NASCAR spotters have one of the toughest, most important jobs in the sport. They are dedicated members of their respective teams who often work in undesirable conditions given their placement at a NASCAR event. If you’re curious about everything a NASCAR spotter does, keep reading.
A NASCAR spotter must relay information to their drivers about what is happening around them. They need a quick eye to effectively warn drivers of potential crashes and hazards occurring in front of them. The faster a spotter communicates, the better their driver’s chances are of winning.
NASCAR spotters must have a specific skill set to become successful at the Cup Series level. Below, we will talk about what it takes to become a NASCAR spotter, why drivers rely on their spotters, and how their working conditions are so much tougher than they look.
Spotters in NASCAR are people who act as their driver’s eyes, relaying information and alerting the driver when someone is riding high, low, behind, or if there are any wrecks or hazards around them. Spotters allow drivers to be more aware of their surroundings.
For regular driving, you can use your rearview mirrors and side mirrors to look behind and around you. This allows you to see surrounding cars and potential hazards. You can drive even listening to music without worrying of dangers.
However, NASCAR drivers can’t listen to music, as they must devote all their attention to the race and listen for cues from their team and spotters. They race on closed circuits that are often no longer than 2.5 miles, this provides little room for the numerous racers on the track driving hundreds of miles per hour.
With so many other racers in such little space, it is important for drivers to know where the other cars are in relation to their position. NASCAR cars do not have mirrors for viewing their surroundings. Instead, they have spotters who will alert the drivers of opponent’s positions.
Comparing what NASCAR drivers go through on a track to what you deal with on a highway,it is easy to see why drivers have someone telling them if other cars lurk nearby. Drivers cannot always pay attention to what is going on around them.
NASCAR spotters are paramount to a driver’s success. Without them, you would see far more crashes and unfortunate pile ups because with no side view mirror and limited opportunities in a race to peek into the rearview camera, cars would either inadvertently run into one another or drive substantially slower to be more mindful of their surroundings.
To keep the race interesting and drivers operating a car at maximum capacity, they leave it to the spotter to direct them throughout the race. Suppose a driver is enjoying a great run riding high, or closer to the wall, and they want to make a move to the high portion of the track. The spotter will let them know when they are clear to veer high.
Spotters also let a driver know if a competitor is approaching fast from behind. Slower drivers may get out of their way or if the car can maintain a competitive pace, they may attempt a block. When you see a crash occur during a race, spotters attempt to walk their drivers through the chaos in hopes of avoiding a collision. Sometimes this works, other times it does not.
There are times when drivers find themselves too close to a crash for the spotters to provide much help. A spotter may successfully walk their driver through the onset of the crash, but another car may skid into them, potentially ending that driver’s race.
Caution flags follow crashes so the cleanup team can remove debris from the track to return the race back to green as fast as possible. Since there is nothing going on during a caution, NASCAR displays a few replay angles from the previous crash. Often, their replays show different track angles before they switch to in-car cameras.
When you are watching the video of a driver who either avoided or was unlucky enough to get caught up in the wreck, you will hear a calm voice in the radio relaying the driver a set of instructions. This is the NASCAR spotter trying to navigate their drivers through the wreck.
How It Works On Road Courses
Spotters are viable solutions in NASCAR because many tracks are ovals, and spotters can see the full track from one high vantage point with a pair of binoculars. However, in other motorsports, where tracks are more complex (like NASCAR’s road courses), teams would need more than one spotter to see every part of the track.
NASCAR teams generally have 2 spotters at road courses to combat this, but adding more spotters into the mix could make radio conversations a bit hectic. This is part of the reason F1 doesn’t have spotters, as some tracks, like Spa in Belgium for example, are so long and winding that drivers would need many spotters to cover every part of the track!
A NASCAR driver typically only has one spotter, even on some of the longer, more complex tracks. One spotter can usually suffice because they are provided with a strong vantage point to observe from. If an additional spotter is needed, the role would likely fall upon an existing crew member.
NASCAR tracks come in various shapes and sizes, and there are even road courses and superspeedways. You may wonder how it’s possible for a single spotter to see from one end of the track to another on longer tracks, like the Daytona International Speedway or Sonoma Raceway. Or even if they could see all the track, whether they would be able to distinguish their car from the others.
Despite potential issues with spotting their respective cars across the track, NASCAR still uses only one spotter per driver. They provide the spotters a vantage point that allows view of the entire track, though a pair of binoculars may be necessary. If an additional spotter is needed, the job would fall to someone not allowed over the wall to service the car.
