When she was growing up in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Kate Jackson spent years training and competing as a dancer. She later dreamed of being a White House correspondent. But everything changed when she was about to start at the University of Iowa and her mother, working at a local greenhouse, had a chance meeting with a customer. The man had been working for ABC Sports on college football telecasts from Iowa.
“My mom perks up and says ‘Oh, my daughter’s studying there, you should call her,’” Jackson said. That call led to Jackson getting a job as a runner for ABC college football, which then led to basketball on ESPN.
“And then it somehow morphed into golf and the X Games, and before I knew it, TV was what I was doing as a freshman in college,” she said. And it became her career.
Now, years later, Jackson is coordinating producer of ESPN’s live NASCAR and IndyCar coverage. She started with ESPN as a production assistant in 1999 and worked on the gamut of sports, including spending time traveling the world covering figure skating.
Since 2006, she has worked on motorsports, first as a feature producer, and was promoted to coordinating producer in 2011. She works closely with Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, to oversee event production.
“So that can go from anything, from personnel to working with Operations on the technical specs for each race to working with Programming on when we put things on the air, with Sales on how we sell things and then working with the Production team on how we actually put things on the air,” she said.
With NASCAR’s long season, Jackson is on the road for many events from February through November plus busy in the office at ESPN headquarters during the week. All of that time on the road and at racetracks with a team of about 150-200 people creates a family.
“I think part of what makes NASCAR so special is not just the excitement and beauty of the sport, but it’s the passion and the personalities of the people that we work with,” she said. “You learn a lot about people, you spend a lot of time with people and you inevitably get very close. It really is like a family.”
This weekend, ABC will air the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Saturday night, Sept. 7, while ESPN will air the previous night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Coverage both nights starts at 7 p.m. ET.