Thursday, January 10, 2008

Krista Voda Answers Your TV Questions

Last week, Daly Planet readers submitted questions for Krista Voda. This talented and versatile host and reporter was working the Cotton Bowl for Fox Sports and then the AMA Supercross race in Anaheim, California.

Having just returned home to the Pittsburgh area, Krista sat down and had a great time with all of the outstanding questions that were offered. Here is the final installment of the off-season Daly Planet TV personality interviews:

Q - Matt enjoys your on-air professionalism in both the studio and on-location settings. He wants to know how much prep work went into a daily show like Totally NASCAR as opposed to doing your pit reporting for Fox?

A - Matt, thank you for the kind words! It's funny because, with pit reporting, no matter how much time I have to prepare...I never feel like it's enough! Similar to the crews working in the garage...if they are given 5 hours to prepare a car, they'll get it done in 5 hours. But give 'em 10 hours, and they'll use every bit of that time, too! With Totally NASCAR (boy, did I love that show!), myself and/or Steve Byrnes got to write a good chunk of the material. Our producers Ryan McGee and Tom Surbaugh gave us lots of creative control. The writing was, and still is, my favorite part of the job! The major difference between pit reporting and anchoring, is that in the pits you don't always get the luxury of researching a really cool way to craft your words. It's so on the fly, that you often times try to do the most research you can in the time you are given, and hold on for the ride!

Q - One fan wants to know if you ever want to host a daily motorsports program again?

A - I've been really fortunate to be able to do a little bit of, feature reporting, studio work, field anchoring, pit reporting...and I love the variety. But if I'm being totally honest, then yes...I would love to have the opportunity to host a daily or weekly show again. The main reason would be, like I said in an earlier question, because I love writing...and specifically taking the time to write in as clever a way as I can! That's one of the reasons why hosting the Craftsman Truck Series Pre-Race Show is so rewarding. (But a plus, of being in a studio, is not having to fight with my wild hair in the elements!)

Q - Brett would like to know, since he has seen you on a wide variety of telecasts, which sport is your favorite to cover?

A - Hi Brett! I like to think of it like vacations. As much as you might love taking trips, you always look forward to going home. I really enjoy getting to work different The Cotton Bowl and Supercross, which I just worked over the last two weeks...but there's a certain "just right" feeling that comes with returning to NASCAR each season. Plus, I think working other sporting events helps sharpen my skills...and (hopefully) makes me a better NASCAR reporter, too!

Q - Michelle would like to know what is your most treasured memory from your experiences covering motorsports?

A - Great question, Michelle. I think if you ask just about anyone who works in this sport their answer would somehow revolve around the people. You hear it said a lot that NASCAR is a family, and it really is! But it's not just the drivers and teams with whom you form's the media members, the officials, the support staff that travels to and from the races each week. But if I had to name one specific moment from this past year, it would be hosting the Nextel All-Star Challenge. I've got to thank Speed President Hunter Nickell for giving me that opportunity. I loved getting the chance to sell the energy of the All-Star race to the fans at home. I hope I did it justice!

Q - TexasRaceLady would like to know how hard is it to concentrate on your interviews for NASCAR on Fox with all the race chaos going on around you?

A - You know, it's funny...because I really think most of us are able to just tune it out. Pre-race festivities are so crazy...and a lot of times, we have certain drivers we're zeroing in on for interviews. If you lose sight of your driver, for even a second, he'll be gone. So you really have to keep the tunnel vision turned on. I remember at the Daytona 500 last year, I had Jimmie Johnson lined up for an interview. I had been sticking to him like gum. But once the interview was done, I turned around and there was Cal Ripken. He had been standing there the whole time, but I was so focused on keeping track of Jimmie that I hadn't even noticed! PS...TexasRaceLady, love your track!

Q - Richard in NC has heard stories about Dale Earnhardt Sr. and the fact he like to have fun with the various TV reporters. Do you have any experiences with NASCAR personalities that like to try and throw you off in a nice way?

