Jamie Little has no trouble discussing her 19-year broadcasting career in racing.
The roots of the 42-year-old’s passion for motorsports taking hold in the first place is little more difficult to explain.
‘Goals are dreams with a deadline’.
Feb 13th, in Daytona, is that deadline.
Bring on the ARCA Menard’s series 2021! https://t.co/3E9rZjfs9U
— Jamie Little (@JamieLittleTV) November 16, 2020
Little was raised in Lake Tahoe, California, and at age 13 moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, with her single mother. She has no brothers, so she’s not sure why she drifted to what she describes as the childhood life of a tomboy.
“I always gravitated to the boys,” said Little. “Just wanted to play with the toys they had — if it was anything motorized, there was just something about it that I loved, whether it was a quad or a dirt bike, you name it. I was like, ‘Can I take it? Can I go for a ride?’ I just loved it.”
Little said her peers in high school thought there was something wrong with the girl who brought Dirt Rider magazines to campus. Her mother wondered what happened to the girl who used to display horse posters in her bedroom.
What happened was Little’s discovery of her passion. And that passion blossomed into a career.
“I started realizing in all these magazines the only women I saw were models,” said Little. “And there weren’t any women that spoke about this sport like I wanted to hear. I mean, it’s great hearing from guys, but it dawned on me that there were no females covering the sport.
“And the more I watched, something just told me that interviewing would be the perfect thing for me, sharing the stories of these guys. So that’s where it all started for me. That passion — I found my career through that. I naturally loved the sport of Supercross.”
Little at age 21 became a live announcer for Supercross, which she covered on the weekends while she chipped away at her journalism degree from San Diego State University during the week. She was hired by ESPN in 2002 to cover the X Games and has been appearing on live broadcasts — including IndyCar and NASCAR — ever since.
So Little considers her historic new role at Fox Sports simply the next step in her career progression. But she understands and is honored by the fact that so many see it as much more.
Follow your dreams. @JamieLittleTV talks about what being named the 2021 @ARCA_Racing play-by-play announcer means to her and other women in sports broadcasting. pic.twitter.com/IACaBrFAOG
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) November 17, 2020
Question: How has your passion for motorsports steered your career first at ESPN and now at Fox Sports?
Little: “I wanted to be on ESPN. That’s where Supercross and motocross were. A woman had never done this television broadcast. I just wanted to do it because I felt like there was a void. And it wasn’t necessarily, ‘Well, I’m going to do something no woman’s done.’ It was just natural. That’s where I wanted to go, and I thought, ‘Heck, I’ll be that girl that I didn’t see on TV.’ And after like two years of paying my dues, I found the right person to call and begged him to give me a shot on the air. And he did with X Games. And then Supercross, motocross followed, and IndyCar and NASCAR in 2007.
“People always say, ‘Well when are you going to do football? When are you going to do Monday night? When are you going to do Thursday night?’ And I always tell them, ‘I am doing my Monday night, my Thursday night football. It just so happens to be racing.’ I get to cover the Cup Series. That’s the equivalent in my mind.
“I did [have other opportunities] at ESPN. In 2014 when our [NASCAR] contract was up, ESPN came to me and they said, ‘We’ll give you whatever you want to do. If you want to do football, you’re free to do that. We’ll put together a contract so we can keep you.’ And I wasn’t interested. And thankfully Fox came out of the blue and had an interest in me. So I was able to continue with my passion. Because I honestly don’t know what I would do if I didn’t cover racing. It’s all I know, really, and it’s just because I love it so much.
“I never have been a big believer in covering something you’re not really interested in or really love. If you do it for the wrong reasons, it’s not going to last.”
Question: At what point did you realize a play-by-play announcer role was something you not only were capable of doing, but something you wanted to do on top of pit reporting?
Little: “So when we talked, I always said, ‘Well, I’ve never seen a woman do play-by-play in motorsports,’ because it hadn’t happened. So it wasn’t on my mind like, ‘Oh that’s something I see myself doing.’ [I thought,] ‘That’s just kind of where the best male broadcasters end up. That’s not something I’m interested in right now.’
“But then in 2018, Fox came to me and said, ‘Hey, Adam Alexander has a family thing to attend to. So we want you to do a couple Xfinity Series practices. Are you interested?’ And I was like, ‘Well yeah! Heck yeah. That’d be fun. A different viewpoint.’ I went up there, and honestly I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It was just a different vantage point, a different skill set, so it was a good challenge. And I just thought, ‘Man, I want to do more of this.’ And it just kind of went on the backburner. There were no open positions, so I wasn’t going to push the issue.
“And then all of the sudden about a month ago, a little birdie kind of rang my phone and gave me this idea. And I was like, ‘Yes, yes, right now is the time.’ I’m going to let my bosses know I want to do play-by-play knowing that, in my mind, there were no open opportunities right now, but I want to plan it so when that opportunity does come, you’ll think of me. My boss Jacob Ullman was like, ‘I love the idea. Maybe we’ll give you a few races next year.’ And I said, ‘OK, whatever.’ I still have my normal role. I stay very busy with pit reporting.
