:In response to a question from a fan:
“……I'm OK with people doubting me...as long as they give me the chance to prove their perceptions wrong. Which I will!”
Message to our readers:
“I have really been humbled as of late with the kindness and openness from the Women in NASCAR. The women I’ve been so lucky to speak with have been extremely kind and very passionate about what they do. My hope is that you as the reader are, at the very least, feeling that passion.”
Lindi Bess, Columnist
I recently spoke to Krista about her goals, her passions and her career. I hope you all enjoy getting to know her better, and you too may become a fan. She is very knowledgeable in regards to NASCAR and its drivers. I actually learned a lot just listening to her speak regarding the ins and outs of motorsports.
So, we’ll begin, as we normally do, with a little background on Krista. Then we’ll move on to the Q&A session. Please sit back, relax and enjoy a cup of coffee as you get to know this Woman in NASCAR.
Krista Voda was born on May 31, 1974, in Clinton, Iowa, to parents Richard and Sue Voda. She grew up in Iowa and was an Iowa girl through and through. Born there, went to school there, lived in one house since she was a little kid. To this day her parents still reside there. In high school, Krista was active in sports such as volleyball, basketball, and track and field, receiving letters in all of them.
In an interview, Voda was quoted as having said:
”I grew up a stick-and-ball sports fan all the way. Obviously, growing up in Iowa, I was a big college sports fan. ... NASCAR kind of found me.”
In 1993 Krista attended Clinton Community College. While attending there, she became a disc jockey at KROS-AM, working the 6 p.m. to midnight shift.
Krista attended the University of Northern Iowa, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in business communications. She recently married Phillip "PK" Kelley on Jan. 23 in Pittsburgh. Kelley is an independent contractor in network television and a familiar face in the NASCAR garage area. The couple reside near Pittsburgh, Pa.
As a young girl, who did you look up to?“As a young girl I’d have to say my parents. I was very fortunate to be raised in pretty much an All-American surrounding. Small town Iowa, parents who are still married and supported everything my brother, sister and I did. From sports, student activities, student council, all the things we did they encouraged us to get involved in as many activities as possible.
"When I look back now, I would have to say I am really impressed by and in awe of my grandparents. I only have one grandmother who is still alive of the four. I was raised with two sets of grandparents who were both married for more than 50 years. You don’t realize as a kid - I didn’t realize how impressive that is, but when you get out in the real world and you see all of these obstacles kids have to go through nowadays, I was really lucky to be raised in a quintessential, Norman Rockwell environment. Hopefully that led to my being encouraged to try different things. So I would say looking back, I am very impressed with their relationships.”
Krista"chaperoned" Ron Hornaday and Ricky Carmichael on their first trip to the Iowa State Fair (2009)...where they proudly posed with that year's winning boar!
How many siblings do you have? Older/younger? Careers?
“I have one brother, Scott Voda and one sister, Kim Ottens. (Both are die-hard fans as is her grandma, Barb Jurgensen, also of Clinton.) I am the oldest. Kim lives in Clinton, Iowa, and Scott and his family live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So my parents are centrally located now between my brother and I. We’re both about 10 hours away from them, me to the east and him to the west. I was sort of the oddball. I was the one who ventured out and said I was going to go and live in a whole bunch of different places and do a whole bunch of different things. When you're from a little town in Iowa, that’s sort of big dreams. I’ve been very fortunate in that it's worked out. But even though I’m the oldest, I acted like I was the youngest. My brother and sister got married before I did, had kids before I did. I just recently got married this year. Even though I’m the oldest, my mom would say I acted the youngest; that’s not necessarily a good thing. (She laughs)
When did your love for sports began?
“Since we were encouraged to take part in many different activities, I played volleyball, basketball and ran track all through high school. I was also in gymnastics at a young age, and actually competed at a young age. Dad is a big sports fan so it was part of my environment. He’d watch college basketball and college football games on the weekend. Sports were always something we took part in actively or just watched.”
What were your childhood aspirations?
