Last week, I debuted the first article of the Spotters’ Series, featuring Joey Meier, spotter for Brad Keselowski.
This week’s article will feature Brett Griffin, spotter for Elliott Sadler. Griffin started spotting for Sadler back in 2000 at Wood Brothers and has been with him ever since.
Ashley McCubbin : How many years have you been spotting?
Brett Griffin : I did a couple of races in 2000 with the Wood Brothers and Elliott. The full time spotter had something come up and Eddie Wood handed me a headset and said you're spotting today.
I feared for my life but it all worked out pretty good in both races. Next thing you know, Elliott asked me during the offseason of 2000 to start spotting for him full time. And, I've been spotting full time since 2001. So, this is my 10th season up on the roof!
AM : What do you think makes a good spotter? Any certain requirements/recommendations?
BG : It's easy: SAY WHAT YOU SEE! Some folks are good at it and some aren't. Or, maybe I should say some folks pay close attention to what's going on out there and some don't.
I'm not really of the opinion that we can help the driver go faster but I am of the opinion that if we don't give them important information it can screw up their day pretty quickly.
AM : Best and Worst tracks for spotting at?
BG : Best tracks are Daytona, Talladega, Bristol, and Martinsville. Four hours flies by at all of those tracks.
I usually don't talk about the worst tracks but I'll give them to you, too. Worst tracks are Pocono and Phoenix. Pocono is a huge track so the cars are always a long, long ways away from us and the angles are difficult to help the drivers. It's not a bad track just a tough place for us to really help the drivers.
Phoenix, on the other hand, there's not one good thing I can say about the spotters' stand or the view where we stand. We can't see the bottom of turns three and four and the cars are constantly coming directly at us or going away from us which makes the depth perception very difficult. You may or may not think it's a big deal but I'd be willing to bet you most of the "BIG" wrecks at Phoenix happen in turns three and four or on restarts. Does where the spotters' stand is located play a role in that? Possibly.
AM : What do you think of the criticisms that spotters get immediately when it comes to incidents?
BG : I love it. Someone has to get the blame, right? If it wasn't for them throwing us under the bus no one would know we even exist. The problem is they never ask us about it during the broadcasts. What I think is even funnier is when TV says something about the spotters and whether or not we're doing a good job.
Then they show a video clip with a delayed audio clip which makes us look like a bunch of incompetent goons. Oh well, what can you do???
AM : How do you get along with the other spotters?
BG : In the Cup series 99 percent of the guys on the roof are good at what they do. In other series, I'd say half. The spotter’s job has changed a lot over the last 10 years. We have a team radio, a NASCAR radio, and a private radio.
That's a lot of radios to manage and listen to all at the same time. I wouldn't say I'm ready to go be a traffic controller or anything but that's a lot of moving pieces.
AM : What's the hardest part about your job?
BG : Getting to victory lane before the photos have ended. The crews and drivers get there way before we can so when we win it's tough sometimes to make it down in time for the whole celebration.
Seriously, just getting a good sense of trust between the driver and spotter is all you can ask for. If that trust isn't there, then the driver isn't going to trust the spotter and trust me, we know what we're saying and we can tell whether or not the driver is listening. I've worked for Elliott for 10 years and been his spotter the entire time. I definitely feel like our off the track relationship helps our relationship on race day.
AM: During the race, in general, what is your job?
BG: Make no mistake about it. Our number one priority is to keep the driver safe. That's a pretty big statement when you think about it. 200-plus mph and our main priority is to keep them safe. The competition side of the sport has started to lean on us way more than it used to, especially at restrictor plate tracks.
AM: When it comes to pit stops, what does your job entail?
BG: If it's a long yellow it usually entails finding a restroom. We don't get bathroom breaks so you gotta go when you can.
As far as the actual process of coming down pit road and pitting it's pretty simple. Get the driver onto pit road as safe as possible, get him off pit road as safe as possible and remind him of various procedures so we don't incur any penalties such as pit road speed, proper blend lines, etc. We also try and pay attention to who is getting two tires, four tires, gas only, etc.
The crew chief typically talks the driver into the pit box from about 10 away and clears them back into traffic. So, when a driver wrecks on pit road getting into or out of their pit stall, don't listen to the TV broadcast folks who blame that one on us. That's all crew chief-driver communication!
AM: If you have worked with different drivers, what are some certain things that one driver prefers over another?
BG: I've worked with Elliott Sadler in the Cup Series since 2000 but I've helped other drivers such as Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Michael Waltrip, Dale Jarrett, Kevin Harvick, Trevor Bayne, and many others in the Nationwide Series and Truck Series.
It's tough to jump in and spot one race for a guy and nail it because you don't know a lot about the team synergy. What I mean by that is you don't know what info the driver wants versus who may be expected to give it to him.
But, knock on wood, I've never had any major problems spotting for other drivers. It's all about giving pertinent information in short, concise statements the drivers can understand and use to their benefit. It's not rocket science.
AM: What do you do if you ever have to go to the bathroom in the middle of a race?
BG: I hope for a long yellow or red flag but hope that Elliott isn't the cause of it. Vegas has restrooms on the roof which is nice. I think that's the only track that does.
AM: What do you do before the race, food/drink wise, to prepare?
BG: Most of the time Elliott has grilled chicken and brown rice before the race. I pretty much eat whatever he's having unless it's those damn green peas. And before the race starts I like to have a Coke on ice. Great taste and a great energy boost to get me ready for 500 miles.