Page happened to be there that day, although Page had already made the move from the IMS Radio Network to calling the races for ABC at that point. Kevin got to meet and chat with him, briefly.

Upon graduation from Ball State, Lee returned to the Speedway as an intern for the IMS Radio Network. It was then that he met Speedway Historian Donald Davidson. Since then, Kevin Lee has worked his way up to cover almost every facet of sports in Indianapolis. He first covered the Indianapolis 500 in 2001 and began covering the full IndyCar season in 2004. Aside from his current IndyCar duties, Kevin is also on the broadcasts for the Indiana Pacers, the Indianapolis Colts and the Indiana Fever of the WNBA.

But not living in Indiana, I must admit that I had not been exposed to Kevin until he and Curt Cavin began their in-season weekly radio show in February of 2008. Having been an avid reader of Curt Cavin’s Q&A for years, he kept his readers informed that the show would be starting up. It just so happened that the first couple of weeks they were on the air coincided with one of the biggest open-wheel stories of the decade – the unification between Champ Car and the IRL. Talk about good timing!

The show actually came about as an idea of the station, 1070 The Fan. Being situated in Indianapolis, it made sense that they should have a local show dedicated to racing. Kevin Lee was consulted and he immediately thought of Curt Cavin who had always had an interest in doing some broadcasting on the side and had even subbed for Lee on some of his earlier shows at WIBC.

The show does not have the bells and whistles of a national call-in show – and I mean that as a compliment. Instead it has almost a homespun feel to it. They are chummy with their guests because both of them have known most of the guest for years. A national show on ESPN Radio is slick and polished, but many times the host has never met their guests before. When Tony Kanaan calls the show, you get a sense that he has known these two for years…because he has. The banter back and forth is genuine and it comes across well.

But this is more than two likeable guys sitting around once a week talking about racing. It is one of the best sources for up to the minute news in the IndyCar world. They are both situated in the heart of sport and not only is it their livelihood to know all they can about this sport, it has become their passion. As mentioned earlier, neither of them grew up as racing fans first. While approaching racing as a profession, they both learned to first appreciate IndyCar racing…then they came to love it.

That probably explains why they do their job so well. They can be more objective about things. Both have their share of detractors – especially Cavin. It seems that many that follow Robin Miller – who was Curt’s former mentor at The Star, have something of an axe to grind. I guess I’m odd, but I am a big fan of BOTH Robin Miller and Curt Cavin. They both have completely different styles, but I have been reading each of them for years and thoroughly enjoy both of them. I guess not living in Indianapolis; I didn’t realize that you had to choose sides.

Trackside With Cavin & Kevin was scheduled to wrap up its second season on Nov 5, but I have good news – I found out last night that they had just gotten word that the show will continue throughout the winter. The only exception being the Thursday holidays, which this year are Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. There will also be a Thursday night conflict with a Colt’s game on Dec 17, but other than that – they will be able to satisfy our racing hunger throughout those cold winter months of the offseason. That will help make the chill go away for a little but each week.

If you’ve never caught their show, I would strongly advise either catching it live over the internet or downloading a podcast of a previous show. Without commercials, the two-hour show becomes an hour and forty minute podcast. If I don’t catch the show live on Thursday nights, I generally download it and listen to it on Saturday morning as I do work around the house. It’s amazing how quickly they make time go by.

On a personal note, I would like to pass along a word of thanks to both Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee for taking time out of their busy schedules to talk with me about their backgrounds for this article. They were both very gracious while putting up with an amateur trying to interview the pros. They both made me feel as if I had known them for years. I thank them for that.

George Phillips

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12 Responses to “Trackside With Cavin & Kevin”

  1. Mike Silver Says:

    Great article, George. I have enjoyed this show since day one. Thanks for bringing it to more peolple’s attention.

  2. George, you’ve really become a fantastic member of our tiny little twig of the blogosphere, and this is another great article in your list of many.

    The one note of this on which I’ve really got to agree with you is the Miller/Cavin comment. I’ll never understand how the community can be so split over the two. Personally, I find them both knowledgeable, but more significantly I find them both remarkably entertaining. It’s like listening to the Dead or to Slayer. Cavin is smart, calm, and relaxed. Robin is ridiculously knowledgeable and unafraid to be in your face about it. Both kick ass in their own way, though.

    Anyway, well done, again.

  3. Well done, George. In all seriousness, 96% of my IndyCar knowledge comes from those two. (The other 4% comes from Iannucci yelling at me via text messages.)

  4. Yeah – I Guess Kevin Lee turned out ok – for a “Ben Davis” guy… ;-)

  5. Oilpressure George! Look at you, breaking news!

    Agree with all of the above commenters, great piece by you, and a great highlighting of a fantastic (and essential) weekly podcast. I guess I’m another in your and Will’s court: I like both Robin and Curt, and I enjoy both of their unique takes on the sport. Robin’s gotten a little…repetitive, maybe?…in his criticism and negativity lately, but I appreciate his take, his outspoken-ness and ability to get scoops like no other. Curt’s Mr. Dependable, and that’s no bad thing. He’ll get to the bottom of the story, he has a talent for getting little kernels of info out of people, and has a great feel for the nuances of the sport. For that matter, Kevin’s similar to Curt’s style, and even if he’s newer to the sport, he’s developing a great feel for the subtleties as well.

    Really, what great news that Cavin and Kevin are going to be in weekly long-form all winter. That definitely makes my day a little.

  6. You are so right about a home-style atmosphere. That’s why I like them so much. Keep up the good work George!

  7. Oilpressure: Technically, I let my i-Tunes “download” Trackside for me. :idea: I “subscribe” to their free poscast. I guess subscribing is one step better than writing yourself an electronic reminder!!! :) :)

  8. It is a great show – I always look to download it every week; not just because I’m an IndyCar fan, but because it is a genuinely good show.

  9. tim nothhelfer Says:

    I enjoy podcasts while when I am alone usually working or driving. The best are the conversational type like Trackside, Trackside Online, Rumblestrip or Livefast Racing. I have no doubt George could produce an excellent podcast himself…..
    I look forward to Miller’s articles yet I find the mail bag unreadable. Too many malcontent rants submitted as questions. An excellent forum spoiled.

  10. jerrycruz Says:

    George, great article giving their due to this great guys…I have been a fan from day 1…they make joy every week on IndyCar racing…I’m always ready as I have subscribed to the podcast on iTunes, it is fast and assure I have it ready on Friday morning…keep up the good work!

  11. David Lopez Says:

    I also both like Kurt Cavin and Kevin Lee, they seem like nice knowledgeable people. However to the best of what I know they are the only game in town. Neither seem to be gearheads which I would think would be important in any discussion of auto racing. Thats part of the passion of motorsports. Any discussion of bench racing that you mention in your article would include talking tech, the cars themselves, chassis set up, engine prep, race strategy etc… While tech talk might leave some listeners cold it would would be nice to do a small segment where they talk about the cars as much as the drivers, tracks and other things. One way would be to interview some of the other members of the teams. Speed.com has had articles by Mike Hull and Tim Cindric where they talk about strategy and that’s interesting. I think they have had Cindric on the show but I don’t know about others…

  12. [...] who Kevin Lee is and I think most of us are very happy that he is getting this opportunity.  George wrote a fine biography about Kevin in a post about the Trackside show.  I think Kevin resonates with so many of us because he [...]

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