Hi, I’m Samantha Spinale and yes, you read that right — I began working for my dream company at just 17 years old.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to work in sports. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, raised by a sport-loving family. At any point in the day, either the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Browns, Columbus Blue Jackets or Cleveland Guardians were playing on television. Sports were second nature to me, so it was no surprise to my parents when I suddenly fell in love with NASCAR.
After being somewhat forced to watch the Daytona 500 in February 2016, my desire for racing sparked and I decided to attend the Michigan International Speedway in-person that following June. My love for sports racing soared and it was then that I knew I would one day be part of the sports racing industry. It was all so addicting; the sound of the cars, the smell of burning rubber, the excitement in the air. I wanted more of that feeling, so I decided to return to Michigan in August of 2016 for the track’s second race of the season.
When I returned to the track in August of 2016, my excitement for sports racing caught the attention of the former track president, Roger Curtis. Roger oversees everything that happens at the racetrack, so this was huge to me. He loved my enthusiasm and granted me an all-access pass to go anywhere I wanted, and I was able to shake each drivers’ hands on the driver introduction stage before the race. To top the weekend off, I was offered and accepted a spot on the Michigan International Speedway Youth Fab Advisory board.
As a member of the Michigan International Speedway Youth Fan Advisory board, I met other amazing fans, shared fan input with executives in the sport and expanded my network in the industry. My boss noticed my passion for sport racing and connected me to executives at the NASCAR headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. From this, I left Charlotte with a new position as a youth reporter for NASCAR’s Acceleration Nation Program. During the 2018-2019 season, I traveled around the country on the NASCAR circuit interviewing drivers, learning more about fans and creating all sorts of engaging content for NASCAR’s youth audience. My personal favorite was the opportunity to work with NASCAR on NBC and execute social media takeovers on their channels.
My time with Acceleration Nation was fundamental for my career as it taught me a lot about the industry and provided me with a portfolio full of worthy content. However, my time came to an abrupt end when the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation. It wasn’t until 2021 that I got back into the sport, but this time I was doing something a little different. For the 2021 NASCAR Arca Menards West season, I headed out to California to help a driver with public relations and social media management. I did not have experience in this industry before, but soon garnered a passion for it. That driver went on to win two poles, a track championship, and lots more social media engagement that allowed him to grow his brand.
My time with NASCAR was something I will forever cherish and am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of. If you have a dream, just go for it. It was passion I turned into real work experience. And I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I also learned to always introduce myself to anyone and everyone. The connections I made in racing were the main reason I landed the positions I did. Chase your dreams, be yourself and do what makes you happy. At the end of the day, you don’t know if you don’t try.
Sam Spinale is a junior at Ohio University majoring in journalism, strategic communication, minoring in sports management and pursuing a certificate in social media. She is currently a social media content creator and lead student contact for the Ohio University School of Media Arts and Studies, a social media content assistant and reporter for OHIO Athletics and is a member of the publicity committee for Scripps PRSSA. Sam hopes to share her passions and love for digital media with many others in the industry. Connect with Sam on Linkedin, Twitter and Instagram or check out her website.