“I can go pretty far back and still remember wanting to be in broadcast journalism and wanting to be a sportscaster. I wouldn’t say I always wanted to be in broadcasting, though. When you’re a kid you go through a wide range. You might start off with a teacher, then a doctor, then a astronaut, a fighter pilot. I can remember in fifth grade wanting to be a sports medicine doctor. Because actually I’m sort of off a little, just a little bit because I use to like scars, and blood, guts and gore. I thought it would be cool to operate on knees and feet bones and all that stuff. So I thought sports medicine doctor was the way I would go.
"But then I realized you got do a lot of math and a lot of science. I sort of just rather ... I was a fan of language and creative writing. Then I thought hmmm … talking for a living. That might be more my ticket.” (Laughing)
Do you have a plan B in case this didn’t work out for you?
“That’s a good question. I think it's important to have a plan and contingency options. But I knew I always want to write and to tell stories. Not necessarily on TV, although it's worked out great because I enjoy the performance aspect of being in front of a camera. But for me the writing was actually more important. Writing and telling stories with my words for a magazine, doing public relations. Just knew I wanted to be in some aspect of the business. So I wouldn’t say I had a plan B; But I wanted to be involved somehow, just didn’t know what that would be.
"Doing local news, where I originally got started, which was always an option as well. Do a great amazing juicy story one day, then the next day you're at a council meeting. With such highs and lows, and sports always seems exciting. Even if you're at a boring basketball game, there is action. Something is moving. Sports was definitely more of a passion. But I always knew that I wanted to be somewhere where I got to write.”
Do you work with both FOX and SPEED?
Yes I do. The way it works is that FOX owns SPEED. I essentially have two parts to my season. FOX has the first chunk of the year. That’s sort of my priority for the first part of the year. When FOX has the races, I do pit reporting for FOX, get to host the All-Star event and the Gatorade Duels. So I get to also do some hosting as well.
"When the FOX season ends, I go strictly to the SPEED side where I do The SPEED Report on Sundays, the Race Hub, which is a daily show. I also do Trackside currently. Then I do the Truck Series all year long. So it does cross over a little bit. It does cross over where I’m doing the truck series on Friday and Saturday then I do the pit reporting on Sunday. I also have the opportunity to do football with FOX as well. I worked the Cotton Bowl the last four years as the pre-game host and sideline reporter as well as at NFL games.”
So do you have time to breathe?
It’s exciting though! I’m sure everyone you talk to, the travel is a big chunk of the season. But I have chunks of time when I’m off. Chunks of downtime that a normal 9 to 5er wouldn’t have. But I might not have one for another month. When I have one, it’s a great one. It’s give and take! It is a busy schedule in terms of discipline for preparation and research but the nice part is that my research can be done at midnight to 6 a.m. then work a shorter office day than someone else.”
Are they dream jobs then? Are you doing what you want to be doing?
“I’m probably going to say what everyone else in the business says, we have the dream job. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other aspirations. I’d love to cover and Olympics, to work the Olympics. I’ve never worked the Olympics. It's so much bigger than sports.
"If someone told me that it all was going to end tomorrow, then I would be able to say that I’ve done what I’ve always wanted to. I write, tell stories and I get to work around sports. Never in a million years as a kid thought it would be racing because I didn’t grow up in a racing household. I grew up in a college football, stick-and-ball sports world.
"I’ve been involved with NASCAR since 2002. When I look around, and I don’t want to say I’m the veteran female, but I’ve been around a pretty long time. The longest on TV of the chicks. It's been very good to me. It’s become a part of me. Now when you log onto the Internet, the first thing you look for is the NASCAR stories because it becomes a part of you. I do Trackside, NCWTS show, The Set-Up and The Speed Report.
“So, yes, if it ended tomorrow, I’ve been very blessed and very lucky.”
Let’s talk about Trackside. You seem to be feeling more and more at home. The rapport seems to be getting better and better with every show.
“The way that transpired is that Steve Byrnes wanted to do ( I used to do the Race Hub) the Race Hub, the daily show, for SPEED. I used to travel into Charlotte and Steve Byrnes would travel to the racetrack to do Trackside. We sort of flip-flopped a little bit. He has a young son and wanted to stay home a little more.
