Fox is making some significant changes to its racing hosting setups this year, and Shannon Spake and Kaitlyn Vincie are at the center of that. Spake (our most recent Awful Announcing podcast guest) joined Fox in 2016 as a multi-sport reporter and began serving as the regular host of NASCAR Race Hub in early 2017; this year will see her moving from hosting the Fox Xfinity Series pre-race show at the track to hosting both Monster Energy Cup Series and Xfinity prerace shows in the new virtual studio in Charlotte, as well as hosting network coverage of all Cup and Xfinity series races, while still maintaining her role on NASCAR Race Hub.
Vincie joined Speed in 2012 and has been filling a variety of roles on racing broadcasts since then, including as a pit reporter for Truck Series races from 2015-18 and as a reporter on NASCAR Race Hub; she’ll be keeping that Race Hub role, but will also be hosting Truck Series pre-race show NASCAR RACEDAY-NGOTS from the Charlotte studio. Both Spake and Vincie spoke to AA recently about the changes ahead for them this season, and both said they’re thrilled to get the chance to take these hosting roles.
“I’m so thrilled and so excited,” Spake said. “I know what an enormous opportunity it is. And to have an opportunity and step into a role that’s been filled by someone I’ve admired for so long, and to be a woman in this role, it’s just incredible. I’m really excited to get this season started. I want Daytona to come tomorrow!”
Vincie said it’s exciting to see women in these hosting roles in a sport where broadcasts have traditionally been mostly male.
“It’s a very male-dominated sport, so I think that it’s nice to see women making those advances and taking on roles like this. And hopefully it encourages other young women who might be watching the sport or looking to get involved in it that this is a place for women as well.”
Spake said there’s strong representation of women throughout racing, but it’s nice to be able to show that on air. She feels she’s representing the many other women in the NASCAR world.
“Look up and down pit row; whether it’s PR people or writers or whatever, I feel like we are so represented. And now to be represented in what I think is the highest-profile spot in that pre-race show, it’s incredible and I think it’s such an honor, and I am so excited to be representing all of the women in NASCAR…women who have been great friends and very close to me and have seen me grow up and been there for me a lot of times through this journey.”
Vincie started doing racing coverage in college, and said she found the sport fascinating from the start.
“I first kind of came into racing when I was in college studying journalism. I always had an affinity for journalism; my parents have videos of me at 12 years old doing the morning news. I wanted to do sports, and when I was in college I went to my first race, and I absolutely loved it. I had garage passes, and just seeing all the effort that goes into preparing and building the racecars and the intricacies of the mechanical side of it, the engineering, all the road mechanics, everyone has their role and it’s really just organized chaos down there. It was really intriguing, and I thought ‘I want to report on this sport. This looks like something that would be challenging, but very fun.’”
“I didn’t grow up around racing, I didn’t have ties to it with my family, I just kind of came into it on my own and I had to learn everything from the ground up, which is pretty challenging. It’s a very complex sport; there’s a lot of things that change from season to season, even weekend to weekend as far as car setups, and the tire compounds that the teams are bringing, and the type of racetracks that you’re competing on, and keeping up with sponsor changes and crew chief swaps, and this driver going from this organization to that organization. It’s a lot, and it’s a very long season, but I absolutely love it. There’s a lot of really compelling characters that make up the personalities in the sport of NASCAR. It’s a pretty unique sort of family unit that travels around on the circuit and the people that are involved in it. It’s a very kind of special community, I think.”
Vincie said her love for racing’s only grown with time, and she’s thrilled to now get the chance to serve as a pre-race show host.
“Every year I kind of love it a little bit more. And as a young teenager, wanting to be a broadcast journalist in NASCAR, it’s very rewarding to now step into a host role and be the face of a pre-race show, a series that I really love that is very important to me.”
Spake said she’s optimistic fans will be accepting of female hosts, as she’s always felt supported in her NASCAR work.
“I hope so. I started doing this in 2007 and when I came back, I stepped away from racing for a while and then when I came back, I felt I was welcomed with open arms. I feel like once you’re part of this family, you’re truly part of this family. I have, in many ways, truly grown up in the NASCAR garage. I wasn’t married when I started covering racing, I didn’t have kids. Then I was 27 weeks pregnant running around in an expandable firesuit, running around in the pit back in 2009-10. I feel like I know race fans and they know me, I don’t feel like I’ve ever held anything back from them, they’ve known me for a really long time, so I’m hoping that this shift to this role is as seamless as some of the other moves that I’ve made.”
Spake’s Cup Series hosting role will be similar to what Chris Myers has done for the last 18 years (except from the virtual studio in Charlotte instead of the Hollywood Hotel setup at the track). She said she’s long admired Myers, and is thrilled to get the chance to fill his shoes.
