Mom of twin boys, Shannon Spake started working for ESPN to cover NASCAR. Shannon will be in the pit covering the Coke 600 this weekend! Read more about Shannon and how she got started with ESPN!
Q. How did you get started with ESPN?
A. I was hired in 2007 when ESPN regained the NASCAR contract. I was originally hired to cover NASCAR exclusively, but have been able to branch out and I now cover NASCAR, College basketball and College football.
Q. Were you a NASCAR fan before you joined ESPN?
A. Growing up in South Florida, I was a fan of all stick and ball sports NASCAR wasn't on my radar. I moved to Charlotte in 2003 and that's when I really started to follow the sport. I also spent the 2006 season working at The Speed Channel, so I certainly had an appreciation for NASCAR.
Q. What all do you get to do from the pit?
A. I tell the "story of the race" for the teams in my "section" of pit road (we divide the pits based on the number of pit reporters on the broadcast, which ranges from 3-4) . I listen to the scanners and closely follow all of the changes and challenges the teams experience. I've had as few as 5 teams and as many as 24 in one broadcast! Theres often a lot of running from one pit stall to the next.
Q. What is your favorite part about your job?
A. Wow, this is a tough one because I truly love everything about my job. I love being part of a live sporting event and the ultimate satisfaction you feel when the game/race is over and you know you were part of something special. Victory Lane and post-game interviews with the winner (especially when it's a thrilling finish) is always very exciting.
Q. So you worked the sidelines while pregnant with twins, how was that?
A. Challenging! Races can be very long and hot. Towards the end of my pregnancy (I worked until 28 weeks) I would spend most of the race sitting on Goodyear tires on pit road. I also knew the location of every Port-a-John! There are no "time-outs" in racing and as most pregnant women know when you have to go to the bathroom, you have to go! Thankfully, I never had to do a report from inside a Port-a-Johns during one of my "visits". (I still laugh when I think about how close this came to happening).
Q. Do your boys now enjoy going to races?
A. I have brought each of the boys to one race. (Brady went to Talladega last October and Liam went to Martinsville in March). They love it! Almost every day I hear one of them say "Can we go to the track". They've met Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus, Richard Petty and Clint Bowyer.
Q. How are you able to juggle work with family life?
A. Two things. Schedule and my husband! I couldn't live without my I-Calendar and Excel spreadsheets. Everything is color coded and I literally have stuff planned through the end of the year. My family will travel with me 4-5 times this year plus we have some family vacations planned, so I have to make notes about everything so I know when and where we are going and if the tickets are booked (I have nightmares about showing up at the airport and realizing I never purchased tickets!) The second part to this answer is my husband he is my rock! He also works full-time, plus he stays with the boys when I travel (I was home a total of 3 days in March because of the NASCAR and College basketball overlap). I couldn't do this without him.
Q. Are they able to travel with you?
A. Yes, I just started having the family travel with me on business trips. The boys turned 3-years-old in January and they are now potty trained, before these milestones it was very challenging to take them along. Sometimes the entire family goes with me, sometimes I take one of my sons at a time. This way, I am able to spend someone on one time with each of my sons .We call it "our special days"! They love flying on the airplane and staying in hotels!
Q. What is your favorite sport to cover?
A. I know this sounds like the most PC answer in the world but I love them all. NASCAR is like family. I have been a part of this sport for 7 full seasons, I've shared births, deaths and everything in between with the people who work in this sport that makes it very special. Meanwhile, the atmosphere in college sports is electric! The history, the bands, the fans who sit in their seats until the very last minute. I am very lucky to be a part of all of it.
Q. Do you ever face challenges being a woman covering NASCAR or college ball?
A. No. I've never felt like being a woman has limited or challenged me. I actually feel like it allows you to connect on a different level, especially being a mommy. Most of the coaches and almost all of the drivers have kids. We can relate and talk about our family. I was lucky to be part of the "NASCAR baby boom" (the period between 2009-2011 when a handful of drivers became first time daddy's). We went from talking about setups and tire pressure to bottles and strollers!