A - Yes I do, Richard! Ryan Newman is a classic. I love interviewing him, because he's so smart. If I don't come prepared, he'll call me out on it, for sure! But I love that challenge. Plus, we're on a last-name basis with each other! Matt Kenseth has a great sense of humor. Back in the Totally NASCAR days, I was on my way to do a story with him, and I was running late. He called to (jokingly) say he wasn't going to wait around for me. So, once on site, I told him I got a speeding ticket and it was all his fault. Needless to say, he didn't fall for it!

Q - Kevin P. is one of many fans who were disappointed when you left SPEED a while back. He wonders if you will now be taking a more high-profile role in NASCAR or will you be doing the Truck pre-race and pit reporting for Fox as your 2008 assignments?

A - Hi Kevin. It's ironic how things have a way of working out for the best. I had left Speed in the summer of 2005 to work for a sports network in Pittsburgh. When that job didn't work out (I'd love to be able to tell you why...but the GM never returned any of my calls to tell me why!?). Luckily...thanks to good people like Rick Miner, Pete Richards, and Frank Wilson...I was able to continue to work for Speed, and at the end of that season was offered a NCTS pit reporting position. That led to my current roles with Speed and Fox...and yes, they will be the same for 2008. As far as doing anything more "high-profile" in the future...I've got to say, pit reporting at the network level feels pretty high-profile to me!

Q - SallyB asks that as one of the first women to be regularly features on NASCAR TV shows, how did you find your reception in the NASCAR garage and the NASCAR community in general?

A - Of the three networks that now broadcast Nextel (oops,) Sprint Cup races, I'm proud to be the "veteran" of the female pit reporters. I'm equally proud to have been the first female to regularly host a pre-race show for one of NASCAR's major series...both The Set Up on Speed, and the 2007 Nextel All-Star Challenge. But being a female in NASCAR is a path that was definitely laid out way before I came along. Women like Lee Spencer of and Claire B. Lang of XM Radio have been covering the sport for a long time...and Jeanne Zelasko was on pit road for Fox before me. So guys in the garage were already accustomed to seeing female reporters and their reaction to having females cover their sport is a positive one...on one condition. You come prepared! Women are more scrutinized, but you know what, that's fine with me. I'm OK with people doubting long as they give me the chance to prove their perceptions wrong. Which I will! (Girl power, Sally!)

Q - Tammy from PA asks if you can give us a snapshot of the life of a pit reporter on race day, and if the pit reporter assigned to a car does the follow-up on that team if the car wrecks or breaks and is out of the race. (Meaning do you leave pit road during the race?)

A - Hi Pennsylvania Tammy! As a pit reporter, my busiest days are actually those leading up to a race....doing research mid-week and covering the practice and qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday. Once the day of the race arrives, most of my prep work has been done. I spend the morning making any final adjustments to my notes and chart, and going through the garage area to talk one more time with the teams I'll be covering that day. Our assignments are made by our pit producer, Pam Miller. She divides pit road into 4 sections, with each of us...Steve Byrnes, Dick Berggren, Matt Yocum, and myself...getting about 11 teams. If a car wrecks, the person who goes to the garage is usually determined according to geography...whoever has the section that is closet to the garage or Infield Care Center entrance. If I'm assigned to the garage, I try to cover my area's pit stops before running back to get the interview with the driver who just wrecked. Sometimes I have to head to the garage immediately. We also each have pit spotters who are invaluable to our jobs. My right-hand man is John Gelzer. He is another set of eyes and ears for me. During a race, we both listen to scanners to try to catch as much information from the teams in our area as possible. John is the best! I'd be lost without him.

Q - Tracy wonders what do you wish you could do as a NASCAR pit reporter that you cannot do now?

