The 600-mile event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway is one of my three favorite races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. It’s at home so the garage is packed with people you know. There’s a ton of hype, and bragging rights are on the line. We’re hoping to defend our win this year.
Endurance is key in this race, and spotters aren’t immune to that. We have to be focused every single lap without question, and in a 600 mile race that’s probably the single most important thing for us: to keep our head in the game.
Spotting is a serious deal, and it’s really the next-best thing to racing because you get to be involved in every single lap. Growing up in Snohomish, Wash., my dream was to drive professionally myself. I won the NASCAR Northwest Series Championship in 2001 and 2002 before moving to North Carolina in 2004. I drove some in NASCAR’s various series, spending most of my time as a developmental driver, and toward the end of my contract, I started spotting for John Andretti in 2008. Since then I’ve spotted for three drivers in Cup and a few more in other series – before coming on full-time to work with Kasey in 2012.
Actually, let’s take a minute and back up to last year’s 600 – the one Kasey won. That race really is what gave me the butt-kicking I needed to call and agree to be his full-time spotter. Going into that race, I was already full-time at another Cup team. I had spotted four races for Kasey to fill in. We worked well together right from the start and Kasey had offered me the job, but I hadn’t yet committed. So I watched him win from my couch. That wasn’t much fun. The next day, I called and told him I was in.
I enjoy working with Kasey. He’s really tuned into his surroundings, the race flow and what competitors are doing. We joke around a little – more in practice than in the race. He’s a pretty calm guy, so that part is easy. If he gets upset, he usually gets over it pretty quickly and doesn’t let it affect him in a negative way. As much as he works out – training for half-marathons and what not – we don’t have to worry about whether or not he can make it 600 miles.
The race can be as tough on you mentally as physically, and you have to be ready for anything weather-wise. I like to show up rested, with comfortable shoes, and all the supplies I need for the roof. It’s usually a bit cooler up there than on pit road, so I like to carry a sweatshirt and a coat with me to most races, unless the forecast calls for it to be nuclear-hot. I grab a quick dinner before I head up, usually grilled chicken and a salad; pack some water, an apple – usually about 90 minutes before the race starts. I go find the spot I’d been standing in since practice started on Friday, jot down my pit road notes and basically just chill out before the race starts, talk smack with my fellow spotter-brethren and check my Twitter timeline (for the hundredth time that day…)
The 600 is the longest race of the year, but such an awesome event. I’m not a huge fan of the wait before a night race. I like to get upstairs and get to work, but for some reason with the long wait before the night shows, I feel like I psych myself out a little before the race and feel a little tired. That always goes away during the national anthem, though. As soon as I put all four of my radios on, I’m ready to get to work.