B/R Exclusive: Behind Pit Wall with ESPN's Jamie Little
NASCAR is very much a male dominated sport and women have had a tough time trying to break through the door and gain notoriety. I've opted to spotlight the female reporters who have made a name in NASCAR for the work they do on race-day—including ESPN's Jamie Little, who takes control of pit road every Sunday.
This week, Jamie shares what it's like to be a woman behind pit wall on race day.
Kelly Crandall: Jamie, thank you for being here today.
Jamie Little: Thanks for having me.
Crandall: Well, I’m a female and I want to get into the NASCAR area, but have you had times when maybe either crew members or others have maybe tried to push you aside and not really take you seriously?
Little: You know, honestly, at times like that happen, I just brush it under the rug and you keep going. You have to have such as strong mentality especially in a male-dominated sport. Some people don’t see it like we do and they don’t think woman should belong, but I think a lot of people understand that as long as you know what you’re talking about and you’re a good reporter, you’re just one of them.
So, it’s actually flattering to me if I get treated like just somebody else, another reporter and they kind of push you aside or give you attitude. They’re treating you like they would treat anybody not because "Oh she’s a woman, I better be nicer to her" or you know, "She’s a woman in this sport, you know I’m not going to give her the respect." So, yeah, you have a little bit of everything, but I don’t think I deal with anything really much different than the men do.
Crandall: I did a school NASCAR show, I was the only woman on there and at first they were like, "Well, you’re a woman, you’re a girl you don’t know how anything you’re talking about," but after the first show after that, everybody, they couldn’t believe where I came from and they were really excited that I actually did know what I was talking about and kind of showed up the guys, so.
Little: That’s awesome. Well, see, I’ve always said I think when it’s your first time doing something, like my first time in Indy Car, first time on Motocross, or first time on NASCAR, people are gonna be really skeptical. I think that they’re going to watch you through a magnifying glass more so than they would watch a new man like ‘Oh ok’ and I do it to woman so I know people do it.
But they watch you and once you prove that "Oh wow, she really knows what she’s talking about,' and she’s really there for the right reasons and loves this sport and she’s gonna give good information as a reporter then they’re excited because they’re like "Oh awesome, there’s a woman representing the sport that really knows," they really got it going on. And so that’s exactly what you said people 'Ahhh what do you know about the sport' and then once you talk they’re like "Oh, that’s awesome that a woman is in there."
Crandall: Have you had any problems maybe with maybe drivers that didn’t want to talk or they had a bad day or any horror stories from pit road?
Little: Ohh yea, it happened to me in Vegas ah last year [chuckle]. Kyle Busch blew a tire and he was in a crash um... streak, I guess you could call it. He was crashing week after week and he wrecked in the Nationwide race and I ran up and asked him and he just gave me such attitude and just made me look like such a tool.
But it happens you know, it happened all reporters throughout the year if they caught Kyle Busch in a bad moment.
Little: And then right after that Tony Stewart hit the wall and I had to interview him and he said something that just made you feel like "Oh gosh, that’s awful." But that’s just part of the job and you watch both of those guys with anybody and you catch them in a moment when they’re in a bad mood and they just hit the wall, no matter what you say, they’re going to be irritated and they don’t want to talk about it. So, I can’t take it personally but there are those moments when you’re like, "Oh my gosh." You just feel like big as an ant.
Crandall: Yeah, I think those two are probably the ones I would not want to approach after a bad day.
Crandall: I’ve seen Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond in the past talk about you have to be objective on race day, doing your job but they still, they pull for some drivers they pulled for Mark Martin in 2007 to win the Daytona 500—the sentimental favorite.
Are you like that, like when you’re behind pit wall, do you have maybe in the back of your mind, like, "Oh, I would like to see maybe this driver do something," or are you just very stick-to-the-story and do your job.
Little: No, you stick to the story, but I’m there because I’m passionate about racing. I mean, I am a race fan so it would be really hard and I would be lying if I said no, but you know there are moments that I really do in my heart pull for somebody in particular that I would never say it on the air, but just knowing in my heart like, you just, I want a good story and I want whoever’s gonna win, that’s gonna be the best story, the most exciting and make the sport look the best and be the best celebration for them.
I want that story, so like this year Mark Martin is the sentimental favorite, obviously, you hope that he’s gonna do well. You hope you’re gonna see him win a race. You know, but I don’t think there is anybody out there that wouldn’t agree with that.
Crandall: I’m very excited that Mark is in a Hendrick car. I think he, I think we’ll see him in victory lane. At least I hope I do.
Little [laughs] I think you have a good chance.
Crandall: Jamie, thank you for joining me today. I greatly appreciate it. Good luck and enjoy the season and I look forward to seeing you on the broadcasts.
Little: Great. Thank you very much for having me. And Kelly, best of luck to you.
Crandall: Thank you very much.
Jamie will be heading down to Daytona on February 9th to prepare for the NASCAR Nationwide Series on ESPN for the season. Then she will join the Sprint Cup Series mid-season when their coverage switches to ESPN.
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