A - Wow, Tracy...fantastic question. You might have a future as a reporter! I wish we could interview the winning driver immediately following the race. If you've noticed on TV, there is quite a bit of down time between when the driver takes the checkered flag and when he hits victory lane. I would love to be able to run out on the track and grab him right after he's done doing his burnout! But NASCAR rules require those interviews be done in Victory Lane. (although, I remember seeing that rule "bent" once last year). I understand NASCAR's stance...after all, sponsors pay big money to see their Victory Lane is where the photographers are stationed. So, I don't anticipate that rule changing...but you did ask me to wish, right?! The cool part is, as the network TV provider, we..meaning FOX during the first part of the year...get the first interview with drivers before, during, and after a race.

Q - Busch Series Fan wants to know, since we always seem to talk TV, what do you do for fun, and what are your favorite hobbies?

A - Hey there Busch Series should change your name to Truck Series Fan!
I enjoy all sports, but some of my favorite hobbies include: bike riding...both my pedal powered and my 125cc dirtbike and scuba diving. In fact, I'll be featured in next month's Scuba Diving magazine. One of my most "high-flying" experiences was when I got to skydive for a producer, Becky Blankenship did it too! I always look forward to hanging out with my nieces and nephews...although, I don't get to see them as often as I'd like! Oh, yes...I also enjoy concerts...especially 80s big-hair band reunion tours. Hey, you can always check out more about what I do in my free time and find out what I have coming up on my schedule, on my website: (re-vamped picture gallery coming soon!)

Q - Tom in Dayton, OH wonders on the Truck Series shows how you deliver information that can be understood by the new fans without alienating the veteran group?

A - First off, I love the Truck Series. Tom, we have so much fun working those of the major reasons, is because our production crew is the best in the biz. Keith D'alessandro, Roger Vincent, Dave Lee, Steve Craddock, Flannie, Joel, Avery, Jamie the Craftsman Girl, Mark, Jennifer, Lauren, and Debbie are all people you may not see each week, but without them...the show would not go on! And of course, the on-air group...Rick, Phil, Michael, Ray, and amazing. Two other things that make the truck series special are the drivers and the fans. The drivers are genuine and giving of their time and the fans are loyal and passionate. We feel like the NCTS fan is a more experienced NASCAR fan than the general public. So, in my opinion, it's actually easier to deliver information in the truck series than it is in the Cup series. I feel like the truck series fans have already done their homework. Therefore, it's important to make sure I do mine, too!

Q - Matt in NYC wants to know why you do not become a pit reporter for the Trucks after you host the pre-race show?

A - Well, Matt, sometimes it just boils down to logistics. At certain races, we only have resources (cameras, personnel, etc) for 2 pit reporters. After every race, the guys scramble to tear down our Set Up stage before the race goes green...(If you've noticed, we are often "set up" right on pit other show can say that)! The same operator who ran a camera for the pre-race show may have to head to a different part of the track to run a different camera for the race. I did pit report for 3 races this past year...both Martinsvilles and Homestead. But, also, in the first part of the year, not being in the pits for the trucks allows me a little more time to concentrate on my Fox duties. And I can use every second!

Q - Darcie in Wisconsin is a huge Steelers and Penguins fan, and she asks if you have had to fight your way through any sexism, what sport is better about that than the others, and if you think your gender helps or hinders you in your motorsports TV career?

A - A Steelers fan in WI? Can't say I've seen too many Packer fans here in 'da burgh! Keep it going, Darcie! Like I told Sally, in her question above, you always fight perceptions. That's our society. But I'm guilty of it too. I want to know that someone belongs in a role...that they didn't just get it based on how they look...and that goes for male OR female. I think being a female can help open a door, but it's up to me to keep that same door from slamming shut. For instance, if a huge group of reporters is surrounding an athlete during an interview, that athlete may turn to me for a question. But if that question is not a good one, he will not turn back again. I'm only going to get one shot. So I have to make it good.

Q - A fellow Iowan has seen you interview all kinds of NASCAR personalities, and wonders if you have a favorite interview and someone who you really dread having to deal with?