"Since I was at the track to do the CWTS, it sort of just worked out. It felt a little strange at first. Like I was in someone else's office because here I am on the stage in Steve Byrnes' chair. Steve has actually been my mentor in the business. When I first started on a show called Inside NASCAR on FOX Sports Network back in 2002, he was the host of the show and I was his reporter. He sort of took me under his wing and I learned a lot from him. So sitting in his chair seemed so wrong. But it was something Steve wanted, that is what made it OK for me. Now Steve is loving being at home and I’m loving doing the show with the guys. These are guys I’ve worked with, Jeff Hammond and Larry Mac, since the Totally NASCAR days. It’s a very natural group for me to be around. It's OK for me to tell them to shut up every now and then.”
Krista commented on her addition to Trackside recently:
“When I joined Totally NASCAR in 2002, Steve Byrnes became my mentor,” Voda said. “I consider it an honor to be chosen to keep his Trackside seat warm. My relationships with Larry (McReynolds), Jeff (Hammond), and Darrell (Waltrip) also date back to those early Totally NASCAR days and continue today with NASCAR on FOX. I've also worked with Elliott (Sadler) on various SPEED programs, so I'm pretty sure I'll be ready to ‘talk trash’ with all of those guys right away. My hope is that fans feel as comfortable with me as they have been with Steve all those years. One thing is for sure - we're going to have a lot of fun - something that definitely won’t change.”
SPECIAL LITTLE NOTE: I contacted Steve Byrnes for a brief comment on how he likes working with Krista. Below you will find his response:
“I first met Krista when she joined us on Totally NASCAR in 2002. She immediately started studying media guides, reading books and asked a lot of questions. She has worked so hard for her place in the sport, and the business of television.
"She conducts herself in such a professional manner. I have never heard anyone say a bad word about her. Krista is professional, accurate and entertaining.
"She is also a great teammate, and I'm honored to call her a friend.
"She consults with me on hair, make up and fashion ... OK, not really. If you want to get her cranked up, ask her how many tractors she owns.” Steve Byrnes
Do you remember your first job or assignment with NASCAR?
I was a weekend sports anchor for the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky. I covered NASCAR there but it was just hit or miss. You’d go to the speedway, you’d file a race report on Monday. I went to Daytona for the Daytona 500 to cover the Waltrips and the Green Brothers. Kind of the Kentucky angle. So I’d say my first time at Daytona was definitely an eye opener because all my time had been at the Kentucky Speedway prior to that.
"One of my first assignments with Totally NASCAR was actually going out to Dale Jarrett’s golf tournament. I remember thinking, 'What have I gotten myself into?' But it was just so much fun. I thought this is my world now. It’s not going to football games or practice anymore. It's going to a racetrack and drivers' events. I’m still telling stories about people and what they are doing, but with a different backdrop.”
Anyone who you would’ve loved to interview, past or present?
“That’s a great question. It's hard to remember them all. They sort of flash in front of you. I would say anytime you're doing an interview in the heat-of-the-moment situation which can happen any week at any time. For instance after a big wreck or a big win. I can’t (say) off the top of my head.”
Krista went on to say:
“If I’d been back in the days when it (NASCAR) started, it would’ve been exciting to interview Bill France Sr. Just to be in the room when the foundation was being built. Really anyone from that era that saw it all happen.
"I was fortunate enough to speak with Raymond Parks, although it wasn’t a long conversation. It was at the Hall of Fame event in May. You realize the stories and the history that surrounds you. One of my favorite people to this day because of what they’ve seen and witnessed is Barney Hall with MRN. So many stories. I would have to again say Bill France Sr. would have been so impressive.”
As a sportscaster, whom do you most admire?
“Definitely Steve Byrnes. But from a broadcasting standpoint, my idol was Bob Costas. He’s such an amazing storyteller. I followed horse racing quite a bit since my time in Kentucky and any time Bob Costas pops up it takes me back to when we both worked the derby together. I was with the NBC affiliate in Lexington and Bob was there for the network event. I just remember walking behind him, I was a little taller than him, and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh that’s Bob Costas.’ He turned and said hello because he’d seen me doing my broadcast. I remember thinking that this is why I got into it from hearing his stories and wanting to tell my own. That was a big day!”
