Jamie Little makes NASCAR broadcasting history on FOX
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR reporter
Jamie Little never seriously thought she would anchor a race telecast from the broadcast booth.
It wasn’t that she didn’t think she could do it, but working as the anchor – the one everyone hears at the start of the telecast and throughout it – just never entered her mind as a serious career goal.
"I thought about it, but those spots are taken," Little said. "Those spots, in my opinion, have always been taken by the best broadcasters – the veteran men of our sport that have been there doing it forever.
"Who am I to say, ‘I want to take that job, and I’m the next in line’? That just wasn’t me."
Little has broken barriers in motorsports throughout her 18-year broadcasting career, but her role in 2021 as the play-by-play voice of the ARCA Menards Series for the FOX Sports telecasts ranks differently and is even more historic.
Busting the door down to have a voice?
Busting the door down to have THE voice during the telecast?
"All of these years, I thought that was too far-fetched," Little said. "It never crossed my mind, and I think that’s something that’s shameful for me, and a lot of us women [think], ‘Well, we haven’t seen a woman do it, and I’m not going to be the first. I don’t dare go there.’
"It does come with a big responsibility. You’re the first to do it, there are a lot of eyes on you, and what if I fail? You can’t fail because all of a sudden, it’s going to set people back."
Little’s role as a play-by-play announcer should send a message to any aspiring broadcaster thinking that only "the veteran men" earn those jobs. Kaitlyn Vincie graduated from college in 2010, started her career doing interviews and vlogs about her local short track in Virginia, and now works as a FOX Sports studio host. She said seeing Little as a play-by-play announcer will be "incredibly significant" for aspiring female broadcasters.
"When you’re chosen for a role like that, it’s one of the highest honors in all of sports television," Vincie said. "It’s one of the most challenging roles as well.
"There have been a lot of iconic voices over the years to lead NASCAR broadcasts, and now Jamie will be adding her name among them."
The challenge of moving from pit road – Little will remain as a pit-road reporter for NASCAR national series races on FOX – to the broadcast booth includes focusing on all teams (not just the teams assigned for a given race) and moving to a more widespread overview to describe race strategy, as well as directing the flow of the telecast amid the many voices.
"[My role is] taking you out of break and bringing you back and talking you through a major accident," Little said. "There’s just more responsibility on those shoulders. You’re the lead announcer.
Anyone who has watched Little on the race telecasts knows that she brings incredible energy to her reports, and she has the ability to make the people around her comfortable with her racing knowledge and presentation.
"I’ve already seen much of the preparation she’s been putting in behind the scenes in advance of Daytona, and her work ethic is top-notch," Vincie said. "The viewers and the fans will not be disappointed."
The idea for Little to make the jump to the broadcast booth came from NBC play-by-play announcer Leigh Diffey, who called her last summer to suggest she look into that role, noting that motorsports needed a woman in that role.
According to Little, Diffey told her: "You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I have this idea – these other women are getting promoted in other sports. It’s time for NASCAR to do it."
Little, who has worked a few Xfinity Series practices in the booth, reached out to her bosses at FOX to let them know she’d be interested if the opportunity opened. FOX leadership liked the idea and named Little the play-by-play voice of ARCA, a developmental series that drivers often run before racing in NASCAR’s Xfinity or truck series.
"I always just thought that would take me away from the action if I did the booth, and I loved being in the middle of the action," Little said. "That’s what I loved so much about pit reporting.
"But when I went in the booth, I thought, 'This is a different skill set, a cool new challenge and a totally different perspective.’"
Little knows this wouldn’t be possible without other female broadcasters in the sport, including Shannon Spake, whom she worked with in the pits at ESPN and FOX, and Wendy Venturini, who did radio play-by-play for select Cup races for Performance Racing Network. Erin Andrews has been a sportscasting role model for Little, who said when she started being interested in television, she admired newscasters such as Katie Couric.
This move also wouldn’t be possible with her experience working motocross, IndyCar and NASCAR races for nearly two decades.
"It is the natural next step," Little said. "When you look at it, there should have been a woman doing this a long time ago, and for some reason, there just hasn’t been.
"It has to be the person who has been around long enough, they’re respected long enough, they understand the sport enough – and they’re given an opportunity.
"I don’t know that any broadcast network has ever given a woman an opportunity."
Stat of note
ARCA has had 58 races at Daytona. Two of the winners have gone on to win Cup titles: Benny Parsons (won the 1969 ARCA race) and Kyle Busch (2004).
They said it
"I would give my right leg – because it’s the good one – to get back in." – Sports-car racer Katherine Legge, who broke her left leg last year, on what she would do for an opportunity in NASCAR