The 2022 ARCA Menards Series season kicks off on February 19 at Daytona International Speedway with FS1 providing coverage for the event as part of a nine-race deal. Jamie Little will be back in the booth for her second season as a play-by-play announcer, an opportunity that she will continue to wholeheartedly embrace.
Little sat down with Heavy on December 21 to preview her second season in the FOX Sports booth, as well as the action that will take place on the track as the up-and-coming drivers fight for wins. The 2021 season served as Little’s first full foray into the world of play-by-play, which caused her to lose some sleep early on, but she is now ready to hit the ground running as part of the expanded broadcast schedule.
“We did eight [races] this year, so it’ll be nine next year,” Little told Heavy. “I’m excited to have another go at it. You know, you get so invested in learning something new, learning a new skill set. It’s like we were just hitting our stride, and we were done with the coverage. So I can’t wait to get back.
“The racetracks that we’re going to are going to be awesome,” Little continued. “And the field — it’s kind of like the Truck Series — it’s wide open. But there you’ve got 15-year-olds that I’m calling. I mean, it’s unbelievable. They’re 15. They can’t have a driver’s license in real life. They can race at these tracks that we’re calling.”
FS1 will broadcast nine of the 20 ARCA Menards Series races in 2022, starting with the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway. The list of races will also include trips to Talladega Superspeedway (April 23), Kansas Speedway (May 14), Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 27), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (July 8), Pocono Raceway (July 22), Indianapolis Raceway Park (July 29), Watkins Glen International (August 19), and Bristol Motor Speedway (September 15).
The Championship Battle Will Be Quite Different
With Ty Gibbs moving up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the pursuit of the championship trophy will be very different. He will take 10 wins and more than 1,600 laps led with him, but runner-up Corey Heim will return to defend his six wins. He will battle with numerous talented drivers over the 20-race schedule, but who will be the favorite to win each week?
“The Toyota bunch, it’s hard to go against any of them,” Little explained. “And it’s the way that they’re being trained, what they’re learning, the way they’re educated, the simulation time, all the resources that they have. The Venturini Motorsports team is incredible. Toni Breidinger, she’s another one I think I’m going to keep my eye on. She’s running for Venturini Motorsports next year, which is great for her. Her background and where she comes from, her family and racing, I think she has a lot of potential.”
Along with Breidinger and Heim, Little also highlighted a number of drivers that can potentially contend for wins during the 2022 season. Rajah Caruth, Daniel Dye, Nick Sanchez, and ARCA Menards Series East champion Sammy Smith were highlights on the list. Though there is little doubt that other drivers will come in and shake up the weekly schedule.
Little Has Even More Excitement for Her National Series Coverage
Along with her role in the booth for FS1, Little will continue to cover the top three national series as a pit reporter. She will spend the first half of the season working Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and Cup Series races. Once NBC and USA Network begin broadcasting Xfinity and Cup Races in late June, she will focus solely on the fascinating Truck Series races.
The upcoming season will feature the return of regular-season champion John Hunter Nemechek and overall series champion Ben Rhodes, but there will be some noticeable changes. 2020 Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed and perennial playoff contender Austin Hill will both move up to the Xfinity Series and join Richard Childress Racing while some rising, young drivers join different teams.
Little doesn’t know how the season will play out, especially considering that there are far more opportunities for first-time winners to make some noise like Chandler Smith and Tate Fogleman did in 2021. However, she does know that there will be some fascinating and emotional moments throughout the season.
“The Truck Series is so much fun to cover,” Little said. “I never covered it until two seasons ago where I kind of dabbled. I jumped in and covered some races. It’s so fun because it’s that core group of racers who are all trying to make it. I love working with the younger drivers who are starry-eyed and they’re just paying their dues. You know, a top 10 And they’re crying. Those emotions are so real. I love it. But it is wide open. This next year is going to be so exciting for the series.”
Prior to the start of the ARCA Menards Series, Truck Series, and Xfinity Series seasons, Little will head to Los Angeles with her fellow FOX Sports employees. They will cover the first-ever Busch Light Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum, which will feature Next Gen Cup Series cars on a short track. This historic weekend will take place on February 5-6.