Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Mike Neff · Monday October 22, 2012
This week for Tech Talk, we thought we’d take a detour from life under the hood to give you a taste of what life is like up on the roof. Mike Herman, Jr. has been spotting for several years for drivers at local tracks all of the way up to the Sprint Cup Series. Before that, he was a driver and mechanic, winning multiple track championships at Concord Speedway and competing in the Hooters Pro Cup Series back when it was one of the strongest short track divisions in the country. So as NASCAR heads to Martinsville, Virginia this weekend with its Chase for the Championship Frontstretch sat down with Herman to talk a little about the tools of his trade. Find out more insight about the responsibilities of a spotter, what the toughest pit road in the sport is and how much the best spotters in the business spend on their equipment as Herman, Jr. sits down for an extended conversation with our own Mike Neff. Oh, and we talk a little Martinsville inside info, too…
Mike Neff: Before we get started, let’s get some background as a lot of our readers aren’t going to know who you are. I know you’ve been around racing for a long time… give us a little bio about you and your life in racing.
Mike Herman, Jr.: Well, this coming year will be my 30th year in racing. Started in 1983 in two forms. That is when I started racing go-karts myself, but my dad also worked for Earnhardt’s personal team, his Late Model Sportsman team. So I was able to go over to the shop and hang out every night, ‘cause it is only a mile from my house. So I spent quite a few years over there hanging out and getting to go to the race track. I was fortunate enough to get to go to Victory Lane with Earnhardt when dad was with him, on numerous occasions. That molded who I was as a racer. From there, I spent 10 years kart racing and then started running Late Models at Hickory in 1995 and had a Late Model team for several years. I was fortunate enough to win two track championships at Concord in 1997 and 1998.
From there, I spent 10 years driving in the Hooters Pro Cup series. It was a good time but it was a challenging time for me. We were always strained financially, trying to do a Pro Cup deal on a Late Model budget. With the Late Model we always had everything we needed to compete, win races and championships but not so much on a Pro Cup deal. We didn’t have the success we wanted, even though it was a rollercoaster and we did have some success. 2007 was my last year driving and I started spotting for Marc Davis at Joe Gibbs Racing in the K&N East Series. I had one of the guys from my Late Model and Pro Cup teams who worked for JGR, and they were needing a spotter — he put in an immediate reference for me, so I was able to clear a lot of hurdles thanks to that.
So my spotting deal took off there, which turned more into a driver coaching thing because I can take my experience driving and pair it with my spotting ability and put the two together so that it works out as a good position for a team. That’s what brings me to my current career.
Neff: Getting your foot in the door with Marc was certainly a good break to springboard your spotting career.
Herman, Jr.: It was definitely a good break. A lot of times, you have to start with lesser teams and work your way up. With me being able to go in with Joe Gibbs on my resume right off the bat really did springboard me and send me off into the future. At the same time, though, the groundwork you lay in the Short Track racing ranks always pays dividends in the future. If it wasn’t for the guys that have come through my race team here, learned a trade and parlayed it into a job in the sport, which I am very proud of… that’s one of my biggest legacies. It isn’t just me, this has been an organization of many people. It started with my dad and me but many, many people have come through here and a lot of those guys are now working with Truck, Nationwide and Cup teams today. I feel like that is my legacy, that we provided a team and a facility and the ability to learn a trade, better themselves and make a career out of it. One way or the other, I feel like it would have worked out just because of the contacts and the network that I am part of thanks to the Short Track racing world.
Neff: Technically, this question is focused on Martinsville but most of it will probably pertain to all of the different tracks in the country. When you head up into the spotter’s stand, how many radios do you take with you?
Herman, Jr.: I actually carry a minimum of four radios with me and sometimes five. That fifth will usually act as just a backup. During the race, you’ll use at least four. The Cup guys will sometimes use a fifth as a direct line to the crew chief that no one else can hear. I primarily focus on short track racing and I use four radios at one time. It is a juggling act to be able to hear all of that through two ears but over time, you get used to it.
Neff: Do you take up spare batteries as well or do you just swap out radios as they die?
Herman, Jr.: Well first of all, it is important for a spotter to own his own equipment. I guess that is the root of it. My bag of radios and equipment is my bag of tools. Just like a mechanic has his toolbox that he takes from job to job, I have my radio bag full of equipment. I know it all works and how it works and I have spares and everything I need. Along with the four radios I carry, I take about 10 batteries for the weekend. On a typical weekend, I spot multiple classes during the weekend, whether it is a Super Late Model race and a Late Model or on an ARCA weekend I may spot Venturini and another class. Instead of carrying chargers with me, I just carry spare batteries. I think that is one of the biggest things that I’ve seen in the modern day spotter. This job evolved very rapidly in the last few years. It has resulted in a trickle down effect from the Cup level down as to how that job is evolving. It is important for a spotter to have their own equipment so that way, they know what they have and that it is the best they have.
It was just like at Martinsville Sunday for the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300. On a rare chance when I’m not spotting a race, I can sit back and watch how the event flows. I think one of the biggest challenges a race director has at the short track level is not the intelligence of the spotters, because there are a lot of smart racing minds atop the stand, but I think they’re handicapped from an equipment standpoint. I’ve programmed my equipment to a point so that it is, to the best of my knowledge, the best it can be for me to do my job, where most of those guys just grab a radio out of the box and go spot. I can hear things really clearly when the race director is telling me something where most of those guys, like the ones at Martinsville Sunday, are listening through a scanner that has a quarter of the volume of what I can hear. I’m firing different things off in different ears so that I can analyze everything that is being said. Most of those guys are handicapped from an equipment standpoint and it affects the race.
Neff: There are various levels of equipment that people can choose to own when it comes to two-way radios. How much do top of the line radios run you when you’re trying to amass the best to make your job as easy as possible?
