Dawn Gardin: Career Gamble Paid Off Big
Dawn Gardin took a big career gamble moving from television to motorsports, but for her it’s paid off handsomely.
Gardin is in her second year as Broadcast Media Relations Manager at Texas Motor Speedway. She joined TMS from NASCAR, where she spent two years on the sanctioning body's media relations staff. Gardin served in the role of Senior Coordinator of Public Relations/Broadcast and was responsible for the pitching and coordination of storylines and interviews with national and local television/radio outlets, including the Texas market.
Prior to her work at NASCAR Dawn spent 10 years working in television and radio in both the talent and production aspects of the field. Gardin served as the crew coordinator and field producer at CoverEDGE Television News Services in 2003. She assigned and coordinated crews, live shots and fiber feeds for various clients including Court TV, MSNBC, CNN, ESPN and FOX News Channel and also served as a field producer for Court TV, ESPN, MSNBC and E! among others.
Gardin previously worked for two Las Vegas network television affiliates, KVNBC-TV (NBC 3) and KVVU-TV (FOX 5). She served as a reporter, photographer and editor for the NBC affiliate from 1996-99 and then moved to the FOX affiliate as an assignment editor, sports producer and web producer from 1999-2003.
She got her start in radio working for WFLD radio in Fond du Lac Wisconsin as the weather reporter. Dawn earned a Bachelor of Arts and Science degree in Communications from Marian College in Fond du Lac, WI.
Gardin's responsibilities include coordinating the operation of Texas Motor Speedway's newly constructed Victory Lane Broadcast Center, an innovative project that provides seven indoor broadcasting studios, two outdoor broadcasting platforms, a deadline work room on the lower level and fiber line feeds.
I left Las Vegas, where I was working for a company called CoverEDGE where I was working mostly on a freelance basis as a producer, to work for NASCAR that I saw as a great opportunity because the sport was growing and changing and it was a perfect time to get involved. Sports have always been a passion of mine and I always really had wanted to work in the sports profession for a long time. NASCAR was perfect. At the time it was a full time permanent job which was better than the freelancing I had been doing. And it was very exciting because my first season with NASCAR was the first season of the Chase, the first season with NEXTEL as it title sponsor. Things were changing and it was very exciting to be part of something like that.
Did you ever think it was difficult to be a woman in such a male-dominated sport?
There are so many women in the garage these days I never really felt like there was anything different about being a woman in the garage. I didn’t know a lot about cars and still don’t know how to drive a stick shift car today but a lot of the drivers, crew chiefs and NASCAR officials were great at teaching me a lot of the aspects about the cars and engines. Greg Biffle was always great at explaining things to me in a way I could understand them. I know can explain to a lot of the media that ask me question like what is loose and what is tight.
What prompted you to leave NASCAR to work at Texas Motor Speedway?
I loved working for NASCAR. I learned a lot from Jim Hunter who was my boss at NASCAR about PR and the sport. But the travel can be a bit much and coming to Texas Motor Speedway was an opportunity for me to essentially do the same thing I was doing at NASCAR but not have to travel as much. It is also nice to work with a smaller media group. I work with the Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana media mainly which is nice because I have a little more time to get to know them better and I think I have better relationships with them now that I can talk to them on a daily basis.
Is it refreshing working on all Motorsports now instead of just stock car racing?
I like having more variety in motorsports here at Texas Motor Speedway. I was a little nervous about the Indy Racing League at first because I really didn’t know a lot of the drivers or a lot about the sport and now it is one of my favorite weekends. I love to watch how fast those cars go. There is nothing like watching the IRL race under lights here at Texas Motor Speedway. It is an incredible sight so see. We also have dirt races here at TMS at our dirt track. I’m still learning about dirt racing but it is pretty fun to watch.
What made you pursue a career in motorsports?
I knew that NASCAR was huge and growing and having covered the sport on the TV side I knew it would be a great career move to work for NASCAR if the chance ever came about. While covering the races for KVVU FOX 5 in Las Vegas I was charged with the task of producing a 2 hour pre-race show prior to the national FOX coverage of the race and from that point on I knew I loved the sport. The people associated with NASCAR are all great from the drivers to their PR representatives to the NASCAR public relations staff. They made covering the sport so easy.
How to you balance family and personal life with such a demanding job is that difficult for you?
It’s not real hard to balance a personal life with my job. I really love what I do and love working closely with the media here in Dallas/Fort Worth. It is nice not traveling as much as I did at NASCAR and now having weekends off. Yes there are long days in the office but that is a lot of times what makes my job exciting.