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Getting to know Earl Barban, spotter for the No. 48

CONCORD, N.C. (Aug. 6, 2009) – If you’ve ever listened to the No. 48 team’s radio frequency on race day, you’ve heard the reassuring voice of Earl Barban. From atop the spotter’s stand, he helps guide driver Jimmie Johnson through traffic on the racetrack. Recently, we caught up with Earl: 
Full name: Earl Paul Barban Jr.
Nickname: Well there’s a plethora of them, but two come to mind—the Duke and Big Earl.
Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.

High School: Jennings Sr. High School, Jennings, Mo. (St. Louis Mo.)

College: I attended Florissant Valley campus of St. Louis Community College and the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Team/job duties: Spotter on race day. At the shop, I handle special projects. One day I can be putting cars together, dealing with the nuts and bolts and all aspects of working on a race car. And then the next day I can be doing inventory; the next day I’m working with used parts. I’m a backup truck driver, so I’ve driven to the West coast a couple times. You might say I’m jack of all trades.

Time at current job:  Seven months. I also was a shop mechanic and spotter here in 2006.

Years in racing: 22nd year in racing in some capacity. I spent 19 with a Cup team and three years in public relations.

First racing job: I started working in racing when the son of one of my father’s best friends in high school raced a sprint car. He asked me to give him a hand, and I did. Sometime later I put in an application at Motorsports International. I thought that place was really cool, and I thought I’d like to work there. They called me, and I started out with Penske doing the souvenir trailers and show car program. I worked my way up from there. I was on the R&D team when I first moved down to Charlotte. I drove the truck until 1997. I was the gasman for five years, the jackman for five years, the spotter for five years.

First job overall: I delivered flyers when I was 13 years old for Tomaso’s Pizzeria. I was paid $1 for every 100 flyers delivered.

Non-racing gigs: I’ve done it all. Tended bar; laid bricks; worked for a company that wired the electrical meters on your house; put the ball on Ban Roll-on; made those plastic mop buckets and toilet deodorizers; rented cars; drove an airport shuttle; worked at a bowling alley; worked as a grocery produce manager; bagged groceries; worked as a Steak and Shake fry cook from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. – oh the stories I could tell. I operated a forklift; sold Christmas trees. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do. But racing seems to be the career of choice for me.  I even owned a truck in the 1995 NASCAR Truck Series that Kenny Wallace drove for me.

One thing people wouldn’t know about you: I went through the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 1983-88 and received the Navy Achievement Medal.

If I wasn’t in racing I would be: A dive instructor in the Caribbean and a bartender at a tiki bar.

Best racing memory: I have wonderful memories and experiences from working with Rusty Wallace at Penske, but what stands out the most is winning the Daytona 500 with Jimmie in 2006. I had worked for such a long time and never won Daytona. And man, that was real emotional. I guess I was nervous, too, because it was my first time working with Jimmie (Johnson, driver) and Chad (Knaus, crew chief). And then Chad wasn’t even there. But it was like you’re on audition, afraid to make a mistake because here you have great teammates like Jeff Gordon and a great owner like Mr. Hendrick. And what an opportunity. When I worked for Rusty Wallace, I didn’t think of it like that because I had moved up through the company, and I was just comfortable.  With time, that also has come here at Hendrick.

When he came across that line, I was teary, hugging Shannon McGlamery, (spotter on the No. 24). To be in it that long, I’d won pit crew championships, and lots of races but nothing of that magnitude.

On preparing for the race: We have a meeting an hour before the race, and I make sure I give each one of the guys a fist bump or shake their hands. I tell every one of them to do a good job and have fun out there.

Hobbies outside of racing: Scuba diving; rental houses and commercial buildings; property management – I manage four properties right now.
Favorite sport other than racing: Is there any other sport?

When I’m not at the track you can find me: Probably at my shop in Mooresville. I keep a little space for myself to tinker on whatever’s up there – motorcycles, jeeps, lawnmowers. On Saturday, if I’m not at the racetrack, I’m eating breakfast with my 81-year-old neighbor Dot. She’s a great lady.

On an off weekend you can find me: Scuba diving.
Favorite movies: “Roadhouse” and “Rambo”

Favorite book: “Hunt for Red October”

Favorite musician: Janet Jackson. I met her. She’s awesome.

My current car is: a 2008 Chevy 4-door Silverado.

Dream car: Dune buggy.

What you’ll find on my iPod: Dance music, hip hop, and ‘80s. Maybe a little Maroon Five.

If I could meet anyone, I’d meet: The President. And Warren Buffet.

Favorite food: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans.

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