Avon senior Sam Spinale is living life in the fast lane. Spinale, who aspires to one day work in broadcast journalism and auto racing, is getting a taste of both worlds this year as an intern with NASCAR and its Acceleration Nation website.
It was during her first visit to Michigan International Speedway in June of 2016 that Spinale went from being someone who enjoyed racing to someone who was passionate about it and wanted a future in the sport.
“Being at a race for the first time, I just fell in love with it,” Spinale said. “I thought it was the coolest thing. The feeling of the cars going by so fast and the sounds you can’t hear anywhere else is something you’ll never forget once you experience it.”
While at Michigan International Speedway, Spinale found out about the track’s Youth Fan Advisory Board, which allows fans to directly communicate with MIS staff about their experience at the track.
Through the connections Spinale made at Michigan, she learned about the internship opportunity.
Now in her second year with NASCAR, Spinale has already been to Daytona and Charlotte this year. Over the second half of the season she will be working the Monster Energy Series race weekends at Michigan, Chicagoland Speedway, Darlington (S.C.), Talladega (Ala.) and Homestead-Miami Speedway in South Florida during NASCAR’s championship weekend in November.
In the course of a race weekend, the 17-year-old Spinale conducts driver interviews for Acceleration Nation, shoots video that ends up on various NASCAR platforms and engages in social media takeover of NASCAR’s Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts to engage with younger fans that are the target audience of Acceleration Nation.
Spinale said her first on-camera interview was with truck series driver Ben Rhodes.
“I was so nervous but I was just as excited,” Spinale said. “Ben was really nice and the interview turned out really well.”
Prior to her work with NASCAR, Spinale’s only media experience consisted of taking Media and Marketing and Broadcast Journalism classes in school. She was surprised how much work goes on behind the camera to get the content to the viewers.
“When you sit down to edit video it’s crazy how much work goes into it. It took me by surprise but I love it,” Spinale said. “I got to go in the NASCAR on NBC production truck and see all of their behind-the-scenes production. It’s really amazing.”
During race weekends, Spinale can be found on pit road or in the media center working on various projects. Despite her age and being one of only a handful of females in the male-dominated world of sports and sports journalism, Spinale said she hasn’t encountered any problems.
“It’s been different being one of the only females involved in the sport but I’ve been accepted really well,” Spinale said. “I think it’s almost a new level of respect when they see a 17-year-old female in the media center working on video and conducting interviews.”
Spinale hopes to follow in the footsteps of FOX pit reporter Jamie Little or NASCAR Race Hub reporter Kaitlyn Vincie.
“Much of my inspiration comes from Kaitlyn and Jamie,” she said. “They are amazing at what they do. I’d love to see myself doing that in the future. My No. 1 goal for the future is to work in broadcast journalism and racing.”
Spinale also realizes that sometimes doors open in unexpected places.
“But, hey, if ESPN came to me and said, ‘We want you to do football,’ I’m not going to turn that down,” she said.
Of the races Spinale is scheduled to work the rest of the season, the one she’s most looking forward to is Talladega, NASCAR’s fastest, longest and highest-banked oval.
“There’s no other track like Talladega,” Spinale said. “I’m really excited to experience that.”
In addition to her work with NASCAR, Spinale is also active at school, where she’s a captain of the dance team that performs at halftime of basketball games and at competitions throughout year, and she’s also a member of National Honor Society.
The one thing Spinale hasn’t been able to do is find many people close to home that share her passion for racing.
“My close friends are really supportive to me and open to learning more about the sport but most of them don’t know anything about racing,” Spinale said. “Some I sit them down, turn on a race and just try to get them to ask me questions. The hardest thing to explain to my friends is that difference between watching on TV and being at the track. Until you’re at a race it’s difficult to put into words.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.