SPEED Reporter Pereyra Returns to Adopted Home
Marianela Pereyra, TV host, model and actress, joined SPEED midway through the 2011 NASCAR season as a reporter on Trackside, Friday’s weekly, high-energy show broadcast live from every race track on the NASCAR circuit (Friday, March 23 at 9 p.m. ET).
Pereyra now spends her weekends getting to know NASCAR drivers and race fans in-person and via social media, bringing a unique behind-the-scenes glimpse into the sport’s personalities, drawing on her extensive experience in the music, sports and entertainment world in this new endeavor.
She heads this weekend to Fontana, Calif., site of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Although it’s her first trip to Auto Club Speedway, she is no stranger to the area. Pereyra has called Los Angeles home for six years, although she has lived in six different suburbs of the city in as many years.
Pereyra’s varied career mandated that she put down roots in Los Angeles, and the University of Maryland graduate has a long resume across the sports and entertainment world. Her television credits include CNN’s Showbiz Tonight, ESPN’s World Series of Poker, NBC’s Poker After Dark, CBS’ Tailgate Superstars, ESPN U’s Road Trip, Access Hollywood, MTV’s Top Pop Group, VH1’s Dance Cam Slam and FUSE TV’s Daily Download, to name a few.
In the Q&A below, she talks about her “nomadic life” and draws several parallels between her experience in the music business and her newest endeavor in NASCAR:
SPEED: You call Los Angeles, just down the road from this weekend’s stop at Auto Club Speedway, home. Where in the area do you live?
Pereyra: “I’m like a traveling nomad. When I first got to LA, I was in West Hollywood, then Newport Beach, which I loved. Then it was on to Brentwood, Studio City, North Hollywood and now I’m in Burbank. I’m a big fan of diving in to different neighborhoods and checking them out. I’m the subway queen as I love to check out new places. I’m probably a little too adventurous for my own good sometimes.”
SPEED: While reporting for Trackside on SPEED, you’re simultaneously covering the World Poker Tour for Kimberly Lansing, who is on maternity leave, for a couple more months. How do you logistically make that work when both sports crisscross the country on a weekly basis?
Pereyra: “It’s simple – I live on an airplane. I tell people that my home’s location is nothing but irrelevant geography. I can’t tell you the last time I was home – I flew directly from Venice to the Commerce Casino to Daytona to Phoenix and then San Jose. I’ll be in LA this week, though, for Trackside. I’m on the road every single week, but I love what I do with NASCAR and the World Poker Tour. I’ve been a huge fan of poker since I started reporting for the World Series of Poker in 2007, and similarly, I became a lover of NASCAR late last year.”
SPEED: What was your initial reaction when approached about working in NASCAR?
Pereyra: “’Fast cars? Yes!’ I had gotten my feet wet in football; I’d been in the wrestling ring with big, sweaty men; I’d been among the craziest poker players imaginable, so yes, I was ready for NASCAR.’ I was driving a stick-shift car when I was 13 years old in Argentina, and I’ve always been a fan of speed. So I was really excited about the opportunity and challenges this presented. I started to follow NASCAR more when the Chase (NASCAR’s version of the ‘playoffs’ for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) was implemented. It was hard for me to follow it 100-percent until I started working in the sport because when I’m doing something, as with college football, I’m immersed in it completely. When I started covering poker, I became a poker fiend and still am. I’m crazy about motor sports and extreme sports, so this was a natural fit for me.”
SPEED: Had you ever been to a race track before you began reporting on Trackside?
Pereyra: “I’d never been to a race track before. So, when I went into the (NASCAR) garage on day one, I found it so awesome and so ridiculously loud that it overwhelmed me, and I’m not easily intimidated. Fortunately, I have a bit of a chameleon-like quality. I’m really adventurous and always up for new challenges.”
SPEED: Have you found you had any misconceptions about NASCAR before you started working in the sport?
Pereyra: “If anything, it proved it really is a big family. These NASCAR fans are ridiculously loyal. I’ve seen some crazy fans. I’ve been on a football field when they rush and ravage the field after a win, so I’ve seen how intense fans can be. These fans are hardcore and very loyal, so I wondered how they’d treat a newcomer. But I felt very welcomed to the NASCAR family.”
SPEED: Have you been able to draw on any parallels between your experience in the music business and NASCAR?
Pereyra: “In NASCAR, there are so many legends. Kyle Petty, son of ‘The King,’ Richard Petty, is on Trackside with me. These people are legends to the fans. I’m in a position a lot of people would die to be in – in the garage and having a couple of minutes to chat with Jimmie Johnson or any of these guys. It’s the same in music – I’d interview Metallica one day, The Cure the next, Eminen, Gwen Stefani – it was so random. These characters are so diverse that you must be able to adapt to each one’s personality and energy. Kenny Wallace (NASCAR Nationwide Series driver and SPEED analyst) is wild and out there, while Jimmie Johnson is more reserved. You just have to match their energy. They’re big stars to a lot of fans at home, but at the end of the day, they’re just people and I need to bring their personality through to the folks at home. You get to know all these guys and in a way, they’re entertainers.”
SPEED: You handle the social media aspects of Trackside and serve as a connection between the show and the fans. How would you assess the impact of social media on NASCAR?
Pereyra: “It’s huge. It’s extremely interesting to see what the drivers are Tweeting, what they do before races or on their day off with their families. That access is great. Many of them are hysterical. It’s great to give them a voice and an outlet to their fans. You can tweet Kyle Petty (co-host of Trackside) and if you want a response, all you have to do is Tweet something extremely obnoxious or mean and he’ll retweet it or reply within five seconds, which cracks me up. Can you imagine being able to Tweet ‘The King’ back in the day? There are so many possibilities to build relationships. There’s a lot of trash-talking and it’s a whole different realm.”