A NASCAR spotter makes between $2,500 and $3,000 per race, which is roughly between $90,000 and $100,000 per year. Though this salary may seem desirable, remember that spotters have one of the toughest jobs not only in the Cup series, but in sports in general.
On the surface, a spotter’s job looks like a breeze. They get free entry into the show, and they often say the higher up you are at the track, the more of the race you can see. With that in mind, spotters get the best seats at every NASCAR event.
Most Cup Series races last between three and five hours, barring inclement weather. So, spotters, like their drivers, seemingly work a few hours a week while they also get paid to fly across the country to direct their drivers through a race. However, NASCAR spotters have among the toughest jobs available in motorsport.
A NASCAR Spotter’s Job Description
Every weekend during a Cup Series season, NASCAR spotters are exposed to less-than-desirable conditions like extreme heat. Since they are elevated so high for their vantage spot, they work in direct sunlight for hours at a time.
When the camera concentrates on the spotters during a Cup Series event, you often see that they are standing, or at least leaning over the rail. They will be standing in that same position for most of the 300 to 500-mile event. Spotters are almost always standing shoulder to shoulder as well. Meaning this job is unideal for those who are claustrophobic or afraid of heights.
They rarely take breaks, even when the caution flag waves. This is because NASCAR spotters talk with one another throughout the duration of an event. There are times, when the opportunity presents itself, to strategize with other spotters during a caution.
Suppose two drivers are either lined single-file or side-by-side with one another with the race under caution. Spotters can negotiate a potential short-term alliance that they will then relay to their driver. Sometimes, drivers team briefly with another driver via their spotter’s recommendations. Other times, this isn’t a valid option.
Spotters can work more than one day a week, as they also perform their spotting duties during any practice sessions their driver may run. Some work or have previously worked the Truck and Xfinity Series as well.
Before their day begins, NASCAR spotters have their eyes on the daily forecast. They need to know exactly what they are walking into before a practice or a race so they can dress and prepare according to what the weather will bring.
Checking the weather is not only for the spotter’s well-being, but also because the forecast will tell them how well their driver’s car will handle during practice and the race. When it is hot and clear, spotters can expect more handling difficulties. However, if the temperature drops too low, tires harden and difficulties in handling could occur.
Spotters will also communicate with the builders and crew members to formulate an ideal strategy for the event. However, these strategies can change at will, depending on how track conditions change. If winds pick up or if clouds cover the sun, it will affect a car’s handling, calling for a different strategy.
Drivers communicate with their spotter more than anyone else, so it is common for crew chiefs to relay any handling recommendations to their spotters, who will then relay the information to the driver. This provides a greater sense of familiarity for drivers.
The hardest part of a NASCAR spotter’s job is having to concentrate intently without lapses for the entire duration of every event they work. It is incredibly important that the spotter is always watching their driver and observing everything within the immediate vicinity.
Whether it is practice or the race, a spotter must blank out everything else except their driver and what is going on around them. NASCAR races can get entertaining. Spotters are susceptible to human error, and they face temptation to turn their attention toward parts of the track where there is more action.
When you watch a NASCAR race, your eyes probably always focus on the action out front. Much of the race’s entertainment occurs with the fastest cars battling for the lead in hopes of pulling from the pack. NASCAR spotters cannot focus on the entertaining portion of the race unless their driver is involved in it.
A spotter must also ensure that the cars in front of their driver are not about to crash and that no one is lurking close behind, up high near the barrier, or down low near the apron. A spotter should briefly divert their eyes from the driver to ensure no potential hazards are developing in front of them. All other times, their eyes are on the driver and their immediate surroundings.
On the highway, you have time to look around and make sound decisions on what you are going to do with your car. Are you going to speed up onto the off-ramp and outpace the car behind you, or are you going to let them go and settle in behind them? NASCAR drivers cannot take their time making such decisions.
Instead, their spotters relay exactly what is happening on the track. Drivers then act automatically without double-checking to ensure their spotter relayed correct information. If the spotter says they have a car approaching from behind and veering high, a driver will veer high to block if they feel they can outrace the opposing car.
Drivers must also act instantly if a wreck, even the inevitable ‘Big One’, occurs in front of them. They need to rely on their reflexes and their spotter’s voice to give themselves the best opportunity possible to drive through the fray. That means no second-guessing the spotter.
Spotters must have a quick eye and fast decision-making to determine where their driver should go during a wreck. The slightest miscommunication between the spotter and their driver could end both of their days early.
If all this information about NASCAR spotters sounds like a dream job, you may want to learn how to get there. You must meet the specific skill requirements and find a way to squeeze into NASCAR. Even with the Cup, Xfinity, Truck, and ARCA Series, there are not many spotter jobs available within NASCAR.
