You see these people on TV every week, but not too many people know what all they do. A NASCAR pit reporter does more than interview drivers on TV and give out quick reports throughout a broadcast. It’s essentially a seven-day per-week job filled with meetings, studying, staying up to date on the latest NASCAR news, and making sure you not only know what you’re talking about, but making sure that it’s explained in a way where the new fan isn’t overwhelmed and the diehard fan isn’t bored.
I spoke to Fox’s contingent of pit reporters for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and got an in-depth view on what they do, how they do their job, and the joys and difficulties of being a pit reporter. It’s hard work and not everyone can do it, but these people make it look easy. The 61st annual Daytona 500 is this Sunday at 2:30 PM ET on Fox. Fox NASCAR host Shannon Spake was our latest guest on the AA Podcast, in addition to Spake and Kaitlyn Vincie talking to us about their new roles hosting Fox’s pre-race shows this season.
Who are Fox’s pit reporters?
Fox has four pit reporters throughout their half of the NASCAR season and they each take a section of pit road. Jamie Little, Vince Welch, Regan Smith, and Matt Yocum will be in the pit for the Daytona 500, and all four bring a very unique background and knowledge which will complement the broadcast.
Jamie Little began covering sports with two wheels before going to four. A dirt bike enthusiast, Little started her career reporting on Supercross and motocross as well as the X Games. A trailblazing reporter, she enjoyed a lot of “firsts” in her career. For instance, Jamie was one of the first female X Games reporters as well as the first to cover a televised Supercross and motocross event. And when she began covering IndyCar, Little became the first female TV pit reporter for the Indianapolis 500.
After moving to Fox in 2015, Little started her Fox career as a pit reporter at the Daytona 500, making her the first female and one of two people to be a pit reporter for both the Indy 500 and Daytona 500, the second being her Fox Sports colleague Vince Welch. It’s these firsts that have been most memorable moments in Jamie’s broadcasting career.
“My first Indy 500 in 2004. Being the first woman on the broadcast for the Indy 500 was a big moment for me,” Little said. “I felt a lot of pressure in filling that role and that was a dream come true for me. And then…my first Daytona 500 in 2015 with Fox was definitely a big one that I’ll never forget.”
Little credits her fitness as a skill that helps her excel as a pit reporter. While at the track, a pit reporter is on their feet all the time and after going from the pit to the garage (and in Jamie’s case the infield care center) for interviews, it can be a lot if you’re not in top physical shape.
Off the track, Little donates her time to The Animal Foundation rescue shelter and Speedway Children’s Charities, as well as owning two Jimmy Johns franchises in Las Vegas and a Nothing Bundt Cakes franchise near Indianapolis.
A Hoosier at heart, Vince Welch began his broadcasting career in Indiana. Covering local and regional sports for various Indiana affiliates, Welch began his racing career in 1996 on the IMS Radio Network as a pit reporter for the Indy 500. Welch eventually moved from radio to TV in IndyCar and then worked the pits for the 2001 Indy 500 on ABC.
When ESPN got NASCAR rights in 2008, Welch moved over to NASCAR, and then when NASCAR went from ESPN to NBC, Welch moved to Fox in 2015. As previously noted, along with Jamie Little, Welch got to work the pits at Indy and Daytona, something those two can only say they have done on a TV broadcast.
Vince’s most memorable moments have an Indiana connection. He noted working the Indy/Daytona races, having the opportunity to cover legendary Hoosiers Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart throughout their careers, and witnessing the greatness of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus as they won their seven championships.
“To be in Victory Lane with Jeff Gordon, a person who I saw growing up racing as a fan in Indiana and to see him be a racer, come up and drive sprint cars and become a star at the grassroots level and then become a star at the NASCAR level, to be a reporter in Victory Lane covering one of his wins. And then having an opportunity to work with him as a teammate and a colleague at Fox. Those are things that when I look back at the highlights of my career, it’s not so much getting to cover a particular win or performance but I takeaway more the relationships that I get to be a part of.”
On top of pit reporting, Welch does play-by-play in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, as well as calling the occasional college basketball game for Fox Sports.
The new guy on the crew, Regan Smith is about to work his second Daytona 500 as a pit reporter. Previously a Cup driver, winning the 2011 Southern 500 at Darlington, Smith began dabbling in TV working the occasional NASCAR Race Hub telecast starting in 2015. While TV wasn’t the original plan for a post-racing career, Smith enjoyed it and wanted to do more.
As Smith transitioned to being a part-time driver, he did more television. When the opportunity presented itself, Smith would take up Fox on new experiences to make him a better broadcaster. Whether it was having more of a presence on Race Hub, to being a pit reporter, to being a race analyst, Regan was open to try new things and he hasn’t regretted it. In fact, Smith explained that going into broadcasting was “probably one of the best decisions I have ever made to this point.” Race Hub was like on-the-job training for Regan that ultimately led to a full-time position.
As the only professional NASCAR driver on pit road for Fox, Smith fills an important role. He’s able to bring his experiences and strengths that the other three may not be able to bring, and they can bring their experiences and strengths that he may not be able to bring yet.
As the newcomer, Smith is learning from his teammates and grabbing the best things that each of them do in shaping how he does his job. Regan Smith may still be learning, but he’s going to be a future NASCAR broadcasting star.
Matt Yocum lives and breathes motorsports. Even as a child, Matt’s mother Mary owned a motorsports sponsor services company and his first job was selling programs at Michigan International Speedway. Yocum noted that he was so young, he could only sell five programs at a time and he would return time and time again to sell more programs.
Going from being a tire specialist to a maintenance specialist for IROC, Yocum began his broadcasting career in 1992. In 1995, Yocum became a pit reporter with TNN before going to ESPN and ultimately Fox.
Not only is Yocum a motorsports lifer, he’s a Fox lifer as well. Moving to Fox in 2001, Matt is one of the original on-air talents back when Fox first entered NASCAR. He was also the only broadcaster to work at both Fox and NBC/TNT in those early 2000s broadcasts, working every Cup race for six consecutive years, an unprecedented feat for a broadcaster. Because of that, Matt has worked with so many legends of the sport and has appreciated every moment.
“I felt very blessed that I got a chance to work with legends of the sport. Whether it was in my TNN days with future Hall of Famer Buddy Baker, Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons at ESPN, Darrell Waltrip at Fox, Benny at NBC. I’ve been very blessed as far as the heroes and legends of the game that I’ve had a chance to work with. But to me, it was always the passion of wanting to do excellent TV for the fan at home.”
When asked about some memorable moments over his career, Matt reflected the special times that not many people got to see but were memorable to him.
“I just feel grateful to have been a very small part of several great broadcast teams for the last 19 straight Daytona 500’s. The opportunity to eavesdrop on history and be a storyteller for the viewer during those moments in time have been special. Joking with Dale Earnhardt Sr. before our interview in the Fox 2001 Daytona 500 pre-race show, victory lane interviews with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr’s final Daytona 500 wins. The fun moments during rain delays from raiding the Hollywood Hotel with teammate Dick Berggren using Super Soakers to toilet papering Darrell Waltrip’s coach with Kevin Harvick … so many unique moments.”
Yocum joking with Dale Sr. before the 2001 race would end up being bittersweet considering what happened that day, but it encapsulated the man Dale was. The two of them waiting around to get on the broadcast with Dale cracking jokes in between. Matt revealed that six months later, a friend of his took a photo from that interview of the two of them joking around waiting to get on the broadcast, and it’s certainly something he has cherished ever since.