NASCAR's Unsung Heroes, Spotter Series: Mike Calinoff, Matt Kenseth's Spotter

Ashley McCubbinAnalyst IMay 7, 2010

RICHMOND, VA - APRIL 30:  Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Crown Royal Ford,  drives during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CROWN ROYALO Presents the Heath Calhoun 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 30, 2010 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Keeping in the Roush-Fenway camp, this week’s article features championship spotter Mike Calinoff. Calinoff spots for 2003 Cup Champion Matt Kenseth.

Like fellow Roush spotter Lorin Ranier, Calinoff also works away from the track, doing a different type of job.

Calinoff owns Active8, a media relations company that works with drivers to get their name out there, and to promote them to future owners/sponsors.

“What we try to do with our clients is try to build them a branding package and a P.R. package to give them something to talk about,” Calinoff said during Speed’s Sounds of NASCAR Roush Spotters episode.

Instead of simply promoting his clients as just drivers in the series they race in, Calinoff promotes them as general race car drivers.

In between spotting and helping his clients, Calinoff took time to answer some questions.

Ashley McCubbin: How many years have you been spotting?

Mike Calinoff: I have been spotting at a NASCAR level since 1996.

AM: What do you think makes a good spotter? Any certain requirements/recommendations?

MC: I think the ability to predict certain scenarios is key. A lot has to do with knowing whom you're racing around. Having good eyesight really helps!

AM: Best and worst tracks for spotting at?

MC: I like just about every track on the circuit, with the exception of Pocono and Phoenix. I don't like tracks that start with "P"... I'm just kidding about that... Both of those tracks have spotters stands that make it difficult to get a full view of the racing.

AM: What do you think of the criticisms that spotters get immediately when it comes to incidents?

MC: It really depends who's saying it. If it's coming from a driver then I think it's usually valid. If it comes from a crew member who can only see the frontstrech or the media, I give the criticism less value.

AM: How do you get along with the other spotters?

MC: Really well. We all understand that we're not driving the cars and that makes it a lot easier.

AM: What's the hardest part about your job?

MC: Well, being away from home is pretty tough—but it's part of it. I guess standing out in the hot sun for 500 miles is what I like least about the job.

AM: During the race, in general, what is your job?

MC: My job is to give as much information as possible to help the driver make decisions; and, of course, keep him safe.

AM: When it comes to pit stops, what does your job entail?

MC: Basically I will remind the driver of his pit road speed and let him know when he is ten stalls away from our pit stall.

AM: If you have worked with different drivers, what are some certain things that one driver prefers over another?

MC: Some drivers like more talk and some like less. That's pretty much it.

AM: What do you do if you ever have to go to the bathroom in the middle of a race?

MC: Why does everyone always ask that question!? I try not to drink too much during the race. I typically chew a lot of gum.

AM: What do you do before the race, food/drink wise, to prepare?

MC: I've been on a diet so I have been eating very light!

Next week’s article will feature Rocky Ryan, spotter for Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton.

NASCAR’s Unsung Heroes: Spotter Series

Joey Meier, spotter for Brad Keselowski

Brett Griffin, spotter for Elliott Sadler

A View From Talladega

Lorin Ranier, spotter for David Ragan


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