Hall of Fame Inductee - Pre 2001 (1999)
In nearly ten years with ESPN, Dave Despain has covered motorcycles, USAC sprints and midgets on "Thunder", Winston Cup stock cars, IMSA road racing and Indy cars. But his heart always brings him back to bikes. In fact, a less-than-spectacular career as a dirt tracker helped launch his broadcasting career.
Despain's announcing skill grew from a job as a disc jockey at his small, hometown radio station in Iowa. That in turn led to his first taste of television when the radio station got the first cable TV franchise in the area and pioneered the concept of simulcasting. Despain rode his last race in 1970 and actually qualified for the main event on the mile at Sedalia, Missouri, but he knew he would never be really good at it and it was time to "get a real job".
In 1971 Despain was hired to write press releases for the American Motorcycle Association's Racing Department. Dave stayed at the AMA for ten years, ending his career there as Communications Director. Along the way he ventured into the television business. In 1975 ABC came to AMA looking for an expert analyst for the Daytona 200, the next thing Dave knew he was on the Wide World of Sports.
Despain's broadcast resume also includes the pioneer motor sports news program "Motor Week Illustrated" on Turner Broadcasting, radio stints with NASCAR's Motor Racing Network and the Speedway's broadcast of the Brickyard 400. He received an ACE award nomination for this pay-per-view coverage of Robbie Knevil's motorcycle jump over the fountains at Caesar's Palace and joined ESPN full-time in 1991. "I hope I never lose my enthusiasm for riding," states Dave. "Nothing I've done in life has given me more fun and satisfaction than messing with motorcycles.