Dr. Jerry Punch has been associated with ESPN since 1984 as both a motorsports and college sports announcer. Only five other announcers have been with ESPN longer.
His current roles include play-by-play and various assignments in college basketball and football and working as a pit reporter on ABC’s telecast of the Indianapolis 500 and other events in the Verizon IndyCar Series. From 2007-2014, he was a pit reporter and lap-by-lap announcer on ESPN’s live telecasts of NASCAR races and reported from the Indianapolis 500 pits..
Prior to ESPN’s return to NASCAR coverage in 2007, Punch was host for ESPN2’s exclusive coverage of the Indy Pro Series and as a pit reporter for ESPN and ABC’s IndyCar Series coverage. He also hosted SportsCenter at the Indy 500 coverage. After 15 years as a college football sideline reporter, he was in the booth for two years calling play-by-play for ABC’s Saturday afternoon college football telecasts, as well as select ESPN games. He also continued as a sideline reporter for ESPN games and announced for ESPN Radio on select post-season college bowl game assignments.
Punch joined ESPN as a pit reporter for NASCAR races in 1984 and added college football sideline reporting in 1989. In the early ‘90s, Punch became the exclusive host of ESPN’s NASCAR Nationwide (formerly Busch) Series telecasts while serving as lead pit reporter and back-up play-by-play announcer on the NASCAR Cup Series events. In 2001, he became host of ESPN’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series coverage. Punch was part of the Emmy Award-winning broadcast crew covering the 1989 Indianapolis 500, and served in that same capacity at Indy for 17 consecutive years.
In his commentary, Punch sometimes calls on knowledge from his first career as an emergency room physician to explain injuries. He spent 14 years as the director of emergency room services at a Florida hospital and served two terms as chief of staff there. He remains active in the medical profession today.
The North Carolina native worked as a mechanic and driver in high school and college, when he was also a walk-on, backup quarterback for North Carolina State. Punch received his medical degree from Wake Forest University in 1979.
Following several years as a mechanic and driver on the short tracks of the Carolinas, Punch began substituting for the track announcer (Ned Jarrett) in 1975 in Hickory, N.C. He then covered NASCAR races for the Motor Racing Network on radio beginning with the Daytona 500 in 1980. He branched out into television in 1982.
Twice in 1988, his two careers dramatically combined. In Bristol, Tenn., in August, Punch revived driver Rusty Wallace, who crashed in practice and was not breathing. After his racing career, Wallace became an analyst for ESPN’s NASCAR coverage and works closely with Punch today. In November of 1988 in Atlanta, Punch joined the rescue effort to save Don Marmor who crashed in an ARCA race but survived.
Punch has been honored many times, including receiving the United States Air Force Outstanding Performance Award in 1989 for exemplary service in the auto racing community and NASCAR’s 1990 Team Player of the Year Award.
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