A - What's up, Iowa?! Love hearing from someone who can appreciate Happy Joes, Culvers, and Dan Gable! I really don't have anyone I dread interviewing. Obviously, everyone has their good days and bad. Like I mentioned above, I always enjoy talking to, and joking around with, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth. You might not realize it, but Tony Stewart is one of the most generous drivers in the garage. And Robby Gordon is incredibly honest. Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards are extremely down to earth. But the driver I probably respect more than any other is Mark Martin. He is so dedicated, and you can hear it in his voice when you talk to him. PS...Tell everyone in Iowa I said hello!

Q - We have several different questions about Ray Dunlap. Fans want to know what it is like working with him, and with all his racing knowledge do you find yourself asking him questions about the Truck Series?

A - X-ray is just inside look into everything NCTS! I love working with Ray. He would do anything for the guys in the Truck Series...and they know it. After all, everyone who works in that garage...from the tire changers to the officials to the drivers...knows Ray. And he knows them. And he knows what chassis they were running the last time the series raced under a full moon. Seriously, he is Mr. Truck Series. That knowledge is irreplaceable.

Q - Amy from FL is one of many Michael Waltrip fans on this site, and she asks how you have found dealing with him to be and what your relationship with this driver/owner/broadcaster is like?

A - Michael is a riot. He is always so relaxed. If the rest of us are stressing during a commercial break, he is likely singing! Michael cares about the Truck Series, and, even as busy as he is, dedicates time to studying the series each week. We don't always see him as much, because he's pulled in so many different directions, but he's there when it counts.

Q - John from FL (just because he can) asks of all the pre-show guests that have been on The Set-Up in 2007, which show was the most memorable? The Mark Martin show with you freezing from Daytona comes to mind.

A - Ooh, good question! Shows come to mind as memorable for different reasons.
Memorable guest: Mark Martin or Tony Stewart
Martin because it was Daytona, the first show, and we nailed a big name guest like him!
Tony in Talladega because nobody thought we'd be able to get him, especially during the Chase!

Memorable weather: Las Vegas
So windy, I thought I was going to blow away...definitely needed a hat that afternoon!

Memorable storylines: Texas, in June
It was the first weekend following the passing of Bill France, Jr. We were the first NASCAR race broadcast on the air, and I thought we did a great job of honoring Mr. France with video tributes, personal stories, and professional delivery. I was extremely proud of our NCTS crew...(see above for all of their names)!

This interview with Krista is a fitting way to close-out this off-season series. Krista's personality and enthusiasm comes through in her answers as clearly as her professionalism and true love of NASCAR. What a pleasure to get her thoughts.

Once again, I would like to thank Steve Byrnes, Wendy Venturini, Mike Joy and Krista Voda for taking time to answer our questions. Also, a big thank you to the loyal Daly Planet readers who once again showed just how much racing knowledge is spread across this great country with these outstanding questions.

If you would like to comment on this interview with Krista Voda, please click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the instructions. There is nothing to join, and we do not want your email address. We just want your opinion on our final TV personality interview.

Thursday Testing Show On SPEED

This will be the page for reader comments on the 7PM Eastern Time version of SPEED's Pre-Season Thunder as they continue with this daily pre-season show.

With on-track action complete for the Sprint Cup Series and the first test session, the program moved into the studio. Steve Byrnes and Larry McReynolds co-hosted the show, with pre-recorded features and news reports from Bob Dillner and Jeff Hammond.

The network continued with a good amount of driver soundbites that touched on a lot of the new issues in testing as a result of the COT. These interviews featured the top teams and showed a good cross-section of teams and agendas.

It was nice to have Larry McReynolds back, because he speaks to a lot of fundamental issues that really show his all-around understanding of this series. His commentary in this first pre-season appearance was right on the money and continues to be accurate to the finest detail. Larry Mac was back.

This is the type of program that SPEED made the commitment to add for this season and with good results. Establishing for fans a daily show at 7PM during this run-up to Speedweeks is a very positive step for SPEED. This NASCAR series has also served as a promotional platform for SPEED's coverage of the Rolex 24 in late January.

If you have enjoyed the shows this week, please leave us your opinion below. Just click on the COMMENTS button and follow the instructions. Thanks again.