“I’ve watched Chris in that Hollywood Hotel for 18 years, and watched him have this role and bring our NASCAR pregame coverage and race coverage to where it is now. And not only that, Chris is the epitome of a three-sport reporter, and he does even more than just three; he does baseball, he does the dog show, he does NASCAR, football, and so much more. And my entire life…when we talked in 2016, I made that completely obvious that my goal all along was to do as much as I could, to be involved in as many sports as I possibly could, so when you watch somebody for so long who has a job that you aspire to have one day, you certainly model on them. And now that I’ve done those things, and I’ve certainly covered multiple sports and moved from one venue to the next, I know how challenging it can be. And he’s done it so gracefully for such a long period of time, and you have to admire that about him.”
Moving that role from the track to the studio will carry some challenges, but Spake said she feels the new capabilities they have there will make it a win for viewers.
“The energy that you get at the racetrack, you certainly can’t get that from walking from your dressing room to your studio, it’s not the same as driving through the infield on a golf cart and feeling the energy of the stands and the cars. But the people I’m going to have around me and myself, we’ve done this for a very long time, we’ve been in that garage for a long, long time, we know what that energy is like. When you see the studio that we have, it’s incredible. It’s absolutely incredible what we’re going to be able to do and how we’re going to be able to serve the fan and bring them inside the racecars. And these graphics packages that we have, they take you inside the racecar. …I just think this is going to be a massive leap to the next level.”
Vincie said working in that studio has been remarkable so far.
“It obviously is very different from the traditional TV experience that I’ve done in the past in the sense that you’re on a desk with your analysts, but all the walls around you are green. You’re not seeing anything else in that set. You still have three cameras in front of you and the monitors underneath are showing you what the viewers are seeing, but for you, as the talent on the set, you don’t actually see any of that. It really is pretty remarkable, though, when I started to see all the pieces come together and what they were capable of doing: bringing racecars up out of the floor, 3D cams of the drivers’ full bodies that you can bring up out of the floor, there’s a digital car that they’re going to use to really look into the mechanical side of things, to point out different parts and pieces on the car. If there’s something that goes wrong, you can refer to this virtual car to really digest what happens. So that part is very neat.”
“It’s something totally unique in sports broadcasting right now, and that’s why it’s so exciting for all of us to be the first ones to use it. …It’s been a huge undertaking for a lot of people at Fox for over a year, and the people who helped build the graphics and stuff are the same masterminds behind Fortnite, so it’s really neat to see that kind of crossover. It’s fascinating when you see it.”
Another shift with that virtual studio is that it will mean Vincie and Spake get more time at home. Both are mothers (Vincie has a one-year-old daughter, Spake has twin nine-year-old boys), and Spake said she’s excited to be able to spend more time with her kids this way.
“It is a lot of work and we’re going to be in the studio a lot, but I’m not travelling this year, so I think that’s going to change things drastically for me. My kids are now nine years old, and it’s funny because I’ve been travelling their entire lives, going to airports, going to venues, and it’s just right now, within the last six months, that they’ve started saying ‘Mommy, we don’t want you to go. Mommy, why do you have to go to work?’ So it’s almost like they can see that the change is happening, and really it’s at the perfect time. I’ll be able to go to soccer practice on Saturday before I head into the studio to do the Xfinity stuff, I’ll be able to go to church on Sunday before I head in, I’ll be home every night for dinner and for breakfast in the morning. It’s going to be a lot of work in terms of what we’re doing out of that studio seven days a week, but I think in terms of me coming off the road, it’s going to be a lot different and give me more time at home.”
Spake’s still going to be awfully busy, with weekday Race Hub hosting and weekend race hosting (plus her other interests, such as Ironman triathlons), but she said that’s not new for her.
“I’m used to being busy! My whole career has been balancing. When I started doing racing with ESPN back in 2007, we did the entire what was the Nationwide, now the Xfinity Series. We did the entire series from start to finish and a large portion of the Cup stuff. And then I was trying to do basketball and other sports, so even in the offseason, I would go do hoops and football games, so I didn’t have an offseason.”
And while what she’s doing at Fox has shifted significantly since she first came to the network, Spake said she’s thrilled about the different opportunities she’s had, and especially excited for this new hosting role.
“My role has certainly evolved during my time with Fox, I was able to do that first year of college football and then an entire season of college basketball, and then the opportunity to do RaceHub was offered to me, to grow in that role. I’d done a little hosting but not a whole lot, but the opportunity to grow in that role was a dream come true for someone who is constantly looking to evolve in their profession. And now I get to do NFL, starting with nine games last year which evolved to 14 games this year.”
“They continue to give me opportunities, which all of us in our profession, that’s all we want, right? All we want is the opportunity to prove that we can do it and to continue to grow, and that’s what they’ve absolutely 100 percent allowed me to do. …I’m living my dream job right now, which is incredible, and now to have this opportunity to represent the women on Sundays in the NASCAR world, because we are so represented in the NBA, the NFL, and now to have the opportunity to do that in NASCAR is a dream come true.”
[Photos courtesy of Fox Sports]