If you have watched even part of a NASCAR race, then you have most likely heard of the team spotter. No doubt you’ve heard the phrases “clear high,” or “looking inside,” “on your quarter,” or some such chatter on a driver’s radio. But what exactly is this vital part of the team? What does a NASCAR spotter actually do?
NASCAR Team Spotters are positioned either in dedicated stands or high vantage points around NASCAR race tracks to provide real time race information to drivers They provide information on crashes, track position on other cars, strategy updates and more. NASCAR has used spotters officially since the late 1980s.
The role has become vital in recent years and has contributed to safety immensely. There are multiple facets to the job and it is not as simple as grabbing a pair of binoculars and a coke and watching a NASCAR race, we explore what the role of NASCAR spotter entails below.
What is a Spotters’ Job?
Essentially, a spotter is an extra set of eyes for the driver. The spotter keeps the driver informed of what’s going on in the driver’s immediate area of the track. The spotter alerts the driver if another car is approaching or is within one of the driver’s blind spots.
Or to give the driver a heads up if there is an incident ahead, where the spotter may be able to help direct the driver through.
Needless to say, the spotter must deliver this information quickly, and with precision, because there is a lot at stake and the margin of error is measured in inches and fractions of a second. Without spotters, NASCAR races would be a whole lot messier than they already are.
At least, that is the spotter’s primary and most crucial role within the team. But really, the spotter’s job is so much more than that. The spotter also is charged with keeping the driver abreast of his position on the track, and in the race, relative to other cars.
He must let the driver know the lap count, of changing track conditions, lap times, of directions from officials, when the caution flag is out, and so on. The spotter must also keep the driver informed as to the team’s race strategy, such as when to pit.
What are some of the demands on a NASCAR spotter?
It is fair to say that the spotter, along with the team crew chief, is the drivers’ lifeline to everything which he cannot hear and see out his front windshield.
In fact, it is important for the driver and spotter to make sure they have each other’s lingo down pat, and sometimes they even develop code words or phrases to keep other teams from hearing (all teams can listen in on each other’s radio channels) sensitive information such as pit strategy, or overtaking moves.
So if you ever listen in on team radios and hear a driver tell his spotter he craves some pepperoni pizza (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) or that his “arm itches” (Clint Bowyer) then you’ll know no to take the conversation at face value.
A spotter must also at least have some degree of interpersonal skills, especially if working with an established, successful driver, who also often come with big egos. There inevitably comes a time when a spotter must let a driver know if his line is off, or if he is overdriving the turn entry, or something along those lines.
It is imperative that the relationship between driver and spotter be a healthy one, and that means any criticism must be constructive and delivered with diplomacy.
So while it may seem like a fun, easy job where you just stand around all day watching the race and say “all clear” over the radio now and then, the spotter’s role is actually quite hectic as he/she must relay a lot of information throughout the course of a 3–4-hour race.
And they must maintain the utmost concentration on the ultimate task at hand: keeping the driver out of harm’s way. And often, there is no time for breaks.
Unlike in earlier days, the spotter does not have any other race day duties. The NASCAR spotter is now a stand along rile, similar in the world of racing in rally racing’s co-driver/navigator.
The most apparent difference is that unlike the rally co-driver, the NASCAR spotter does not ride along inside the car but rather watches from on high, with a vantage point that allows him/her to see as much of the track as possible. Most tracks now have purpose-built spotters’ stands.
How much money does a NASCAR spotter make?
Typically, a spotter can make $2,500 in race day earnings, and there is usually a $500 winning bonus. Which makes for quite a lucrative day, especially if a spotter can help steer his driver to victory lane.
When Did NASCAR Start to Use Spotters?
Radio communication between driver and team began in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the 80s when race teams started to experiment with placing crew members at different points on the track, whereas before all communications had been done from the pit areas.
By the early 90s the use of designated “spotters” became first standard, then mandatory as their role in improving the overall safety of the sport became apparent. At some of NASCAR’S larger tracks (Daytona, Indianapolis, Pocono, Talladega) each team must use multiple spotters to cover the entirety of the track.
NASCAR Spotter Vocabulary
Although many drivers may have codes between them and the driver there are plenty of generic phrases used throughout the race, one that don’t have any hidden meanings. Unless Bowyers arm really was itchy of course! We have some of these in the table below.
Table 1: NASCAR Spotter Phrases and their Meaning.
|NASCAR Spotter Phrase||Meaning to NASCAR Drivers|
|In and Out||Car inside and outside ( you’re in the middle basically)|
|At your… door quarter bumper back||Lets the driver know where a following car is in relation to their car.|
|# back||a number is said to let drivers know how far a car following or racing behind them is.|
|3 wide top middle bottom||Lets the drier know where they are on the track if the cars are 3 wide.|
|Clear all around||No cars close to the car, can move up and down the track|
|Clear||Same as above|
|outside the 5, just the 11, 43 and 99.||If overtaking gives the direction to over take and lets the driver know if its just one car.|
|go low||go to bottom of track, passing or avoiding an incident.|
|go High||go to the top of the track, prob to pass or avoid crashes.|
|Check up||slow down releases the throttle ( usually to get out of a potential wreck that has or may happen)|
|Bottle Neck||Traffic Ahead maybe a slower car that has attracted a convoy of cars behind it.|
|# to go||Lets driver know how many laps till end of race stage or pit.|
|Green Green||Green flag racing ! Floor it!|
|Fast car coming 2 back, 3 back||Lets a driver know a faster car is behind and may be about to lap or try to overtake.|
How To Become a NASCAR Spotter?
While spotters come from a variety of backgrounds, they all have racing in their blood – that’s the only way one can take on such a demanding job. Many are mechanics and crew members. Team owners have even been known to take a place atop the spotter’s stand when the situation demanded.
For new teams who are looking for some advice on hw to use spotters, and tips for spotters in your teams there is a download file here from Long Acre racing with tips and ideas. Its free and may help both your spotters and you if it’s your first time utilizing them
We have an article on binoculars that can be taken to a NASCAR Race which include some spotter models if you want to use similar sets as the pros!
Are the Any Famous NASCAR Spotters?
But there is an ongoing trend of past drivers taking on the spotter’s role, with such examples being Tony Raines, Rick Carelli, Andy Houston, Tim Fedewa, and Jason Jarrett, former driver in what is now the Xfinity Series, son of 1999 Cup Champion Dale Jarrett and grandson of two-time champion and broadcast legend Ned Jarrett.
It’s really no surprise that so many former drivers take up second careers as spotter, though, when you think about it. Drivers have a unique perspective on what it’s like out there on the track, and they have a keener sense of what is needed from the spotter on the driver’s end.
What is the Most difficult track for a NASCAR spotter?
Well we can ask all of them but when Brett Griffin did an AMA ( ask me anything) on Reddit he said that both pocono and and Phoenix. Particularly Pocono as Turn one is very difficult and far away so it makes if difficult to get the information for the driver.
Though they don’t get much of the limelight, the spotter really is one of the most important forces behind the scenes of a team’s success. And the spotter’s role is one of the most underappreciated jobs in the business, not to mention one of the most challenging.