Even on a much smaller scale, I had one of those moments recently at Auto Club Speedway when people approached me regarding my interviews on Skirts and Scuffs. With the WIN Series I’ve met several people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. So when I was recognized at the time it was really kind of cool.
“It’s true because we are all part of the same family. With social media has sort of changed the way reporting is done. The family has gotten bigger because more people are involved. But then it sort of makes it smaller at the same time because you have better access to everyone, so that’s really neat.”
What are your feelings on the ‘have at it boys’ policy when looking at Kyle Busch and David Reutimann and their recent incident?
“I love ‘have at it boys!' I just wrote an article for SPEED.com about that exact same thing. To me just because these guys are in the Chase it doesn’t mean that they don’t have every right to be racing for a win as hard as someone else. We had Ryan Newman on Trackside, and Ryan’s seen both sides of it having been in the Chase last year and out of it this year. He said, 'Absolutely, there is no etiquette that should be one guy just because he gets in the Chase, gets the position or we don’t race him as hard.' I completely agree with that.
"The old days where Cale Yarborough and the Allisons were duking it out in the infield at Daytona. That’s pure raw emotion and you can’t strap yourself to a giant piece of machinery and go as fast as these guys go and not step out of the car and not have that emotion. Can’t expect these guys to bottle it up and spew it out. It’s not fair to them or to the fans.
"That’s the playing field that NASCAR set up for itself. NASCAR has two things going on. You have the guys going for the championship, then you have the other guys sometimes racing with even more at stake. They may be racing for their future. For a job next year, for sponsorship, and there is sometimes a lot more on the line.”
What’s your take on the Kasey Kahne and RPM situation?
"That’s an interesting thing that’s actually just coming to the surface. I don’t think a lot of people were surprised. We knew that anytime there is something going on for the next season, which they already had announce, there are always rumors wandering about how much effort the driver is putting forth, where is their focus. I think it's always difficult. The people who are always hit the hardest are the team members. Especially those guys on the 9 team. They’ve been together as long as any group in the garage. Some have been with that car and that organization for a really long time. Their blood, sweat and tears are in every single bolt in that car. Those are the guys I really feel sorry for because they are sort of caught in the mix and sort of in limbo. That’s what’s really unfair. Things aren’t great over at RPM right now.”
In regards to the recent Hall of Fame nominees, Darrell Waltrip shared his feelings on not having been nominated. Do you think that has anything to do with his comments against NASCAR since his retirement?
“No, actually I don’t. Darrell Waltrip, no question, deserves to be in the HoF. He deserved to be in the very First Class had there been enough openings. He will be in the HoF. I work with Darrell and consider him a friend and I assumed he would have been a lock in on the Second Class. I think he’s a victim of his own success. He is such a powerful figure and his voice carries so much weight. He is such a great personality that I think they need a big name down the road. He will be in the Third Class. Same with Cale Yarborough. The only thing I could say to Darrell is just think the excitement gets to build again next year. No one is a bigger Hall of Famer than Darrell Waltrip.”
"I may be biased when it comes to Darrell because I work with him. Others don’t see him as I have. Joking around and being the life of the party. He’s such a friend, but also such a professional on and off the racetrack. I was sad not to see him get in but I hope he doesn’t take it personally, because I think he’d agree that all the guys who did get in deserved to be there.”
Click link to visit NASCAR HoF Website: NASCAR Hall Of Fame Inductees
Let's do a word association game on the five HoF inductees. I’ll give you their names and you throw out your first thought…
David Pearson: "Longevity, dubious ... as good as he was he’s always gonna be considered second fiddle to the King. He’s second in wins, he’s second in all of these glorifications. If it wasn’t for the King, and no one can stack up to him, but here’s David Pearson as close as anyone gets. What an amazing career and the class that he embodied."
