Rich Brenner, a Triad sports anchor with broadcasting roots in the Triangle, died Monday after suffering a heart attack during a speaking engagement. He was 65.
Brenner made most of his tracks reporting on NASCAR in the Triad. He spent more than 20 years as sports director and reporter at WGHP/Fox 8 in Greensboro before he retired in 2008. He worked as a sports anchor at WRAL from 1978 to 1981 and reported at WTVD in the 80s.
Brad Jones, a WGHP news anchor who worked with Brenner for more than a decade, said Brenner helped champion coverage of NASCAR before it gained the level of national recognition it has now.
Jones said when Brenner began reporting on NASCAR, the sport was very regional. "Rich knew that NASCAR would become this great national sport," said Jones. "He knew that reporting came down to stories and he saw that NASCAR had great characters and could produce great stories."
If anyone asked Brenner to make a public appearance, whether to an audience of 500 people or to 10 kids at a school, he was there, Jones said. Brenner was speaking to an audience of firefighters and police on Monday when he died.
"Everybody has a 'Rich' memory," said Jones. "When he gave advice, people tended to remember it."
Longtime WRAL sports anchor Tom Suiter said Brenner taught him more about TV reporting than anyone else.
"Rich taught me how to take people to the game and make them feel like they were there," said Suiter.