Mark Schroeder's Busy Life - By Scott Douglass
Aug 10, 2010
Mark Schroeder has one of the most unique roles of anyone in today’s Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam world. He continues to be a fan favorite on the track as a driver of both the Devastator and Felon trucks, but probably even more fans know Mark as the expert analyst on the Speed Monster Jam television series.
The personable veteran really loves this type of multi-tasking, and he enjoys how many fans that he meets during a typical Built Ford Tough Party in the Pits that complement him not only on his driving skills, but for his work on Speed as well. The positive reaction from fans is something that’s obviously special to him, but it’s only one part of the equation that makes him feel good about his work on television. Mark told me that when he first started on Speed one of his biggest concerns was how his peers, the other drivers on the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam tour, would react: “The transition (from driver to commentator) is not a very difficult transition, but what I was very, very concerned about when I first started doing television and having that high profile job was my peers and the people that I work with on the race track. I was very concerned about how they would respond to me when in some aspects I might not be speaking so highly of them, being more critical of them, when in fact they can come back to me and say to me ‘hey, you’re not much better’ or ‘you aren’t any better, so get off of your high horse in telling us to be so good.’ So I was definitely concerned about that. That’s the flat out truth.”
Schroeder says that there is a balance he has to achieve of being a competitor, working with and battling against the biggest superstars in the sport on the track, and then talking about their performances when he gets into the television booth. “I have two very different roles to play, or hats and helmets to wear. I have a hat for television to wear and a helmet for Monster Jam to wear,” Schroder explained. “When I put my helmet on I’m out of the TV realm unless they put a camera and a mic on me there. When I have to do television then I have to wear a different hat and I have to be critical of good performances and bad performances and I have to tell it the way I see it, and I have to speak in layman’s terms so that the fans who watch on Monster Jam can understand it clearly.”
So, do the other Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam stars give him a hard time about his TV work? “A little bit. Some of the guys, they kind of razz you in fun,” Schroder answered. “They give you the ‘here comes Mark Schroeder, TV superstar, Mr. Speed’. However they give me, I think and I’m very grateful for it, great respect for my critiques. And I think almost 100% of the time I get positive feedback from the guys. Once in a while they’ll rib me a little bit. Every weekend when I’m out with the truck and not doing television I get these guys telling me that they really enjoy what we’re doing on television and if we explain things correctly and really telling it the way it is, and they think we are doing a good job with that. That to me I think is the ultimate compliment from your peers, when they tell you you’re doing a good job.”
Time for a little background on Schroeder. He says his Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam career, which began when he debuted Devastator in 1995, was an evolution for him of a love for, and a desire to be in motorsports. “I ran a little bit in a drag car, but primarily I ran a drag boat, on the water. It was a lot of fun. I did seven years behind the wheel of a drag racing boat. Monster trucks I had seen but had never gone to a show,” Schroder recalled. “I was inspired by a few people that I knew in the industry to go check it out, that it was kind of crazy. So I did, and that was about the time that I wanted to get out of drag boat racing because I was getting too fast and it was getting dangerous. There was a transition period there where we were going into capsules in the boats, we were running pretty fast. So I decided to put a cage completely around me and try something on dirt. I thought that this would give me the opportunity to still travel, to still be involved with high performance and racing, and I thought that maybe I could do this even better.”
So in the late 90’s and into the new millennium Schroder built his reputation in the business, working his way up the monster ladder. But how did Schroeder get the opportunity to add television broadcaster to his resume. I believe it was a special night where he turned a lot of heads, and it’s a night that to this day Mark considers one of his finest hours in the sport. He talked about that magical night for Devastator when I asked him what he considered some of his on track highlights. The story, according to Schroeder, goes like this: “I never considered myself a performer. That’s not really something I aspired to be. But that’s become really rewarding to me. I had taken some time off and spent some time on the road, then took a new Pablo Huffaker RaceSource chassis to Houston. That was spectacular but my performance in Houston was not spectacular and the powers that be minced no words to tell me so. The next week I was going to Atlanta to a televised show and they let me know that if I did not step it up I’d be stepping out with a boot in my rear. They asked me if I could do it and I said that I could. I went to Atlanta, and racing was OK, then I kicked it in freestyle. I stayed in the hot seat in freestyle until Tom Meents kicked me out, he won freestyle by, I think it was one point. That night in Atlanta was certainly a highlight of my career.”
That performance in the Georgia Dome made a lot of people take notice of Schroeder as a driver. But there’s more to that night. Producers of the television series took even greater notice of Schroeder’s interviews that night. High energy, enthusiastic, and very informative. Now Mark Schroeder went in many minds from a budding superstar inside of a truck to a potential expert analyst with a unique style to add to the TV show. Then Schroeder cemented the deal in Las Vegas, not being aware that he was auditioning for more TV work when he was tabbed to be the pit reporter for the in house coverage of the World Finals. Schroeder was brilliant from the first moment he took on that role, so it was natural that his infectious style, love of the sport, and great insights would be a natural on the television series. His performance in that TV role has made those who selected him for the job look good, because Schroeder has been able to bring a unique, informed, and enthusiastic style into the broadcast booth and continues to make contributions that fans and competitors alike love about today’s Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam series on Speed.