Bobby Allison: "I just think of his smile. What a wonderful, wonderful man because he's so genuine, he’s so nice everytime you meet him. I love the fact that he’s a fighter because everytime you talk to him, he still to this day claims he has one more win than those NASCAR record books give him credit for. I think he will always fight for that. I love that about him. I love that he’s just as competitive today as he was when he was back racing."
Lee Petty: "Grandfather, patriarch. I think of all the things that Petty Motorsports has meant to NASCAR. His vision that he had back in his time. Having the vision for his organization in a sport that was unproven. The things that they did. There are some amazing artifacts from them in the HoF. They had calendars where they had written down where they were going that day, how much money they had won from each race, and notes about who’s taking what pieces and parts out to the garage. I think of his vision to think ahead and put all this together in times that were so uncertain."
Ned Jarrett: "Gentleman Jarrett, Gentleman Ned, his nickname says it all. He is class. They all have class or they wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. Very classy, always so polite. When you think of someone so nice, how could he do something as aggressive and fiery as drive a racecar. He did it extremely well. Genuine. I was surprised that he got in the Second Class, not that he didn’t deserve it, but he’s such a quiet kind of person that you just don’t think of him when thinking of all these big bold statements. His numbers speak for themselves."
Bud Moore: "Another surprise. For me I love that they put an owner in the there. But what’s nice is that it might be one of the testaments to Darrell in that they like to have a mix. Having a couple of drivers and crew chief, an owner or figurehead. Putting too many big names in one class, they may have wanted to spread it out. I don’t know what was said with the committee but I am assuming that conversation took place. Let’s not put all our stars in yet. Gotta save Darrell and Cale for the Third Class. Putting an owner in shows variety in all those responsible for putting NASCAR on the map. He’s seen everything from the ground up. He’s the blue-collar example of what made NASCAR successful.”
So let’s lighten it up and go with Krista’s favorites:
Favorite food: "My mom’s taco salad. It's funny because I don’t actually cook. I made it on The Racing Chef during a cooking segment. I had to call my mom cause I didn’t know how to make taco salad. It's like six ingredients you throw together in a bowl. So I made it on the show and I have had people write me or Twitter me and say that made it and they loved it. My mom’s taco salad is my feelgood food. Also Happy Joe's Pizza. It’s a chain in the Midwest. In fact that was one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up as a little girl. I’d watch them through the little window as they made the pizza. They’d go around if it was your birthday and honk a horn and sing a song. That’s what I wanted to do was work at Happy Joe's Pizza."
Favorite music: "I am a big hair girl. All the big hair from bands for the '80s. The glam rock. The one-hit wonders. Hair Nation on Satellite Radio. That’s my genre. My favorite band of all time is Bon Jovi! I am a huge fan of drummer Hector Samuel Torres or Tico."
Favorite time of day: "Not morning. Anything but morning."
Favorite place to vacation: "That’s a great one. Because for me a vacation at all is great because it rarely happens. I don’t even know the last time I went on a true vacation. I will say that I’m very lucky that we travel so much. When truck races are in Iowa, I can go see me family. When in Sonoma for Cup, I was able to see a friend. So I’m able to visit on track weekends. But a true vacation ... I’ve never even been to the Caribbean. How sad is that? Since I’ve started in NASCAR, I haven’t ever taken a true vacation."
Your favorite designer: “I load up on dress pants and stuff at Express in the mall. I’ll go to Target to pick up something and I end up picking out a shirt. I wear clothes that I’ve had forever. I have a pair of Beyonce’s jeans from TJ Maxx for $16. I would love to say I do but I don’t.”
What about your honeymoon? Where did you get married?
"We didn’t get to take one yet. We got married in the end of January and went right into the season. We got married in Pittsburgh. Which is where we live. My husband is from Pittsburgh. Getting married in Pittsburgh, most people thought it was a little chancy but we like to live life on the edge. A winter wedding in Pittsburgh and it was absolutely beautiful and fantastic!”
What do you think of social media? Twitter or Facebook?
