The Artist and The Athlete podcast: Lindsay Czarniak interview

Lindsay Czarniak, NASCAR (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for WICT)
Lindsay Czarniak, NASCAR (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for WICT) /

We spoke with veteran NASCAR reporter Lindsay Czarniak about her new Sony Music Entertainment podcast, The Artist and The Athlete.

Lindsay Czarniak, the veteran NASCAR reporter and host of the new Sony Music Entertainment podcast The Artist and The Athlete, which officially launched yesterday, recently spoke to Beyond the Flag about this new podcast and what she hopes it can provide for those involved as well as for listeners.

Czarniak has covered some of the biggest stories in sports for networks including ESPN and Fox Sports since getting her start in the industry several years ago, and along she became fascinated by the intersection of sports and music, which proved to be the ultimate inspiration for this new series.

It features dynamic conversations with some of the biggest names in sports and music, and that includes motorsports. The individuals featured will explore their paths to success, their process, and their passions when away from the big stage, allowing listeners to gain special behind-the-scenes access to uncover stories that they have never heard before.

Czarniak noted that multiple past NASCAR drivers have been involved, and the plan is to get active drivers involved as well.

“Danica [Patrick] was one,” Czarniak told Beyond the Flag. “We have Jimmie Johnson. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be one, and we are working on — yes, there will be active NASCAR drivers for sure. But at this point, I can’t say who that is, although I do have a good idea!”

We spoke at length with Czarniak about what led to this podcast and what the ultimate goals are, and she provided multiple insights ahead of its launch.

Here’s what she had to say.

Asher Fair, Beyond the Flag (BTF): How did you get started in your industry and what led to the creation of this podcast?

Lindsay Czarniak: I started in the business at CNN, that was my first job out of college. I was behind the scenes, it was an entry level program. That is how I began, and that’s also where my really burning desire to do TV and to do journalism was born, and so from there, I, kind of like a lot of people, I got my tape together and I sent it out, and I ended up getting a job in Jacksonsville, Florida. And I was there for a couple years, and I was doing news. I was a news reporter, and so I’ve always been into those storytelling obviously.

But when I was working in Jacksonville, I was interested in racing, in NASCAR and all of that. And I started to fall in love with it at the same time. And one thing led to another, and a number of events happened, and I ended up getting an offer to go cover sports in Miami. And at the same time, I was covering racing. My station would let me go and do it on the side, which was great and kind of rare, and that’s how my passion for sports and storytelling really began.

And so there’s one example that I can give of why I’ve always wanted to do this particular format, and this has been something that I’ve really had in the back of my mind for a while that I would love to do. I did an interview probably 15 years ago with Dale Earnhardt Jr., and I got one of the players for the Washington Football Team, who was a great racing fan, and Dale is a huge fan of Washington. And I got the football player to go fly to the race track to do an interview with Dale and that player together.

It was Chris Cooley. And we did it in Dale’s motorhome, and being a part of that interview really changed the way that I viewed interviews. And I thought, my goodness, the way there were sparks flying, they were just so engaged in what each other was talking about — and those were both sports, but I knew there was really something special to talking about the process and two different sports.

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The things that they go through on the way, and to hear the questions that Dale started asking Chris, and vice versa, that’s what gave me chills and goosebumps, because I was like ‘oh my gosh, these guys are so interested in each other.’ And I have always been really passionate and interested in music.

And so to me, I always, from that moment, I really started thinking this would be so cool also if you could do it where it is an artist and an athlete.

Really long winded answer, but after that, I’ve worked several places, and among them, ESPN, and during my time there during SportsCenter too, music is something that comes up every so often, and we would have artists on the set. So I’ve just fallen in love with the concept because I’ve always felt like there was a really unique appetite to hear two people from two different worlds but who have had a similar level of success talk about the things that we don’t know that they deal with and the things that we don’t know that they find in common. 

BTF: What kinds of athletes and what types of stories and perspectives are you seeking out when you have people on this podcast?

Czarniak: It’s a mix, and that’s actually one of the things that I really love about it. When we were first talking about this concept, we tossed around the idea of — I have a great passion for country music, I like all genres, I really do — but we thought maybe this is more of country music and athletes. And then as we started getting into the planning of it and the bookings and started thinking about different people that I would love to talk to and that made a lot of sense, we decided to broaden it out.

And so I love that because it allows me to really dig into a whole variety, which is awesome. So it’s going to be a little bit of everything, musically and sports-wise. We have NFL players, NBA stars, NASCAR drivers, the list goes on and on, baseball, and ironically, a World Series champion, who now happens to be our kickoff episode, which is awesome.

And musically, I love that the genres are so different because it is opening up things and stories and topics to me that I never thought about, like Ray Lewis and Kirk Franklin, the gospel superstar, right out of the gate, we weren’t even talking for a minute, and they started getting into a topic about what it’s like to grow up as a Black man without a father.

So the topics that come out of these conversations are so fascinating because you kind of think you know what they’re going to be going into it, you think, ‘Okay, well here’s what we think connects these two people’, but inevitably when you’re going down that path, it is just really interesting to see how it manifests and how it comes together and the things that they find interesting about one another.

I’ve been discovering as I do these, it’s challenging for me because it is a different type of journalism, you know, you really have to focus on what it is that’s the connector between these two because there are a million things we could ask each of them if they were the solo person in this conversation, but when they’re together, the magic happens when they’re comparing stories, and so there is some stuff that we’ve heard that I truly cannot believe that they’ve shared.

BTF: Finally, what is the target audience of the podcast?

Czarniak: I am seeking people who love a good story and are interested in hearing it through these two vehicles. So I honestly want it all, and I want the people that watched me at SportsCenter, I want those people because I hear what they’re after and I know they’re fascinated with the X’s and O’s stories that will be shared on this podcast that I think are really entertaining and revealing.

But I also want anyone out there who’s not a sports fan who is just interested in hearing how someone achieves greatness, or really interesting relatable stories. So when I think about people that pay attention to stuff I do, if I look at social media, it’s very half and half. This is a little bit of a science project for me. Because I don’t know what that’s going to look like, but I really hope that we can draw as many people in as possible by saying, ‘Listen to me, it’s all about what relates to you in your life’.

When I started caring about NASCAR, I didn’t know NASCAR, and I had to learn the X’s and the O’s of that sport, and the way I did it was really getting to know the characters behind it, and I tell friends that all the time. If you hook your interest and your education to a specific athlete, or a musician for that matter, I think it can make anything interesting and relatable. So we’re going for a little bit of everything!

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Be sure to follow along with this podcast and keep an eye out for future announcements regarding the stars who are to be featured on it. You can find the podcast at Apple Podcasts or wherever else you listen to podcasts.