NASCAR's Unsung Heroes, Spotters Series: A View From Talladega

Ashley McCubbinAnalyst IApril 27, 2010

TALLADEGA, AL - APRIL 25: Michael Waltrip, driver of the #55 Aaron's 55th Anniversary Toyota, leads a group of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25, 2010 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

In preview of the third article of the series, which will feature Lorin Ranier, it’s time to take a look back at Talladega.

Talladega saw the most competitive race in NASCAR history with 88 lead changes among 29 drivers. It also produces the closest racing as you see packs of 43 drivers all bumper-to-bumper trying to out-match their fellow comrade.

Sounds of NASCAR on Speed this past Monday featured Roush-Fenway’s four Cup Series spotters: Lorin Rainer, Mike Calinoff, Joel Edmond and Jason Hedelski. It took a look at their life away from the track, well meanwhile what their job is like at Talladega.

Due to the close racing, the spotter’s job isn’t like most tracks.

Edmond stated on the show that they’re barely off the mic so he needs every battery that he’s got. Hedelski added that when he sees Talladega on the schedule, he thinks about how much he needs to talk.

Calinoff says, he likes Talladega due to how much he talks.

“Talladega is one of my favorite tracks; it’s always exciting,” he said during Sounds of NASCAR. “Any track where you need to be on the radio and engaged is exciting.”

Talladega is a track where seeing what is going on around you is key for avoiding trouble, as well as for winning the race.

Some people also were looking at Talladega to see how the spoiler would affect the racing. For Edmond, he was hoping that it’d make it easier for the drivers to see.

“We’re hoping as spotters that with the spoiler on the car, the drivers can see through the other driver’s car,” he said on Sounds of NASCAR. “With the wing on the car, they could not see through the windshield of the other car which was tough on us.”

Being able to see what goes on in front of you is a key on the restrictor plate tracks due to seeing when people are going to drop out of line to pit, or seeing when there is a big wreck ahead of you.

Do you recall the chain reaction that happened with Jimmie Johnson got into Jeff Gordon which in return caused the accordion effect wrecking some cars? 

That’s a perfect example where being able to see what’s going on ahead would help in trying to avoid complications.

Wrecks like the aforementioned wreck are inevitably due to the type of racing that takes place.

There are times when they get close to wrecking due to somebody making a move or getting loose, though somehow, manage to save it.

“There’s probably 30 times where it could happen.” Hedelski commented during Sounds of NASCAR.


Due to this, making the right or wrong call has a very good chance of happening and that is why restrictor plate tracks really shine the light on the spotter’s job.

The second wreck that Johnson was involved in with Greg Biffle shined a lot of light on his spotter, Earl Barban.

Barban said on the radio, the words “outside only,” to Johnson with regards to Biffle, and Johnson still moved up the track and got into him.

The broadcast crew and fans a like criticised Barban for his call, saying that he may have not been saying it with 100 percent clarity, though some forgot the possibly that is Barban’s style and how he normally spots.

Also, the question of timing in the call was brought up through Calinoff and the driver he spots for, Matt Kenseth, as an interesting exchange on the radio took place.

“You’re really late in your calls,” Kenseth told him during the race. “When you say I’m two-wide, I’m actually three-wide. When you say I’m three-wide, I was clear.”

“Copy that. Just a bit tough when you come off of four.” Calinoff replied.

Timing the correct call can be difficult due to the vantage point that the spotter’s stand is in relation to the track. When the cars are coming off of turn four directly at them, it sometimes makes it tough to point out their car and be absolutely certain.

Some would say at these times that the drivers rely too much on their spotters, though due to the restricted vision, sometimes they’re bound to do that. That’s why the spotter’s job sometimes equal great importance as it could seem that they’ve got the driver’s life in their hands.

Be on the look-out Friday for an article featuring Lorin Ranier, spotter for David Ragan in the Cup Series, Colin Braun in Nationwide, Johnny Sauter in the Truck Series and Craig Goess in the ARCA Series.

In concluding the Talladega race, I will say that it was a good race and leave you with an analogy that Ranier had on Sounds of NASCAR .

“The race at Talladega – you’re like racing in a vaccum.”

NASCAR’s Unsung Heroes: Spotter Series

Joey Meier, spotter for Brad Keselowski

Brett Griffin, spotter for Elliott Sadler


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