“It’s a double-edge sword. You can get so much information out to the masses with a media feed, but it's hard to keep up with. And I’m not the best ... I have a website for my fans, I have a Facebook for my fans, and Twitter but I’m just so bad at keeping up with it. That’s what I get mad at myself for. It’s my own fault. I think it (social media) has amazing benefits. I just wish I was better at policing my dedication to it.”
Future goals? Career? Kids?
“You know, it's (kids) just not on our radar yet. We just got married in January. It's funny how people start asking the kid question right after you marry. I’m like wait a second, slow down. I still think of myself as a kid so that would be a 'stay tuned' ... to find out.”
So do you find yourself running from the garage then with the baby boom?
“Oh my God, yes! I do not drink the water. There is something going on with the NASCAR water.”
“I would love to be able to put my toe in the water of it all ideally. At the same time I don’t want to alienate who got me to where I am. I've been very fortunate to build a fantastic career in NASCAR, in motorsports. I’ve been really fortunate to do a lot of the major events that are done through NASCAR. I’ve emceed the Cup banquet the last two years as well as the NNS and NCWTS banquets. I got to cover the HoF event, both the opening day and the induction ceremony. If it's big and happening in NASCAR I’ve been fortunate to have a front row seat. I hope to keep doing that and keep getting better and touching more people with bigger stories.
“I love talking and love writing and I hope that when someone is in front of the television when I am on that I’m telling them something that they didn’t already know or telling it to them in a new way."
"When I started in NASCAR there wasn’t this many of us. There were a few of course that paved the way. Now there are female NASCAR officials, crew members going over the wall, executives ... all the way across the board. “
What would be your advice to someone wanting to be a sportscaster?
"I get many young people, young girls that ask that question. I have two sets of advice. One is don’t underestimate the power of the written word. You have to be a good writer and you have to be able to use words. It's not about being in front of a camera and smiling, although there are days you don’t want to do that. It's about the power of good writing. It's undervalued and I think a lost art. People aren’t the wordsmiths that they should be nowadays. So focus on writing is number one.
"Also, take risks. Get involved in a little bit of everything. In college I wrote for the campus newspaper and worked for the campus radio station as well as different writing organizations. I may not have wanted to do those specific things but learning the skills allowed me the build a well rounded resume. Meeting people.
Don’t be afraid to move. I’ve moved all around the country and missed every single little one of my nieces and nephews' birthday parties, and every family event. It’s a lot of sacrifice, but if you don’t take risks you don’t get future rewards."
Do you feel that being a woman is accepted now, in the business?
“When I look around I’m the female that’s been around the longest with NASCAR. There were a lot of writers, storytellers, that came before me. Now it's definitely more commonplace to see females.”
Do you think there is a stereotype associated with women who enjoy the sport of NASCAR?
If there is it's definitely changing. I think maybe five to 10 years ago if you were a female who enjoyed NASCAR you were considered a gearhead, someone who worked on cars or lived in the Southeast. Now obviously the way NASCAR has grown it has photocopied how the fans have grown. The fan base is now located all across the country. It's mainstreamed. NASCAR drivers on sitcoms, soap operas and game shows. They're in front of different audiences now. You may be a woman who began watching Kasey Kahne because you thought he was cute, but now after watching you become intrigued by the competitiveness of it. You become a sports fan, which may not be the reason you originally got involved but it is now.”
What do you do to relax?
“Scuba diving, it's an achievement when I survive a dive. I like to ride motorcycles after having done Supercross and I went and got my motorcycle license. My husband got me involved in shooting. Trap shooting or clay pigeons.”
“I’ve been waiting and looking forward to doing this interview. Your website is so important to build that female fan base.”
Below you will find some of the photos Krista had sent to me for the interview.
Interview with Kevin Harvick
Interviewing Martin Truex Jr. moments after clinching his first Busch title
Jimmie Johnson at PIS
I just wanted to take a minute to thank Krista Voda for taking the time to do this interview. I found her to be a very genuine person who loves what she does. I admire her and her work.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and not necessarily those of the site or its administrators.
You can follow Krista on Twitter at @KristaVoda