Wendy Venturini Takes Different Path in Family Business

October 3, 2008

Venturini: “I’m blessed with the path my father paved for all of us in racing … We definitely are in this together as a family.”

SPEED™ reporter Wendy Venturini will seize the rare opportunity this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway to catch up with her family where they’re most at home … in a race car hauler.

Racing is the Venturini family business and Wendy’s older brother, Billy Venturini, will drive the No. 15 Venturini Motorsports entry in Friday’s ARCA Re/Max Series race at Talladega (5 p.m. on SPEED). Wendy Venturini, a reporter for NASCAR RaceDay, will pull double duty with her regular SPEED responsibilities and pit reporting for the ARCA race.

“I love covering the ARCA Series because it is a homecoming for me,” Venturini said. “It’s where I started as a kid watching my Dad race and it’s still the same people running the series today, so it’s great to catch up with everyone. I’m fortunate to have my entire family involved in this sport. We get to see each other a lot at the companion tracks and that makes it easier to deal with the grind of the schedule.”

Family, friends and nostalgia aren’t all that Venturini finds in the garage next door.

“When the Cup and ARCA Series are together, not only do I get to see my family while I’m at work, I get my mom’s home cooking,” Venturini said. “She’ll give me her ‘menu’ of what she’s cooking for the team for the weekend, so if I have time, I’ll sneak away from the Cup garage to get real food. My fiancé, Jarrad, also runs over to the ARCA garage for Mom’s homemade meals.”

But mothers are good for more than comfort food.

“If I’m having a bad day on TV, my mom always knows the right things to say to cheer me up,” Venturini stated. “So, it’s really great to have her at the track. That face-to-face contact is always better than over the phone.”

As a NASCAR journalist, Venturini is expected to be unbiased in her coverage of the sport. With the typical big brother/little sister relationship she shares with Billy, no one can call into question her journalistic ethics.

“Of course, I enjoy talking about my brother on camera, but I made a promise to myself when I started my career that I was not going to play any type of favoritism,” Venturini said. “In fact, my brother will tell you I’m actually brutally honest about his

driving if he’s not running well and I’m more critical of his off-track actions than anyone. But he’s one of my biggest critics – he is honest if he didn’t like something I said or did on NASCAR RaceDay, so we are good for each other.”

Some of Venturini’s best and worst childhood memories trace back to her family’s competition in the ARCA Series, a 14-year venture. Her father, Bill Venturini, Sr., competed in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, won two championships in the ARCA Series and holds the series qualifying record at Talladega.

“My best racing memory ever was when my father won his first championship,” Venturini said. “The second one was special, as well, but as a child, it’s always unbelievable when your father is a champ for the first time.

“But my worst experiences were when Dad broke his neck at Michigan in 1989 and my brother broke his neck at Daytona in 2005,” she continued. “My mother and I nursed Dad back to health. So, when my brother got hurt, we knew what to do and how to get him through the rehab.”

Not only does Venturini’s mother support the family in tragedy, she is willing to do anything necessary to make the family business stronger.

“My mother was a tire changer on my father’s ARCA team in the 1980s, which was the first all-female pit crew,” Venturini said. “He won a championship with that all-woman crew. So, my mom is more of the dirt-under-the-nails type and she’s been working at the track all her life. She can do just about anything the team needs.”

While the matriarch of the family opted to stay on the team side of the racing business, Venturini elected to make her mark in the journalistic world. She became the first female to call an entire race on a national level at Daytona International Speedway in June and has garnered acclaim for her weekly feature “The Real Deal with Wendy Venturini” on NASCAR RaceDay. Her stint on SPEED’s pre-race show began in 2005, following a position as a pit road reporter for the network in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2004-2005.

The Chicago native started out behind the camera and in the trenches, learning to do virtually everything necessary to put on a television show while at a local cable channel. From there, it was on to TNN to work in NASCAR and eventually to SPEED, where she worked as a producer for the same talent she now reports alongside. Venturini served as a producer for NASCAR Victory Lane and NASCAR This Morning, which later became NASCAR RaceDay.

“SPEED wanted a female pit-road reporter for the Truck Series and suggested I apply,” Venturini recalled. “I’d grown up at the track but had never really been a television person, although I knew a lot about racing.”

While her life’s ambition was not necessarily to be a reporter but to somehow work in the industry, Venturini is quick to credit her family’s racing roots with opening doors for her with SPEED.

“I’m blessed with the path my father paved for all of us in racing,” Venturini reflected. “If he hadn’t had his driving career when I was a child, I wouldn’t be doing this. We definitely are in this together as a family.”

Although she travels more than 38 weeks each season for NASCAR RaceDay, life on the road is all Venturini has ever known and she takes it all in stride.

“I’ve been traveling to the race track since I was three weeks old,” Venturini reminisced. “I grew up riding in a white, cube truck going down the road to virtually every race in America. This is normal for me and this is my family business. I don’t know any better than being on the road for 10 months – I’m just getting paid to travel now.”

As for the possibility of Venturini becoming burned out and disenchanted with the hectic NASCAR travel schedule, don’t expect that anytime soon.

“I love traveling and covering NASCAR and I hope it will last a long time,” Venturini said. “This is my dream and this is my gig and I don’t want to do anything else with my life.”

SPEED, now in more than 76 million homes in North America, is the exclusive home of the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge, Gatorade Duels at Daytona, NASCAR Nextel Pit Crew Challenge and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The only network delivering live, at-track programming all season long, SPEED offers the definitive pre- and post-race NASCAR Nextel Cup Series programs – NASCAR RaceDay and NASCAR Victory Lane, as well as other popular NASCAR programs including Trackside Live, Tradin’ Paint, NASCAR Performance, NASCAR Live!, Inside Nextel Cup and Go or Go Home.