The Stories Wendy Venturini Could Tell …

June 27, 2007

Oh the things Wendy Venturini could tell – but doesn’t.

“I think if I told half the stories I knew,” Venturini says, “I wouldn’t have nearly the amount of respect I’m able to get.”

It’s the respect and trust factor that helps Venturini excel as a correspondent for the Speed Channel’s “NASCAR Raceday” and as a pit reporter for the network’s coverage of the ARCA RE/MAX Series.

“You have to ask, even if you know or are aware of a situation, is it worth telling it?” Venturini says. “What good is going to come from it?”

Venturini has a good sense of what should or shouldn’t be said because she’s literally grown up in the sport.

Her family has been in racing for ages. Her father Bill has been a driver for decades – and even fielded a female pit crew in the 80s as a publicity stunt – and her brother now races.

Wendy also made history last Sunday when she became the first woman to call a full NASCAR race, which she did as part of DirecTV’s NASCAR HotPass package.

Being the first to do it as a female isn’t an issue for Venturini.

“I don’t look at it that I’m a female trying to make my way to the top within NASCAR,” she says. “I’m just trying to excel in this industry.”

Venturini, however, is one of a growing number of female TV personalities covering racing on a regular basis. Among some of the others are Jamie Little, who works the pits on ESPN – and who has covered motocross for ESPN2 – and Shannon Spake who is a reporter for ESPN’s “NASCAR Now,” “NASCAR Countdown” and works races.

“There has been an increase in the female presence,” Venturini says. “What’s funny, though, is sometimes you don’t see them stick around for very long. They use it for a stepping stone for something else.”

Not Venturini. She’s here to stay.

“This is what I do,” she says. “This is what I’m passionate about.”

In fact, women have been playing unusual roles in Venturini’s family for a long, long time. Her mother was her father’s car owner long before women were allowed in the NASCAR garages. Her aunt changed tires.

“That probably helped pave the way for how I viewed this industry,” she says. “My mother always taught me to not let my gender get in the way.”

When the family wasn’t on the road, Venturini grew up in Chicago. Bill Venturini then moved his racing operation, and his family, to Charlotte in 1993.

She’s had no desire to drive race cars. She went to college for broadcasting and psychology and got into racing television when she tagged along to the Speed Channel where her dad had a job.

She started behind the camera and eventually moved in front of the camera as a pit reporter.

“I want to get the information out to the fans in a manner that’s understandable,” she says. “I want to put it in layman’s terms. If you’re a brand new NASCAR fan, or a fan for 40 years, I want to relate that to you.”

The job, however, does come with some downsides. NASCAR’s season starts in February and extends into November. And, come January testing starts for the following year.

So, love lives, personal lives, anything resembling a 9-5 sort of goes out the window.

“I think it’s all relative to what you see as ‘normal,’” she says. “It’s normal for me to live life this way. I was three weeks old at the Texas Speedway.”

So, it should then come as no surprise that Venturini got engaged last week – during NASCAR’s stop in Sonoma, Calif. – and is planning a wedding for the off months. Her future husband is Jarrad Egert an engine tuner for Tony Stewart, so the upside is they’re on the same schedule.

Being a woman who grew up in the business does help in the job, Venturini says. For some reason, the male drivers are more willing to open up, she says.

“I try to get the personalities of the garage area out. That’s a part that’s glossed over by some of the men,” she says. “I get a lot of stories out of the guys that other people might not get.”

She thinks some of that ability to get more out of the guys comes from being around them for, well, all of her 28 years on earth.

“I love my job,” she says. “I’m really humbled by it all. It’s really hard for me to talk about the good things. I’m just a normal, average girl who grew up in the sport.”

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