Reporter goes from Cranberry Twp. to NASCAR pits

| Friday, March 2, 2007

Krista Voda considers herself a storyteller in her roles as pit reporter for Fox's NASCAR Nextel Cup broadcasts and prerace studio host for Speed's coverage of Craftsman Truck races.

Voda's own story is worth telling, too. Begin with her living in Cranberry Township, far from NASCAR's Charlotte, N.C., core.

The Iowa native had moved to Western Pennsylvania in 2005 in anticipation of working for FSN Pittsburgh. When that fell through, she remained in the area, doing freelance work for Speed from June through December of that year.

"It was a tough time financially," Voda said. "But growing up in Iowa, I came from a blue-collar area where we watched sports and drank beer. I feel I fit in here. There's no pretentious air about the people."

Voda, who previously had hosted NASCAR studio shows on Fox and Speed, walked away when the show's emphasis moved toward entertainment and away from race reporting. She resumed working full-time with Speed last year, covering the truck racing series. This year, she's also part of Fox's Nextel Cup coverage as a pit reporter.

"The Fox deal is a multiyear contract for three years guaranteed. In this business, stability is nice," Voda said. "And it's network television, high-exposure, a great opportunity."

Voda's drive to network racing coverage was somewhat unexpected.

"I grew up on stick-and-ball sports and was a sports anchor at local stations," Voda said. "I never dreamed in a million years I'd be doing NASCAR."

She was a weekend sports anchor in Lexington, Ky., when a former boss who had moved to Charlotte, N.C., suggested she send tapes to Fox Sports Network for its "Totally NASCAR" studio show in 2002. Voda had covered racing at Kentucky Speedway and at Daytona, following Kentucky drivers in the 500.

Voda got the Fox job, and she made the switch to Speed in 2005 when the show moved under the name "NASCAR Nation," enjoying the role until the show's emphasis shifted.

"In June 2005, they changed the show to a heavy entertainment emphasis, to try to appeal to the non-NASCAR fan," she said. "It wasn't a bad idea to change, but if it was going to be that different, it would be better to be on a different network, like VH1, not one where you have Speed in the name."

Along the way, Voda has done supercross, IRL and various road-racing series. She also has done sideline reporting in other sports, most notably the Cotton Bowl and the Steelers-Tampa Bay game last season.

"I love the pit reporting, which is spontaneous and calling audibles all the time," she said. "But I also like the studio work, where you get to craft your language more and the writing is an important part. It's great that I get the opportunity to do a little of sideline reporting in other sports, too."

Voda's boyfriend of more than three years, Phil Kelley, is a Mars native who is involved in racing coverage, working in production with ESPN.

This week she was at home while he was in Mexico City for ESPN's coverage of a Busch race.

"When we worked together, he was my hardest critic," she said.

Voda sees NASCAR as still in a growth pattern, despite well-chronicled problems last season with flat ticket sales and declining TV ratings.

"The trick for us -- Fox or anyone -- is to appeal to new fans and tell them about the sport without alienating the hard-core fans," she said. "It's a fine line. I try to think about what questions I'd have if I was home sitting and watching, and then try to answer them."

Additional Information:

About Krista Voda

Birthplace: Clinton, Iowa

Current residence: Cranberry Township

Most unusual job: Beer cart girl at a golf course

Current jobs: Pit reporter on Fox's NASCAR Nextel Cup coverage; prerace host for Speed's Craftsman Truck coverage.

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