“And then he literally called me a week later and said, ‘We met with NASCAR, we met with the ARCA Menards Series — they’re all on board and want to know if you want to be the voice of the ARCA Menards Series.’ And I was floored. I was amazed. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited and ready for Daytona like the next week.”
Question: What advice have you received from your peers and colleagues who have experience in play-by-play roles?
Little: I’ve wasted no time reaching out to people. Adam Alexander actually reached out to me. We went back and forth, and I said I’d love to chat with him soon, ask him a bunch of questions. Vince Welch and I are going to get together for lunch. He’s going to kind of go over how he does things, what kind of note card he uses. I’m really interested because it’s going to be different than my system of notes for every single driver for pit reporting. I’ve talked with Allen Bestwick. He sent me his notes right away and how he does things.
“But the same advice I got from all of them so far is just be yourself and have fun, and you’re going to do great. So that’s meant a lot because I keep telling myself just because this is a new role doesn’t mean I have to be somebody different. I’m going to be myself. That’s what got me to this point.
“It’s just going to be different in that you’re an air traffic controller — you have to take us on and off and out of commercial break. Call the action, your voice is on the whole time.”
Question: You’ll still be pit reporting for Fox’s NASCAR broadcasts. How will you juggle that workload now that you have ARCA Menards Series play-by-play preparation on your plate, as well?
Little: “I’ve definitely been thinking about it. And so much is up in the air right now with the planning. Schedules are still coming out. So it’s going to look really interesting, but I do know I’ll be pit reporting for all of our Cup races. I’ll do some Xfinity races again, I’ll do some Truck races again. So thank goodness I’ve been doing it long enough I know exactly what I need. I know exactly how much time I need to do it, and how much time I need to talk to those people in the garage to get my notes.
“But this is going to be different. What kinds of things are important in getting those notes from Allen Bestwick — I’m looking at them now — like the things I need to make sure I find out going into the weekend that I wouldn’t need to know as a pit reporter, things I need to get from NASCAR just going into it that you don’t really think about unless you talk to somebody who’s done it.”
Question: The reaction to the news of your becoming Fox Sports’ voice of the ARCA Menards Series has been overwhelmingly positive. This isn’t the first time you’ve become a trailblazer for women in motorsports, but does this one feel extra special?
Little: “Yeah, it’s interesting. It feels like this is the natural next step in my career. So in my eyes, it’s just like so many other hats I’ve worn, things I’ve tried — hosting a live event, or the first time I hosted Race Hub. I mean, you get the butterflies. It’s a new role. Things like the way you collect information are different.
“But this is another level. People have reached out to me who have nothing to do with racing. And you say ‘first time for a woman,’ it just makes it a bigger deal. And I appreciate it. It’s so crazy to me, and I’ll run with it. I love that, because that just means there’s going to be more eyeballs watching, and hopefully more little girls who think like, ‘Hey I can do that. I’ve never seen a woman or heard a woman in that role. That might be something I want to do.’
“I feel like we’ve seen that in baseball and football now, and I think the coolest thing is it just shows that there isn’t a role on television that a woman can’t do. And I’m proud to be that person. I feel like I’ve put in the time — almost 20 years of broadcasting racing — I feel like it is time. I think that’s why the reaction thankfully has been overwhelmingly positive. Because I’m not some new face who didn’t earn my way or pay my dues. I’ve been around a long time and I know a lot of people and have covered a lot of different motorsports. So it’s been really awesome to see people happy about that.”
[NEWS] Fox Sports tabs @JamieLittleTV as its play-by-play announcer for 2021 ARCA Menards Series races
The first woman named as the TV voice of a national motorsports series
📝⇢ https://t.co/ywhFo6Jnm2#ARCAMenards pic.twitter.com/A7a2b4u2yJ
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) November 16, 2020
Question: What’s your familiarity with the ARCA Menards Series, and what excites you about being a part of it in 2021?
Little: Of course, the NASCAR K&N West Series, now the ARCA Menards Series West, I’d try to follow that. It’s always been exciting — the Bullring [at Las Vegas Motor Speedway] where I come from, I love seeing what they’re doing out there.
“But any time the ARCA race is a companion weekend with Cup or Xfinity, I’d always want to watch. Because it’s always going to be exciting. These kids will go for broke. They don’t care. They don’t know what they don’t know. There’s a lot of great passes and a lot of great finishes. And the emotion of these kids — just, I love it. If I’m looking through and am like, ‘Oh, the ARCA race is on,’ I make sure I watch that final interview, because these are kids. And you see the joy on their faces being at these big tracks where Cup is racing. It’s a dream come true for them.
“In reality they are the future superstars, as Chase Briscoe is proving this year, the former champion of the series. Now he’s getting a great ride in Cup starting the day after our first ARCA race.”
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. It was originally published on Nov. 24, 2020.