Profession: Racing reporter
Hometown: South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
- Joined ESPN in 1998; also had stints at NBC, Speed Channel and TNN
- Covers the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide series; also covers X Games and IZOD IndyCar series
- Just released Essential Car Care for Women with co-author Danielle McCormick
Jamie Little is breaking barriers on the racetrack as one of a handful of female reporters in the pits.
The ESPN and ABC reporter is a fixture on the NASCAR, Indy and motocross scenes. Off the track, she’s branching out as the co-author of the new book, Essential Car Care for Women.
She’s also juggling another role on the home front as a new mom. She loves cars and speed, but on the road, she tries to take it slower driving her young son, Carter, in her “mommy-mobile” – a 2012 GMC Yukon Denali SUV.
Why did you buy a Yukon Denali?
I’ve always loved cars, but we decided on a big Yukon Denali a few months ago. I loved cars before, but once I had the baby, I needed room so I went for the biggest thing I could find, other than a Suburban.
Did you cross shop it against a Mercedes-Benz GL or BMW X5?
I’ve had the X5 before – absolutely love them. I had a BMW X3 before this vehicle.
Compared to the room, comfort, and easy in-and-out with the baby in the car seat, this car just seemed easier. It has a lot more room for the dogs and the baby stuff. We opted for this instead of the BMW, the Tahoe, or the Jeep Grand Cherokee we compared it to.
Do you know what’s under the hood?
I know it’s a V-8. I know it has quite a bit of horsepower, that’s for sure. But it’s not a sports car in any way.
What initially sparked your interest in cars?
I had a love for motorcycles – I loved dirt bikes growing up. And that transferred into auto racing and automobiles.
When I turned 16, I was all about buying my first vehicle myself and learning all of the ways to take care of it. And the more I learned throughout the years covering racing made me appreciate and love cars that much more.
Do you own a motorcycle, too?
No. I sold them before the baby came. I’m definitely eager to get a motorcycle again, but a dirt bike, not a street-legal.
What does a Yukon Denali say about you?
I’m a mom. I like comfort. I like style. I’m practical.
I think when it comes to having animals and kids, it’s a practical vehicle. If I was impractical I would have something like the Escalade, which is a little more expensive.
But it must be a gas guzzler?
No, it’s not too bad. It hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be.
The X5 – I actually had two of those – that was a gas guzzler. But this doesn’t seem to be too bad. I think GM has done a good job at maintaining fuel economy with such a big vehicle.
What was your first car?
It was a huge Nissan truck– I don’t even remember the model.
I bought it used in 1996. It was a ’94. I just saw that little pickup and it was perfect for me. It was something I could afford, which is the main thing. I’ve always been a tomboy so I guess that’s something else about me. I like the SUVs and I’ve always loved trucks. Being up higher, I feel it’s a little safer.
After that, I had a Volkswagen Jetta – the girl-mobile for a while.
Then I went to the BMW. I absolutely love BMWs. I love what they’re all about. I love that tight feel on the wheel and the way it hugs the road. I love that sporty feel, which is why I was really really drawn to the X5 and the X3. You get that sports car feel in a bigger car.
Do you like speed?
Oh yeah. I’ve probably done five-six driving schools in my career and I’ve raced once in the Toyota Car Celebrity race in 2008 and I won it! We were up against some pros as well. I became the second woman ever to win that race!
I love to race. I think, if I didn’t do the job I do now, I’d probably pursue being a race car driver. But I think I made the right choice, getting paid to talk about it.
Any speeding tickets?
As a matter of fact, I had two last week. I hadn’t had one since college.
I was in Ohio on a long cross-state trip with my son. I was going from race to race, working the Indy 500. We drove from Indiana up to Ohio and I got a speeding ticket when I entered the state and I got a ticket for following too closely when I was leaving the state. I’ve never even heard of such a thing! Ohio is notorious for tickets. Not a good week for my driving record.
Any mishaps on the road or track?
On the road, I’ve had little fender benders here and there as a teenager.
But in the driving school I was in an open-wheel car and I was pushing it a little hard, got sideways, spun out and hit the wall. I broke the suspension and all kinds of components. It was $1,500 in damage. I got to feel what it’s like for a race-car driver.
Do you prefer driving a stick or automatic?
I love a stick. I made sure I could drive one before I got my licence. I think it’s important for everyone to know how to use one. I think they’re more fun and you’re in more control. I love it!
What’s your dream car?
I’m definitely looking at getting a date car – I’m eyeing something like the new Corvette. It’s a dream car that I would love to have in the next few years.
You’re in a male-dominated industry; what advice do you have for young women entering the field?
You have to be passionate about what you’re covering and what you’re pursuing. And you have to fight for your spot in the world, so to speak.
I was very passionate about racing. It wasn’t about being a girl in a man’s world. I just followed my heart and believed in it. And then other people believe in you as well and they don’t look at you like, ‘Oh, that’s the girl reporter’ – they look at you as, ‘Oh, that’s one of the reporters and this is what she said.’
Men that are new to a broadcast are automatically grandfathered in because they’re a man and they’re assumed to know everything about cars and racing. That’s not always true.
Women are definitely looked at through a magnifying glass when they’re new in a man’s world. You’re accepted when people know they can trust you and you know just as much as the guys. Then you’re welcomed.
It’s not male versus female. You have to see yourself as one of the team or its not going to work.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Twitter: @PetrinaGentileReport Typo/Error