Danielle Trotta never backs down from a challenge.
She is known as the smiling co-host on NASCAR Race Hub, but the Westchester, New York native climbed to the top with determination. She knew early on what she wanted to do and how to achieve it.
“I just got really lucky,” Trotta told Up Top The Pit Box over the phone. “I did TV in high school. [Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana] had a broadcast station, a radio channel, everything. It helped me get a huge leg up because I was doing reports at 16.”
Moving with her family landed her in Charlotte, where she attended college. She obtained a Journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and became a sports intern at WBTV, the local TV station. That’s when it became cutthroat.
Trotta said, “I worked really hard. That was probably the most work I have ever done. I was an editor, a photographer, and I eventually became the weekend reporter. The slot opened up, and I walked into [her boss’s office] and told him I wanted the position. I knew I could do it. He said, ‘But you have no experience.’ I said, ‘I’ll do it for free!’ So he let me do it.”
Three months later, she landed the job—and got paid for it. Those beginning years are where she learned some of the best tips and tricks. “[Being a sports intern and a weekend reporter] really taught me everything I use to this day. It was me and a few interns…you have to learn how to keep it together…and make it all come together.”
She covered various sports—including NASCAR—while at WBTV, and the SPEED channel hired her in 2010. To say she was nervous would be an understatement.
“I didn’t know the intricacies of the sport. Every night, race fans tune in, and they’ve been race fans for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. I felt vulnerable and overwhelmed. I cried in the bathroom during my first week.”
Eventually, Trotta realized “it just takes repetition” and found her place while co-hosting Race Hub. It’s been five years since she joined the program, and she’s happy with her job—but still seeking more. Hosting the pre-race show for the NASCAR XFINITY Series races was the answer.
“It was important to me in 2015 to move up and get into the garage. I had to be where the sport is [to report on it]…this is my dream job, and I’m excited to grow with FOX. I always like to challenge myself—and my bosses—to give me new sports.”
That determination burned within her since the beginning, but it took two special people to help unleash it. One of them was Delano Little, the sports reporter and news anchor at WBTV who acted as her “cheerleader and motivator.”
“[Little] brought me into the business and raised me from a little puppy,” she said with a laugh. “He was the man who helped build that foundation [for my career]. He showed me that, if I wanted to be in this business, I had to really work for it.”
Her other mentor was Steve Byrnes. The two worked together on Race Hub, where her co-host helped her learn about NASCAR.
“[Byrnes] really took me under his wing when he didn’t have to. I was always able to call him and ask about the business and the sport. He taught me that there are always ways to grow and better yourself.”
Byrnes passed away in April 2015 after a long-fought battle with cancer. The entire sport—including Trotta—is still trying to cope with his absence.
“It’s been tough to lose him,” she said, adding, “He was a great dad and husband, and he was always happy to help others. Every time I talk to someone, they mention that Steve helped them with this or taught them that. It really speaks to the kind of person he was.”
That helpfulness is something Trotta tries to carry within herself. Her years of experience provide her with advice worth sharing.
She encourages young people to start early, saying, “I was in TV competitions at 15, where I had to report stories against other high school students. It’s never too early. Go to a college that sets you up for success. It is crucial to get an internship at a TV station. I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I didn’t have that internship [at WBTV].”
Her other tip is to take risks, noting how she got her weekend reporting position at the Charlotte TV station.
“I walked into that office and said, ‘Give me a shot,’ and they did. There were hundreds of audition tapes of people who wanted that job, but I got it. That’s the power of getting your foot in the door.”
With persistence, Trotta worked hard and burst onto the NASCAR scene—and she’s here to stay.