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Jamie Little’s High-Test Trackside Reporting

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A little more than 10 years ago, 19-year-old Jamie Little made the first of a series of right moves while hanging out at the San Diego arenacross with her classmate at Green Valley High, Carey Hart. Bear in mind this took place before Hart’s backflip made him famous, before his off-again on-again marriage to Pink made him tabloid fodder.

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Little found Hart shortly after she moved to Las Vegas. She and her single mother left Lake Tahoe when Little was 13 years old. She and Hart both had single parents, and the two became friends.

“I was the tomboy girl who loved to hang out with the boys and being accepted in their circles,” Little says. “Carey and his buddies were often the ones who would laugh when I would ride their bikes.”

Little wasn’t wasting her time at the races basking in the bit of limelight Hart cast early in his freestyle motocross career. The journalism student was hard at work finding some light of her own.

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While in the pits one day, she spotted a guy wielding an ESPN microphone. She walked up to him and asked him if he could help her become a television journalist. The guy happened to be Lex Valasakos. He was freelancing for ESPN, and he also owned the website Supercross.com.

Valasakos put Little to work writing race reports for Supercross.com. Little also wrote a few pieces for Dirt Rider, all while studying journalism at San Diego State University. For a year and a half, she wrote for the exposure rather than cash.

That work paid off. When she applied for a job with Clear Channel, the executives were familiar with Little’s reporting work due to all the videos she and Valasakos had submitted. She landed an assignment as a live announcer at the Anaheim Supercross on Jan. 8, 2000. The race would be the young college student’s first live announcing gig.

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“It was nerve-racking,” Little says.

She had an edge — she knew most of the guys competing due to her work for Valasakos and time spent with Carey. The riders were easy for her to interview. “What was tough and intimidating was speaking in front of 48,000 people for the first time and knowing the process of a show,” Little says.

Little dealt with the pressure just fine and spent much of the 2000 season in the pits. Jeremy McGrath was on fire that season, and Little remembers him fondly. “McGrath was a favorite,” she says. “He was always so kind, interesting, and he was who everyone wanted to hear from.”

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Little continued covering Supercross and motocross for Motoworld for six years. She earned a regular gig as a pit reporter in 2004.

“The races that most stand out were Bubba’s, Ricky’s and Pastrana’s early 125 days when they would run up to the podium to be interviewed,” she says. “They were so gifted and so adored by the fans … it was always a treat to interview them. And Bubba’s dancing was a highlight I encouraged 100 percent.”

Little not only covered motocross racing, she took it on as a sport of her own. Her father had been into all kinds of motorcycles, and Little recalls riding with her dad around their Lake Tahoe neighborhood on his CR250 while growing up. When her announcing career took off, she started riding motocross and even dabbled in some mini racing.

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Her first bike was a CR230. “I started attending local tracks and applying the skills of riding,” she says. “To my surprise, all of the watching and studying and talking about the sport actually transferred to my ability on a dirt bike!”

She also covered freestyle events. Little became a fixture at the X Games, and has been on the scene during some of the most memorable events in freestyle motocross. Little was reporting when Carey Hart attempted the first-ever backflip at the 2001 Gravity Games. She also reported during Mike Metzger’s back-to-back backflips at the 2002 X Games and his backflip over the fountain at Caeser’s Palace.

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Little was the reporter on hand the last two years when Robbie Maddison defied the odds during his ESPN specials on New Year’s Eve. She describes his 2008 jump onto a faux Arc D’Triomphe in Las Vegas as “the scariest, most intense motorcycle event I’ve covered.”

“Robbie is an amazing human being. He’s so mentally tough, and he’s so skilled on a dirt bike,” Little says. “He’s not a daredevil and that’s why I love the huge events he pulls off.”

Little also got into mountain biking, which ironically led to another media opportunity. “I was dating a guy who raced downhill mountain bikes,” she says. “Being the athlete that I’ve always been, I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines and watch him. I jumped on a downhill mountain bike in Lake Tahoe when I was 23 years old, put on some knee and elbow pads and a helmet and off I went. I was hooked!”

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She raced for two seasons in the sport class. Regular podium appearances earned her an Oakley sponsorship. Through her fellow Oakley-sponsored friends, she met a freelance journalist who suggested they pitch FHM magazine a photo shoot of the athletes to promote the Winter X Games. The magazine bought the story, and Little appeared on the cover. Working for ESPN and mountain biking paid off with a major mainstream magazine cover.

In 2004, while covering motocross and supercross, Little broadened her horizons and began to cover IndyCar racing. Later that year, she became the first female reporter to cover the Indy 500 from the pits for ABC. “Covering the Indy 500 continues to be a dream. It’s just so historical and such an American tradition,” she says. “It really put racing on the map in this country. You feel that every time you walk through the Indianapolis Motor Speedway tunnel. It’s still an honor for me to cover that race.”

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Danica Patrick was just coming on the scene in 2004, and she led the opening laps of the race. Patrick is one of Little’s idols. “I really enjoyed covering Danica,” Little says. “We have a mutual respect. She is the total package and made me proud to be a woman in racing.”

Auto racing inspired her to take to the track, and she won the Toyota Long Beach Celebrity Race in 2008. She held off NASCAR regular Mike Skinner for the win. “I love racing anything with a motor,” she says.

In 2007, Little first took on her current role as a trackside reporter for ESPN at NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup series races. She says she loves the sport and the work, but is quick to point out that she misses Supercross.

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“I really miss the dedication of the Supercross fans and the athleticism of the riders. It’s a core sport, and I miss that.”

With appearances in several feature films, a celebrity judge appearance on “Iron Chef,” and a full-time gig with NASCAR, Little is more than content. “I’m living my dream,” she says.

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