Every race weekend, fans see a nicely done broadcast by NASCAR’s TV partners. They see the finished product of a weeklong production broadcasting the race is. Countless hours go into preparing the show to make sure it’s as accurate as can be. It’s rare to get inside information on what goes on behind the scenes, but if you were to get it, who better to get it from than the host.
Nicole Briscoe has been around racing for years now. She began covering NASCAR for SPEED, but eventually moved on to her current position today at ESPN. She is one of the most likeable on air personalities for not only what she says on camera, but how she goes about doing it. When you watch the ESPN pre-race show, you see the real Nicole whose personality fits TV perfectly.
Her career has taken its twist and turns, but overall, she’s happy at where it has currently landed her. In an interview I did with Nicole, she shares how she got her start and some behind the scenes facts about how the broadcast goes on. You’ll find her answers funny, interesting, and even inspirational.
Jason: What got you interested in a career in journalism?
Nicole: A story I tell often is the 11 year old me, sitting on my pink beanbag, watching Tom Brokaw. I remember it starting with the first Gulf War, but my mom says I was always a very curious kid. I just wanted to know what was going on. I was also born into a family that pretty much bleeds green and gold….HUGE Green Bay Packers fans. It’s a Sunday tradition to watch the game as a family, and when I say family….I mean FAMILY….all of them. At a very young age, my mom suggested a career in sports broadcasting. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to do anything else.
Jason: Did you have a role model in the journalism world?
Nicole: My role models at an early age were the people I watched on a daily basis….the Tom Brokaws and the Peter Jennings. Oprah. As I got older and into my career, those “role models” changed. I have a great deal of respect for Suzy Kolber. She’s an incredible talent and incredibly hard working. Everyone could learn from her. I’ve also been very lucky to work with an incredible team of people the last couple of years, and I’ve learned so much from them: Allen Bestwick, Sage Steele, Ray Evernham and countless people behind the scenes. My role models are the people I respect in this business and in life.
Jason: Did you have motorsports in mind as a field you wanted to work in?
Nicole: No! If you would have said to me 10 years ago that I’d be doing this? I would have laughed in your face! It’s amazing the twists and turns of life, and its amazing how one seemingly simple event can lead you down a completely different and unexpected path. I’d always thought, growing up, that I’d be working in stick and ball. Football and baseball were the sports I watched growing up, and even now, the sports I follow most closely as a fan. I just never expected racing to play such a huge role in both my personal life and professional life, but boy am I happy it does! Those twists and turns of life led me to my husband and a pretty incredible job!
Jason: Was there something intriguing about racing that made you want to cover it?
Nicole: The first race I ever covered was the 2004 Indianapolis 500 and all of the events that led to the race…practice, qualifying, etc. I fell in love with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To say that track is special is a gross understatement! That event also introduced me to the speed. How can you not love this sport? And this sport’s balance between man and machine? It’s incredible!
Jason: What would a typical day for you at the track consist of?
Nicole: A typical day at the track consists of a lot of walking and talking. Walking around the garage. Talking to all the players. Talking to the people with whom I work….analysts and producers. And MEETINGS! Lots of meetings. Much of my day is spent working with the producers to make sure when Saturday and/or Sunday rolls around we’re presenting the best and most relevant pre-race topics. My goal is to make the viewer at home feel as if they have been at the track with us all weekend.
Jason: Sometimes you end up as a moderator on the pre-race shows when the conversation gets heated between the panel, are there any debates that you clearly remember?
Nicole: I can’t say there is a specific conversation that stands out, but I LOVE it when the talk is a bit heated or passionate. We’re really lucky in the Pit Studio. Yes, we work together, but we all really enjoy each other’s company as well. For the most part, our talks in the Pit Studio are exactly as they are when we’re out at dinner…we’re just wearing suits and ties in the Pit Studio. It would be really odd if we all sat there and just agreed with each other! Who does that in real life?! We want the show to be like 4 buddies sitting at a bar, intelligently talking about their favorite sport. Maybe with just a few more bells and whistles.
Jason: When the TV cameras go off following the pre-race show, how do you usually follow the race from the booth?
Nicole: The cameras may go off, but we’re still working. The Quicken Loans Pit Studio is kinda tricked out. We have 4 TVs in there. One has the race broadcast, two and three have the running order of the race with lap times, all the major stats, and points. The fourth TV is a stat lover’s dream! What the 3rd monitor doesn’t have, the 4th monitor does. Plus, Ray Evernham is an awesome addition to the group. His mind is just incredible, and he’s funny as all hell! We spend a lot of time talking about how the race is progressing and what calls we agree with and mostly the many, many, many with which we disagree. That’s the stuff you hear from us when we get in on the race broadcast.
Jason: Do you ever see yourself leaving your role as a racing journalist?
Nicole: I learned a long time ago to never say never! There is nothing wrong with keeping an open mind and growing through change.
Jason: What advice would you give someone who is interested in one day working in the racing media world?
Nicole: The advice I give anyone who wants to get into the media world is the same…whether it’s in racing or not. Work hard, start early, no job is ever too small, and work hard. Yes, I said that twice. A job is never gifted to anyone. You have to earn it, and even when you’ve earned it….you still have to work hard and keep growing. There is something else to keep in mind. It may seem “glamorous”, but it’s still a job. It’s not always fun, it’s not always easy, and you have to sacrifice. A job, no matter how cool it is perceived, is still a job….and I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone that loves their job ALL the time. It’s important to have realistic expectations.
You can follow Nicole on twitter @RB_Mrs.
By Jason Schultz