In August, The Lasco Press reported on the Pure Michigan 400 from Michigan International Speedway. As part of our coverage, we brought you a story about a young man named Titus Smith. Titus is a member of the Scholastic News Kids Press Corp. At the invitation of NASCAR, Titus viewed race activities from the press box and the infield media center. He saw first hand how NASCAR operates behind the scenes with media coverage. We had the opportunity to sit next to Titus in the press box. This very intelligent 12-year-old from Detroit told us he received the invitation as a part of the Kids Drive NASCAR summer intern program.
Kids Drive NASCAR
Avid NASCAR fans likely remember Andrew Kurland. The teenager interviewed several Monster Energy Series drivers this summer as part of the Kids Drive NASCAR coverage highlighted on NBCSN. Kids Drive NASCAR is a part of the NASCAR Acceleration Nation program which is designed to expose young people to the sport. Andrew is the star prodigy of the program. He’s already off to a good start in developing his passion into a career.
NASCAR Behind the Scenes
Fox and NBC television reporters are well-known celebrities. Viewers invite them into their homes each week as they watch race broadcasts. They often receive autograph requests from fans in the garage and those with pre-race pit road access. Who would not want to spend a moment talking to Jamie Little? These hard-working members of the media bring us the stories as they happen on the track and in the pits.
The Lasco Press covers the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with weekly race reports and feature stories from behind the scenes. During this our second year on the circuit, we significantly increased our “live at the track coverage.” Some of our more popular stories involve the people who attend the races. Those who work in support roles to make the events happen. And those who receive little recognition for their efforts in promoting the sport. We look for interesting stories that you don’t see on television or read about in the major newspapers that follow NASCAR.
Programs like Acceleration Nation and Kids Drive NASCAR are intended to expose young people and their parents to the sport. Primarily displaying the entertainment value of stock car racing, but also showing potential career opportunities for those with certain aptitudes. We thought it might be fun and interesting to delve deep behind the scenes and showcase those media representatives who cover NASCAR week in and week out at the racetracks. What sports fan has not dreamed of the possibility of being a sports reporter?
The Media the Cameras Never See
If reporters from major newspapers, automotive magazines, and television networks were the only individuals admitted into the media centers of NASCAR circuit racetracks, the rooms would be almost empty. The explosion of social media and the accessibility of the internet changed sports reporting. Web pages, blogs, and twitter feeds now compose the majority of event coverage. Every week at the track you see a core of people who follow the circuit.
Whether you call those people reporters, journalists, columnists, writers, or correspondents. The one thing they all have in common is they love the sport. They work to inform fans about the happenings and details of race events. Bringing the personalities of NASCAR close enough for fans to identify with. And digging out the stories that keep bringing readers back to the media outlets they present. Here are some of their stories.
Lee Spencer Motorsport.com Senior NASCAR Editor and Writer
Lee Spencer has over 51,000 followers on Twitter. That alone attests to her popularity among NASCAR fans. Everyone at the track knows Lee, she’s the queen of the press box. The respect she receives from her peers is evident by the number of people who stop by and chat or ask questions. Her reputation in the garage can be judged by the hugs and greeting she receives from drivers, team members, and track personnel.
Motorsport.com is one of the premier motor racing digital media companies in the world. Covering all types of motorsports with 23 editions in 16 languages across the globe. Lee’s job is probably one of the most visible and coveted in the industry. Her husband, Reid Spencer, is the Lead Writer for NASCAR Wire Service. Together they are media royalty, working and traveling together, both doing what they love.
Lee began covering NASCAR as the producer of the morning sports show on WFMZ radio in Charlotte. She was the first female columnist for the Sporting News. Lee worked there from 2001-2007, before going on to work for Fox Sports. Then at motorsport.com for the past three years. Commenting on the number of women covering NASCAR Lee says. “Because the business is so personality driven. I think that is why women are drawn to it. If you establish a trust factor with the personalities in the business they don’t care if you are a man or a woman, they’ll talk to you. The trust factor is the key.”
Chris Knight Catchfence.com
Catchfence has the best slogan in all of motorsports media. “The Only Thing Between You and the Action!” Chris Knight is Catchfence, writer, editor, and advertising sales rep. He’s one of the new breed of sports reporters. Catchfence is an online magazine of racing. They cover all three of NASCAR’s premier series, ARCA, and other racing circuits. Chris is at the track every weekend filing stories for his site. As well as posting on Facebook (25,000+ followers) and Tweeting live action (105,000 Tweets to date).
Catchfence established a presence on the web in 1999. However, Chris worked for two ARCA teams from 2001 to 2010 managing their media departments. He celebrated winning the 2010 ARCA championship with Patrick Sheltra and Sheltra Motorsports. Chris continued to work on Catchfence as time allowed before committing himself full-time on-line after 2010.
Covering All Aspects of the Sport
He concentrates on posting press releases from the teams as well as writing feature stories weekends at the track. He covers press conferences and asks some of the most interesting questions. Not always about racing. Chris says, “I ask the off the wall questions. If it’s relevant off the track it’s just as relevant on the track.” Chris listens to a scanner during the races to keep up with team communications. He reports on track action Tweeting throughout the race. Chris looks at social media as being an information point for fans of the sport. “We are their eyes and ears at the track. If they can’t make it to a race or watch on TV they can check in on social media to keep up with whats going on.”
Chris goes on to say, “Some correspondents just report on social media, giving readers the facts. I like to interact with the fans, respond to their tweets and answer questions. That is how we bring more young people in contact with the sport. By helping them feel more involved in the racing experience. It’s how the sport is going to grow in this age of media overload.”
Kelly Crandall Racer.com
Kelly is the lead NASCAR beat reporter for Racer.com. She began working for the website this year after previously working as a freelance writer and correspondent for PopularSpeed.com. Kelly primarily focuses on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage. For her NASCAR coverage in 2016, Kelly is the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year. Only the second woman to earn that prestigious honor. Social media is a large part of Kelly’s coverage of the sport. According to Kelly, “It’s a love/hate relationship. The sport has embraced social media so much that everyone is online. It has become the place where all the news is. If you are not on social media you miss a large part of what is going on in the sport. On the hate side, you almost feel like you have to be on all the time or you might miss something important.”
Kelly earned two additional awards from the NMPA last year for individual articles she wrote. One, a great piece on the legacy of Benny Parsons. The second in recognition of her column featured on Popular Speed. Kelly is fortunate enough to be able to choose the events she covers live. But, you will see her in the media center at the majority of the tracks from Florida to Michigan. And of course on social media.
More To Come
This is the first of a three-part series of feature articles on a behind the scene look at NASCAR media coverage. In October we will bring you more personal insights into reporters covering the sport. Including some personalities, you may know. In November we will feature race coverage for the entire weekend from the Championship Finals at Miami-Homestead Speedway. What it’s really like living a sports fan’s dream, being a reporter covering a major sporting event.
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