Today, we are inducting a GREAT Friend to the Racingkc.com Hall of Fame. This person meant a lot to the racing community, not just as my friend, but a friend to the racers, to the fans, to the crews, to the entire Kansas City racing community. My problem and something I still struggle with and the reason I have been pumping out these Hall of Fame articles is because this induction is posthumous and in my mind, it should not have been. Who would ever think someone eight years younger would be gone so quickly?
“As the stars and cars roll out of four, get on your feet, hoot and holler, and give a big wave, wave to your favorite car, favorite color, favorite number, favorite driver”, those words were coined by track announcer, my friend and numerous other people’s friend both in and outside of racing, Bob Libbey. Today, we induct Bob Libbey into the Racingkc.com Hall of Fame.
Tonight, the Central Auto Racing Boosters will be awarding the newly named Bob Libbey Unsung Hero Award. Naming this award in Bob’s name is an honor and an honor he would have appreciated! He was the C.A.R.B. Banquet emcee for seven different banquets. What outfit he would wear to the banquet was always a question, sometimes it was a checkered vest, sometimes a tux, sometimes a sweater, sometimes it was different tie, but never the same. He looked forward to being the emcee, he looked forward to the banquet!
Bob was a little boy with two generations of racing in his blood, with photos of him perched in the pits proudly on or in Sprint Cars at Flemington Fair Speedway in New Jersey. Bob and his mom moved to Marshall, Missouri where he graduated as the youngest of his class at 17 years of age. In 1983 he began his eight-year college program at Central Missouri State University, graduating in 1991 with a double major in Geography/Geology and a minor in Business Administration.
He started broadcasting as an on-air talent as a DJ at the college radio station. He was talking to some friends sitting in the stands at Central Missouri Speedway that he could do a better job than the then track announcer. The right person overheard this statement and instantly he was led upstairs and became the track announcer at Central Missouri Speedway in 1988. In 1991 he was announcing a local pinewood derby in Sedalia for the boy scouts with his normal enthusiasm for anything racing and this event led to him becoming the Friday night announcer at the Missouri State Fairgrounds Speedway. He also had a television show, “Tidbits with Bob”. Bob Libbey followed Bob Baker to Lakeside and I-70 Speedways in 1995, where he was the track announcer for both tracks.
Bob became involved in the racing community in many ways. He served as Treasurer and as a Board of Director for the Central Auto Racing Boosters. He enjoyed the Bowlathon and was part of the NASCAR Jacket league which we participated in for many years. He worked behind the scenes preparing sponsorship packages for several drivers and helping them obtain the necessary funds to keep racing each year. He was a part of the annual C.A.R.B. Golf Tournaments. He created stories, stories better not repeated exactly but just a hint, Turn 3 at Lakeside Speedway at 3 A.M. when then General Manager Baker was summoned out of bed in Lenexa to go to the track and find out why the lights were on to the stories of hot dogs by the Lakeside scoring staff.
His phrases “Out of Four Foot to the Floor” and the phrase listed above become his trademark, a trademark copied by many other track announcers. During his time in the racing community, Bob earned the Virginia Nelson Achievement Award, the J.O. Pop Hartman Award, and the Media Person of the Year Award. In 2002 Bob, along with myself, were part of the writing staff for the All Speed Racing News. Bob’s section was aptly titled “Behind the Mic”.
In 1997 he married Karla Hurst. The racing parties where games were played which led to the Baa Baa Bob story, where everyone drew an animal and then had to make their animal sounds and find their group of animals, except poor Bob drew, thanks to Karla, the only sheep. A deck was added to Bob and Karla’s house and this deck led to many events in which racers, fans, crews, and officials met together outside the racetracks.
In 1999, Bob talked me into starting our own fantasy football league. By 2003, we expanded to two leagues and discussed starting our own fantasy football advisor site, something we wish we had done as this soon became big business. In 2010, we expanded to three leagues and Bob even though living out of state would fly back for the drafts. Even this year when he passed away two weeks before the draft we have carried on his teams, where in two leagues he has top teams drafted by everyone in the leagues. That is how much he meant to those in our fantasy football realm of life.
In 2006, Karla’s job moved them to Arizona and Bob stepped out of racing. He loved woodworking and model trains and was one step away from becoming a Master Model Railroader. He was a member of the Model Train Society and part of two clubs, one of which he started. While in Arizona Bob began working for Hanger Prosthetics eventually working for the company based in the Austin office. He made great friends while working at this job, many who attended his Celebration of Life. In 2012, Bob and Karla went their separate ways, but still as friends, which they remained great friends until the day Bob passed.
Bob returned to Kansas City in 2013 and again was the track announcer at Lakeside Speedway for two years. He also took a passion towards the Kansas City favorite, Barbeque, becoming a member of the Fountain City Barbeque team. For two years he and the team were a part of the American Royal Barbeque contest. On May 29, 2014 he went on his first date with Susan Venus. Shortly thereafter he brought her to Green Rolling Farms where eventually we added Susan to our Fantasy Football leagues.
2014 was a great year for Bob, finding Susan, and taking on the role of Platte County Fair Demolition Derby announcer. His distinctive ability to get the crowd involved in the Derby kept everyone attending a part of the event. His count downs FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE started every smashing event.
2016 was a great year for Bob as he proposed to Susan on a Valentine’s Day Cruise. On March 4, 2016 they became Husband and Wife. Also, this year a now booming place opened in North Kansas City, a place known as Chicken and Pickle. The Pickle is for the fastest growing game in America, Pickleball. Bob and Susan developed a love for the game, travelling and participating in many tournaments becoming USAPA Pickleball Ambassadors and opened Pickleball Addicts as dealers of pickleball gear. They worked with communities to provide clinics for beginners and helped run leagues promoting the sport. North Kansas City Parks and Recreation will be holding a pickleball tournament in Bob’s name this next year.
Bob also has many friends he has met throughout his lifetime that considered him family from local auto racing, Fantasy Football, the Woodworkers Guild, Model Train Society, RC Racing, the Platte County Fair, and his latest passion Pickleball. Bob, sorry you were recognized while you were walking this earth, but I am sure you knew you would be one day inducted, that day is today! You definitely left your impression on this earth, on the racing community, on your family, and on your friends, congratulations on being the next member of the Racingkc.com Hall of Fame.