Motorsport News

‘You’re the driver’s eyes’: The life of a NASCAR spotter

'You're the driver's eyes': The life of a NASCAR spotter

It’s a clear Saturday afternoon in March, minutes before the start of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. I’m standing at the top of the grandstands in Turn 12, the track’s infamously harsh braking zone. My mouth is dry. I’m swaying at the hips. I feel sick. But I can’t back out now, because for the first time in my life, I’m competing on a NASCAR team — and it’s my job to help keep our driver from wrecking.

It’s a hell of a first assignment.

My job this weekend is called “spotting.” NASCAR spotters track what’s going on behind, beside and in front of a race car, sometimes coaching their driver through a pass while describing the location of rivals or the severity of wrecks around them.

Spotters do this in as few words as possible; if they use too many, they risk distracting the driver. That’s why, when you listen to a team’s radio, you’ll hear truncated sentences.

“Left side.” (There’s a car on your left.)

“Bumper.” “Quarter.” “Door.” (The car next to you is at your bumper, quarter panel or door.)

“Clear.” (No cars overlap with yours, meaning you can move side to side.)

“Five back to the 48.” (The No. 48 car is approximately five car lengths behind.)

“Looking right.” (The car behind you is peeking to your right, potentially to make a pass.)

Typically, each NASCAR driver has one spotter. On a snaky, 3.41-mile road course like Circuit of the Americas, though, they need at least three to “see” the full track, meaning teams recruit part-timers to help.

Knowing that, my husband asked if I could get us spotting gigs at COTA. Neither of us had ever been spotters, but I offered our (admittedly low-demand) services to the first driver who came to mind: my friend Brad Perez, who signed to drive the No. 45 car with Xfinity Series team Alpha Prime Racing.

“Personally, I ain’t scared,” he said. “Just make sure my team owner is good with it.”

Former Xfinity driver Tommy Joe Martins co-owns the team, and he’s also a friend. I asked him next.

“Great idea,” he responded. “It will save us a lot of hassle. I love it.”

Alpha Prime is a lower-budget team in the Xfinity Series, going up against top-level NASCAR Cup Series powerhouses such as Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Richard Childress Racing and more. The…

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