Jamie Howe, who graduated from Brookwood High in 2003, has worked as a pit reporter for ESPN since 2011. This weekend, she will work the American Le Mans Series race in Baltimore on Saturday, and the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis on Sunday and Monday. (Special Photo)
LAWRENCEVILLE — As a competitive swimmer in high school, Jamie Howe credits one of the dads on the team with sparking her interest in broadcasting.
He invited her to a race at Road Atlanta to see what happens in a live television compound. That, combined with her participating in the Brookwood High broadcasting department, developed her passion for broadcasting. Ten years later, Howe works for ESPN as a pit reporter for American Le Mans Series and NHRA events.
“I’ve learned that every form of racing has its own vernacular,” said Howe, a Lawrenceville native. “When I started with sports car racing, it wasn’t necessarily the racing, it was the worldwide flair. There were BMWs, Audis, Ferraris, Porsches, Corvettes. It has a larger than life feeling to it; that’s what really sucked me in.”
This weekend, Howe will have one of the busiest weekends of the year in her already travel-heavy schedule. She will work the American Le Mans Series race on Saturday in Baltimore, and the NHRA U.S. Nationals — the Super Bowl of drag racing — on Sunday and Monday in Indianapolis. As a pit reporter, she conducts driver interviews, reports on pit stops and does feature segments on drivers.
The Grand Prix of Baltimore will stream live at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday on ESPN3, and at noon on Sunday on ABC. On Sunday, qualifying for the U.S. Nationals will air at 1 p.m. on Sunday on ESPN2, while eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Monday on ESPN3 and noon on Monday on ESPN2.
Howe did the double duty last year, although the Indianapolis portion was rained out, but she said it’s difficult to prepare for them simultaneously because the types of racing are so different.
She focuses on storytelling and building relationships with drivers to catch up on the race’s storylines. On Saturday night, she plans to fly from Baltimore to Ohio, rent a car and drive to Indianapolis.
“It does get exhausting,” Howe said. “People who don’t travel for a living don’t realize how tiring it is.”
As a freelance reporter, Howe’s year begins in January with the 24 hours of Daytona for the Fox Media Group, then she moves to drag racing in February on ESPN/ABC and the American Le Mans Series starts in March. Throughout her career, she’s attended every major sports car race in the U.S.
“My favorite part about covering racing is the competition never ends,” Howe said. “With football or basketball, it’s one game between those two teams. In racing, it’s a whole season of games of all the teams against each other. Because it never ends, all of the people involved develop a family relationship. If you need something, if somebody is sick at home, somebody from another team is going to help you.”
Howe was off work last weekend to prepare for the double duty, but it came after she was in a stretch of about three months of working a race every weekend. One bonus is her husband, Bryan Sellers, is a driver on the American Le Mans Series, and they travel together about 12 times throughout the year.
Howe said one of her teachers at Brookwood, Elaine Smith, and an internship at the CNN student bureau developed the foundation for her career.
That’s where she learned the behind-the-scenes production work, which helped her in the first five years of her career behind the camera. That’s the advice she gives girls in high school in college.
“The people behind the scenes are just as important as people in front of the camera,” Howe said. “That’s given me a deep understanding of how it works, and that’s what makes me valuable to different networks. If there’s a problem on pit lane, or if something is wrong with the truck, I have an understanding of it.”
Her competitive swimming career ended after a shoulder injury as a high school junior, but that’s when she focused on a broadcasting degree, and graduated from Georgia State University in 2007.
“I loved my time at Georgia State,” she said. “But I really think the foundation of what I do came at Brookwood, where I developed my love of television and broadcasting.”