Krista Voda may travel the United States to cover NASCAR events for NBC, but she says everything comes back around to her upbringing in Clinton.
“It all reverts back to being from a house, a town and a state that takes care of people, that takes care of neighbors,” Voda said, reflecting on her childhood in Clinton. “And that’s led me to be able to do what I do and be who I am.”
Voda was raised in the town along the Mississippi and attended Clinton High School. She was active in sports and other extracurriculars, graduating in 1992.
She went on to the the University of Northern Iowa to follow the career path she always had in mind.
“I knew what I wanted to do, and I just sort of tried to dip my feet in whatever opportunities were in that field,” Voda said. She graduated from UNI in 1996 with a degree in broadcast journalism. “It’s what I always wanted to do. I always wanted to follow where the story was.
“I think my upbringing allowed me to do that because I grew up somewhere where I was supported and encouraged to follow dreams.”
Those dreams got her to where she is today. After working at a television station in Lexington, Kentucky, Voda found herself in the world of motorsports. Now, she serves as a host for pre- and post-race coverage for NBC Sports Group’s NASCAR Cup and XFINITY Series—a job she truly enjoys doing because of the stories.
“I did not grow up a motorsports fan, I grew up a stick and ball fan,” Voda said. “Being from Iowa, everything is college sports and wrestling so I didn’t grow up in a household that necessarily followed motorsports. It’s still storytelling. I kind of fell in love with it from a storytelling perspective.
“I love the people in the sport: it’s athletes overcoming obstacles, competition and everybody working on a team for a common goal, so it’s really a lot of the same parallels as other team sports, just instead of a football field the background is a garage.”
Being a part of the NASCAR world comes with its challenges. Voda does not work traditional 9-to-5 hours, but instead works a lot of long days, nights and weekends. She says she will never be that person who makes it to class reunions or weddings because her job requires her to be busy during those times.
It also makes it interesting for her family life. Her 4-year-old daughter has added a new chapter to her story.
“It’s not easy, but parenting is hard whether you are a stay-at-home mom, go to an office job 9-to-5 or you do what I do,” Voda said. “Because it’s all we’ve known, we make it work. My daughter travels often, she is a frequent flier at four years old. We have a great support system, and we’re lucky that our daughter enjoys the chaos as much as my husband and I do.”
The travel gives the busy mom a chance to see her own family as well. When she goes to races in Chicago or Indianapolis, she uses it as a chance to come back to Clinton to see her own family and friends.
“There is such a guilt with being a working mom you just do the best you can with what you have,” Voda said. “She gets to see I’m following my dream and I’m doing exactly what I want to do. She gets to see that example that she can do and be anything she wants to be. Hopefully, she can see the world is open to her in any direction.”
Voda loves that her daughter’s favorite dolls are the astronaut and scientist. As a woman working in professional sports she is constantly working to open new doors for her daughter’s generation, although she says there were a lot opened for her by other woman in the field.
“I’ve been really lucky because there have been so many women before me that I’m not the first. There was someone who did something before me to have the door open for me,” Voda said. “Yes, it’s a male-dominated sport, but there are women doing every sort of job out here and that’s because there was someone before us.
“I try to show gratitude to anyone who made it possible, but as a woman it’s my job to make sure I am prepared. If a door is open to me because I’m a female that’s great, but then it’s my job to make sure that door stays open. It’s my job to take my foot, even if it’s wearing a high-heeled shoe, and kick it down and make sure it’ll never close.”
Voda has definitely made sure those doors have stayed open for her in the NASCAR world. She loves traveling the country and meeting people from around the world, but she says there is a certain camaraderie that appears whenever she meets someone from her home state: Iowa.
“We’re in the Midwest quite a bit, and those are my favorite places to be,” Voda said. “Number one because we use those race weekends to see family but also just the familiar respect and hospitality that you get in the Midwest. I love the fact that I get to go to all different places and regions, but the Midwest for me is home, and that will always be where I am most comfortable.”
She says it can be anything from someone wearing an Iowa Hawkeye hat to someone with an Iowa license plate that gets her thinking about her hometown. She always goes back to the fact that the way she was raised was the reason she is successful in her television career.
“Growing up in Iowa, it’s very easy to feel like what are we going to do tonight, there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go, but there are kids all across America saying that same thing,” Voda said. “It took me leaving and going different places to realize that the grass isn’t always greener and there is such a pride for me saying that I’m from Iowa.
She also thinks that the small-town mentality is something that young adults can get past, whether they are from Clinton or from any other small town across the nation. It just takes some extra drive.
“You’re not going to just open the door and find an airplane ticket and an opportunity for a job waiting for you,” Voda said. “There is a sacrifice, but if that’s what you want you put in the work and you go for it. It can happen, but it doesn’t just happen from snapping your fingers. I think there are so many opportunities for people with different avenues and curriculums that weren’t there when I was in high school. You have to work hard, and I think that some young people in today’s society don’t realize that it’s not going to just be handed to you.”
Although life as a mom, wife and television host takes her across the country, she is happy it also allows her to return to the Hawkeye State, and to Clinton, where a part of her remains.
“I’m so proud to be from Iowa. I love my upbringing I love where I came from and it’s a part of who I am,” Voda said. “Growing up and being in Iowa is some of my greatest memories. It’s completely undervalued.”