It's no accident that Brandon Walsh tooled around the 90210 zip
code for the better part of eight years in a sweet 1965 Mustang
convertible. The man who played the perpetual TV youth, actor
Jason Priestley, is a gearhead. These days the erstwhile Beverly
Hills 90210 star has another gig that allows him to indulge his
fancies for fast cars and working in front of the camera: He's
doing commentary for ABC's Indy Racing League coverage.
Before drawing rash parallels between Priestley and another
celebrity ABC broadcaster, consider that unlike Dennis Miller--who
can't provide any insights into what it feels like to get slammed
to the turf by Warren Sapp--Priestley has substantial experience
in his sport. He got hooked on televised automobile rallies as a
kid in Vancouver and began driving professionally in them in
1992. In '95 he finished third in the SCCA Pro Rally Circuit
season standings before moving on to the IMSA sports car series.
Two years ago he was interviewed by Ann Hoffman, a journalist who
is married to Bob Goodrich, the producer of ABC's IRL coverage.
After last season, when the network decided to add a third man to
the booth, Hoffman suggested that Goodrich talk to the
31-year-old Priestley. "I certainly didn't expect it," says
Priestley of his new job. After one lunch, however, he was sold
on the broadcasting idea. "I said to him, 'Yeah, dude, I can do
With Bob Jenkins calling the action and former United States Auto
Club champ Larry Rice handling the technical side, Priestley is
counted on to lend color and a man-on-the-street perspective. "I
try to demystify things, to bring things down to everyone's
level," he says. Priestley's first race behind the mike was on
March 18 in Phoenix, and he handled his job well enough to quash
any notion that his hiring was a ploy to draw viewers.
Still, that's not to say that having a famous color man doesn't
have its perks. One thing Goodrich wants Priestley to do is
relate interesting stories about the competitors, and Priestley,
whose Q rating dwarfs that of any IRL driver, is quite popular
with them. Spectators also seem to like him. "When he walks
around the pits and garage, everyone wants to meet him," says
Goodrich. "I just need those people to go home and turn on their
COLOR PHOTO Priestley (far right) provides color and man-on-the-street perspective for ABC's IRL telecasts.