Jason Sherrill did just about everything there was to do in his first two decades in racing.
He owned and raced a dirt track car, he worked on late models during high school and after graduating, and toured the country working on a pit crew. After his racing days were done, he became an official at Hickory Motor Speedway, a NASCAR-sanctioned 0.363-mile semi-banked asphalt oval track in Hickory, North Carolina. Sherrill was an official at his home track for 17 years, spending 15 of those as the track’s flagman.
But after dabbling in just about every job available in the racing work, there was one thing he still needed to try.
"I had a running joke with people in my family that I’ve done almost everything in racing except for announce," Sherrill said. "And one of these days that’s going to be my last job I have in racing."
Four years ago Sherrill got his first chance to get on the mic, and he hasn’t looked back since.
On his first night, Hickory was having a night of destruction demolition derby and one of the track’s announcers was unable work. Sherrill was already going to flag the event, so he was asked to pull double-duty.
"He said, ‘Hey you’re pretty good on the radio, why don’t you help me announce this thing. I’ll give you a microphone and you can flag it and then go down and help me announce at the same time,’" Sherrill said. "So that was the very first time I ever did that and I fell in love with it."
A year later, that same announcer retired after 20 years, and the job was offered to Sherrill, which he happily accepted.
Sherrill said he knew pretty early he wasn’t going to make it far as an actual race car driver, and after selling his car he didn’t really have an intent of being involved with the sport. But, in 2001, after some friends convinced him to go back to the track, he gave it a try, volunteering at Hickory as part of the cleanup truck team.
He became an official a year later.
While the lifelong race fan spent a lot of his career behind the scenes at the track, getting to be a PA announcer was the result of a dream he’d had since he was a little kid. The job came natural, he said, because he also spent so much time calling races in his head while in the flag stand.
"I’ve always had a desire to call races," he said. "I would sit in my bedroom when I was four, five, six years old with a tape recorder and pretend I was the voice of MRN radio announcing races with Winston Kelly and Barney Hall and Eli Gold."
Getting to be the voice of Hickory is an honor Sherrill said he can’t even put into words because it’s a track that has meant a lot to him his whole life. His dad would take him to Hickory starting when Sherrill was about 5 years old, spending many Saturday nights there through the time he was a teenager.
"That really got the juices flowing," Sherrill said. "I knew that no matter what I do in life it was going to have something to do with racing."
The announcer has had several big calls on the mic at Hickory too. In 2018, former NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Greg Biffle won a night of destruction school bus race at the track after starting ninth. Sherrill said "10,000 crazy fans" went nuts at the finish.
He’s also had the opportunity to share his announcing booth with stars like NASCAR ARCA Menards Series driver Hailie Deegan and her dad, former motorcross champion Brian Deegan.
"It’s an incredible opportunity," Sherrill said. "There are a lot of Saturday nights I would literally just kind of stop and pinch myself. I look around the track and think, ‘Wow.’"
Sherrill has been able to visit Hickory a few times to check in and make sure the employees are doing well while everyone waits for the coronavirus pandemic to end and racing to return. He said this is probably the longest he’s been away from the track in his life.
He thinks once everyone can get back to the racetrack, though, it’s going to be a big party, and he’s itching to see the people who have made his career so special.
"The people you meet are absolutely fabulous. Everybody’s got a great story," he said. "The thing I love about racing the most is it’s raw, it’s passion, it’s real. The racing community is very tight-knit and close and when tragedy happens or something happens at the track or even away from the track it’s always the racing people that seem to pull together as a big family and pitch in and help one another out."
Whenever racing does return, Sherrill will be right back on the microphone, where he’s always dreamed of being.
"It seems like every time a door closes something else comes along. God’s always been really good to me as far as providing opportunities," he said. "When the announcing has run its course I think it’ll be time for me to bow out and just take my kids to the race track, but I hope to be voice of Hickory Motor Speedway for a very long time."