Without sound concentration skills, you can forget about becoming a NASCAR spotter. At the Cup Series level teams expect perfection, and the speed of the racing event means you cannot divert your eyes or attention for even a fraction of a second.
Every bit as important as concentration, communication is key. One important aspect of developing communication skills as a NASCAR spotter is to use terminology and sentence structures that drivers can process within a split-second. NASCAR spotters must be concise. They cannot become overly descriptive on whether they have a car running high or on top, or low or on the bottom.
If you have ever heard communication between spotters and their drivers, they might have said, “(car number) high,” or “(car number) low.”It is short, to the point, and drivers instantly understand what their spotter is conveying without a second thought.
Speed is also a major aspect of communication. When a NASCAR spotter sees something on the track, they must immediately communicate what they are seeing to their driver. If they do not provide immediate feedback, they put their driver at risk of an on-track incident.
This is perhaps the most underappreciated attribute of a NASCAR spotter. If one does not display sheer endurance, they will not last long as a spotter. Spotters, like drivers and crew members, travel about the across the United States every week for nine months out of the year. They need to be up early for team meetings and stay up late for follow-up meetings throughout the week.
Then they need to handle moist, humid weather with no shade, and that alone poses a challenge. Just as drivers practice sound fitness and nutritional programs throughout the calendar year, spotters need to maintain their physical health as well.
The more physically fit they are, the more endurance they will have. The more they hydrate, the easier it is to maintain concentration when situated high up and in direct sunlight. Therefore, if you want to become a NASCAR spotter, you need to become mindful about your physical fitness.
Things will get stressful atop the press box or in the designated spotter stand. When two drivers crash out of the race and feud, the unseen battle is taking place atop the spotters stand between the drivers’ respective spotters.
There is always a cause for a wreck, and spotters will get into heated debates over whose driver crashed the other driver out – especially if one driver remains on the track and the other’s day ends early.
NASCAR spotters have a hierarchy, and it is common for the older, more experienced spotters to be direct with their younger counterparts. Spotters don’t just answer to their bosses in the owner’s box, they may also answer to other spotters. Older spotters set the tone during an event.
Of course, a mutual level of respect exists among all spotters, and even the senior spotters are willing to work with their younger counterparts. Every race will bring something that a spotter, regardless of their experience has never seen before. To be a NASCAR spotter, you must expect the unexpected and learn how to relay those events quickly.
To work well under stress and to best handle confrontation, recall times where you did so and succeeded previously. The funny thing about working under stress is that we are all capable of doing so. You must remember that you have made it through your most stressful moments 100% of the time. Having good memory and staying calm with help your ability to work in those stressful moments.
Practice does not make perfect, but it makes permanent. This means that, no matter how much you practice trying to master a skill, mistakes will still occur. However, the more you practice a skill using good habits, the more second nature that skill becomes.
Look at any job that is very demanding. The most successful individuals working those jobs were practicing even when they were not on the clock. Progress is often made when no one else is looking. Set aside at least an hour a day, preferably at the same time of the day, to practice the skills required to become a NASCAR spotter.
All NASCAR spotters, regardless of how much base knowledge they accumulate on their own, must find a way to break into the NASCAR industry. Fortunately, you can do this by logging onto NASCAR’s website and viewing the job openings. No, you won’t find ‘NASCAR Spotter Wanted’ ads. However, you will be able to network with people working for the company.
Not all jobs are the most desirable. Once you get your foot in the door, you take the first step to someday becoming a NASCAR spotter.You don’t need to work directly under NASCAR, consider one of their organizations like Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing.
You can also build your resume by connecting and working with drivers at local racetracks who may need spotters. You may even work for a NASCAR team in a different capacity, and work as a spotter for a team on a local track if there is no conflict of interest. This allows you to build your connections within the NASCAR industry while simultaneously building your experience as a spotter.
NASCAR is a competitive industry to get into and becoming a NASCAR spotter is even tougher given the limited number of jobs at every level on the NASCAR pyramid. So, to further augment your chances of success, dedicate more time to your dream of becoming a spotter than you would in other activities.
Always remember, for each break you take, there is someone else out there who keeps working instead. Keep working at it harder than those beside you and you might just squeeze your way into the NASCAR industry and ultimately become a spotter.
NASCAR spotters use concentration and communication skills to effectively relay information to their drivers on their immediate surroundings and potential obstacles. The driver’s safety and performance depend on the focus and accuracy of the spotter, making it one of the toughest jobs in motorsport.
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