Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wendy Venturini's Chicago Connections


Let's face facts. SPEED's Wendy Venturini is tough as nails. Week after week, she hangs-out in the garage area amid the crowds, the weather, and the entire NASCAR "family." She has become such a staple on RaceDay that most NASCAR fans just know her as "Wendy."

This week, with NASCAR heading to the Chicago area, there are some interesting facts about her local connections. Her great-grandfather came to Chicago from Italy back in 1927. His son Tony opened an Amoco service station and became the first member of her family to be involved in racing as a driver.

Most fans know Wendy's father Bill, and her brother Billy, who have raced for many years in both ARCA and NASCAR. I got a great kick out of learning that when Wendy's dad married her mom Cathy, they began their honeymoon at the Rockford Speedway in Rockford, Illinois. Now, that's a racing family.

My memories of Bill Venturini came from his ARCA racing, but also from the fact that he had an all-female pit crew for many years. As you may have guessed, his wife was the front tire changer. I kid you not. Wendy and her brother traveled to almost every race as kids, and literally grew-up in stock car racing.

On Sunday's edition of RaceDay on SPEED, Wendy interviewed Mario Andretti at his winery in Napa, California. Andretti is one of the toughest men in racing, and has a long history of frosty relations with the media. Several times during the interview, Mario told her that she was asking great questions. That alone got my attention.

It seemed that now, permanently separated from his driving days, Andretti felt comfortable speaking openly and honestly about his career, his regrets, and his life in America. The scenery was great, the interview was first-rate, and the comments from Andretti were memorable. But, there is more to the story.

Mario Andretti and his twin brother Aldo were born in Italy, and fled the country to escape an occupation by outside forces. They re-settled in Nazareth, PA with one hundred and twenty-five dollars to their name. Now, Mario sits in his winery in Napa and reflects on a racing life that includes a Daytona 500 win.

Somehow, it seems only fitting that he does that while being interviewed by a woman whose own family emigrated from Italy, worked hard for their dreams, and now proudly watches as Wendy emerges as one of the most trusted television personalities on the NASCAR scene.

Where Wendy Venturini will wind-up is anyone's guess. Most believe she will eventually graduate to a higher profile role on sports television. So, for this season, its a smart idea for fans and viewers to appreciate her hard work while she is still patrolling the "NASCAR beat" for SPEED. After reading this, maybe more fans will understand where she gets her work ethic, and why she can't stop smiling.

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8 comments:

David said...

Awesome post!!! Wendy has done an amazing job this season and last and has grown tremendously since she first began reporting. I wondered about her at first, but she has won me over without question. Her personality and knowledge makes her easy to get along with and the interviewees. Another great piece of the SPEED family!!

Kevin in Indy said...

John, you are spot on with this story. When I have Speed on and I'm doing things around the house while listening to the show, I always stop what I'm doing to watch her reports/segments. She is always insightful, informative, and entertaining. I'll miss her when she moves on.

Joe from Philly said...

what kevin in indy said.

Raceday is not a show I'll sit down and watch but is great for having on while doing stuff.

I can take or leave most of the guys on the raceday crew but when she's interviewing, I pay attention.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, Wendy's beauty alone is enough to make me watch, but I enjoy her work, just because she knows exactly what she is talking about! When Wendy is talking about a sway bar or a jack screw, she is talking about something totally familiar to her! Some of the male announcers know way less about stock car racing than Wendy! Keep smiling and keep reporting Wendy!

Trucker said...

I have always looked on with her comments with awe. She is very knowlegeable about racing. You can tell her passion. Her interveiw sometime back with Jerry Nadeau was awsome. She was very sincere in that intervweiw and it showed she felt his pain.
Wendy would make a good pit reporter and short feature reporter for any network.
I hope she moves up to a big gig at Speed or at ESPN.

Anonymous said...

I really admire Wendy--she's so smart and just a great communicator. She knows her stuff--I hope she doesn't leave Speed!

Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rick from MEMSG said...

Having worked with Wendy on a number of occasions in the garage and pit area, I am really happy to see this recognition for Wendy. She does an amazing job of keeping multiple stories in focus during her pit road reporting. I particularly noticed this as she was reporting during the ARCA race at Pocono while I was haveing trouble keeping up with the three team cars I was working with.