Little, Pedigo Embrace Indy Excitement While fans’ anticipation simmers at the prospect of three women making the field for the first time for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500, two women will be part of ESPN on ABC’s coverage from the pits for the first time in the history of the storied race. The telecast for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” begins at noon ET Sunday, May 27.
ESPN reporter Jamie Little (pictured right in her FHM magazine photo shoot), back for her fourth Indianapolis 500, will be joined as a pit reporter for ABC’s live coverage of the race by Brienne Pedigo, an Indy native who joined ESPN’s IndyCar Series coverage team this year. Jack Arute and Vince Welch also will report from the pits and garage.
On Saturday, ESPN2 will be on the air from 4-6:30 p.m. ET with coverage of the third day of time trials. ABC’s coverage of Bump Day, presented by GoDaddy.com, airs from 1-3 p.m. Sunday, followed by coverage on ESPN2 from 5-6:30 p.m.
Little is also a reporter for ESPN’s NASCAR coverage this season, which includes yearlong coverage of the NASCAR Busch Series and coverage of the final 17 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races.
“Having two women in the pits and hopefully three women in the field is just an example -- it’s a sport that everyone pays attention to, male or female, young and old,” Little said. “It’s showing what’s happening in auto racing.”
Racing has always had an influence on the life of Pedigo an Indiana native who left a promising career in theater to concentrate on her work at ESPN and in the IndyCar Series. Part of a sports-oriented family, she previously has done reporting for short-track racing and for the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four and was a segment writer for the PBA on ESPN. She knows, however, that Indianapolis is unique and that nerves and excitement are at their peak.
“I think anytime you go to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there’s such a high level of anticipation that surrounds that track, it’s really hard not to get caught up in that,” Pedigo said.
“Having grown up around that track, it helps me to kind of stay calm in what could be a very stressful situation, especially on race day. More than nerves or any sort of fear, I’m just very, very excited. Just working this past weekend for qualifications was just magical, it was really neat to be at the track and working, doing what I love.”
Pedigo’s initial experience at Indy came at age 10, when she and her cousins packed a bag lunch of fried chicken and sat in Turn 1 for her first Indy 500.
Another benefit of growing up around Indy: For years, Pedigo has known fellow ESPN on ABC broadcaster and former IndyCar Series driver Scott Goodyear.
“You’re immediately taken with how intelligent he is, how much he knows about race cars,” Pedigo said. “We’ve had three other races together so far, he’s been really helpful. Anytime I have a question I feel completely comfortable going to him and getting advice.”
Little’s passion for her broadcasting career culminated in what she describes as one of the highlights of her life, when she followed most of the 2006 Indy 500 from third-generation driver Marco Andretti’s pit as his family watched him race his father, Michael, for the win. Sam Hornish Jr. won the race, Marco finished second and Michael finished third.
Little was overwhelmed by the emotion of the Andretti family as she reported on the group gathered in Marco’s pit area.
“I’ll never forget, I got in there and I had the first interview with him after the race and he said, ‘Second place is the first loser.’ ”
“I stood next to his mom, next to Mario Andretti, and I got to be the first one to get on the car,” Little said. “And those moments are what I do this job for, that is everything.”
Little expects this year’s race to be as much of a thriller as the 2006 race.
“I could see the same thing happening,” she said. “With this parity, there’s not just one driver dominating. Danica (Patrick) was fastest in practice (Wednesday). With her experience now, I think she’s got a heck of a chance at winning this year, this is going to be her best chance.”
While Little and Pedigo revel in doing what they love, they both practice the policy of not letting the excitement cause bumps or bruises for them on the job.
What advice does Little, the veteran, have for her “rookie” ESPN on ABC broadcast teammate?
“Take it all in. Absorb everything,” Little said. “Walk out through Gasoline Alley. Look at the fans, and watch the marching bands go by. It’s hard because you’re so focused on your job, but just appreciate it because there’s something magical about Indy that I’ve just never experienced anywhere else.”