Herman, Jr.: Number one, the best radio supplier out there, and I’ve used them since 1993, is definitely Racing Electronics. They have stuff that is at the very high end and they have economical things for the Saturday night racer. At any given time, my bag has five to six thousand dollars worth of equipment in it. I understand that that is out of reach of the typical Saturday night guy. It is hard to sit here and say, when I have four radios on me that are $1,000 each and my headset has four ports in it so that I can listen to all four of those radios. I know that is taking it to the extreme but that is how I do the job. The number one job of the spotter is to keep the driver safe. Number two is aiding in the flow of the race. You are the liaison between race control and the driver and team. Number three, where I feel like a guy like me comes in, we’re also a performance tool. My coaching ability comes into play and that is where high dollar equipment makes it better because I’m trying to maximize my assistance to the team — this is what I do for a living. That isn’t to say that a Saturday night spotter needs $5,000 worth of equipment. He can have $1,500 worth of equipment and 99% of what I do to help the driver and the flow of the show. I am on the extreme side. I wouldn’t sit here and say you need all of that to do the job. I also didn’t go out and acquire it all at one time. I’ve built it up over time for five years. That is also where I try to help out the newer guys that see the equipment I’m using to explain to them what it all does. It helps them realize, if they want to do this, that they need to start piecing together some of the better equipment in order to do it right.
Neff: At Martinsville, do you need binoculars to do the job or is it small enough that you can do the job without them?
Herman, Jr.: You don’t need visual aids at Martinsville, but I do keep them handy as part of my bag. I carry binoculars everywhere I go. If I’m spotting a mile and a half, like I did Friday night at Kansas, I keep them on my neck where I can get to them quickly. If I’m at Martinsville for the Late Model race, I won’t have them on my neck but they’re close to where I can get to them quickly. If it is a Cup or Truck race at Martinsville I have them on my neck just like I’m at Daytona or Talladega. It is mainly there for body damage. When cars get together and the caution comes out, or a rub is making the crew chief wonder whether you to have to come in for a green-flag stop, it is the spotter’s job to look at the fenders and tell them where the rub is. Is it 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock? Being able to tell the crew exactly where it is allows them to maximize their efforts at repairing the damage — and in order to see that, you have to look through binoculars. You don’t need them clearing through traffic at Martinsville, you do that with your eyes — but finding out that the rub is at 3 o’clock on the right-front tire is going to take binoculars.
Neff: When the time comes for the race, it seems like there are different techniques to spotting for a driver. How far ahead of your car and driver do you look when you’re spotting and does it depend on the size of the track?
Herman, Jr.: It is all relative. Martinsville is unique because of the way it is laid out — it isn’t even a normal half-mile. The long straightaways and tight corners are different from even North Wilkesboro or Myrtle Beach or something like that. So it is unique, but you’re constantly scanning. I’m always watching my driver but I’m also watching ahead. You try to look to the next corner, at least. Depending on the size of the race track, you put yourself in the driver’s seat and anticipate how long he has to react. Like at Kansas Saturday night. If we’re cruising down the back straight and something happens in turn four, I don’t have to call it immediately because I have time to get my driver slowed down. If we’re cruising down the back and they wreck going into turn three, you have to be immediate with it because that driver has to slow down right then. It varies from track to track and where you are on the track. You’re constantly scanning back and forth. If you put a video camera on a spotter’s eyes, you’re probably not going to be able to watch the footage. The head is constantly moving because as soon as I look ahead, I look back to my driver. You’re clearing him in and out of the traffic. It also depends on whether you’re in traffic or not. If he’s passing someone or being passed, then you have to focus more on him than what is ahead. Once he clears the traffic, you can look more ahead in case something happens out front. It is a juggling act depending on where you’re looking but you’re always looking back and forth.
Neff: When a driver comes to pit road, you have to guide them in, but from the time they get on the pit lane until they pull out, when do you turn over control to the crew chief and when do you take it back?
Herman, Jr.: When a pit cycle comes up, as soon as the caution comes out, and I have the driver slowed down, I always say the lap number and that is the cue to the crew chief that he can start talking. Then it is up to the crew chief and driver to think quickly because the pits can open in a hurry. Once the pace car picks up the field, they can open the next time by. Martinsville is the worst because the driver and crew chief have almost zero time to decide what they want to do. The pace car picks you up off of turn two and the entrance to pit road is in turn three. As soon as the pace car picks up the field, they open the pit lane. I’ve been on teams before where the driver and crew chief totally missed it because they were talking. Most times you’re coming off of turn four when you have to decide but it isn’t that way at Martinsville. It happens in such a hurry and it has definitely bitten people before. From there, race control will come across the radio and tell you the pits will be open next time by. You alert the crew chief that the pits are going to open and then from there I will let the guys on pit road know where we are. I mainly do that for the gas man because he can’t see the whole track. I let them know when we’re on the back or in turn three, coming to them so he doesn’t have to stand there with the gas can the whole time. Once we hit pit road, you call out the RPM for the gear you have in the car for pit road speed and you start that at the timing line. I’ll walk the driver all of the way to 10 away from the pit box and then I’ll say “10 away” and then the crew chief will take over.
The spotter then stays completely silent until the car pulls out of the pits. The crew chief will clear them out one lane, two lanes or all of the way to the grass. Once the crew chief releases the button, I will take back over and make sure the driver maintains pit road speed until it ends and then we’ll go back to work on our normal deal.
Neff: That is interesting. You always hear the crew chief count them in and out but I didn’t know if there was a pre-planned technique to it or if it just naturally flowed.
Herman, Jr.: Everything is pre-planned. We don’t leave anything to chance. I have different things that I go through before the race. I don’t normally come on the radio until the National Anthem is done playing. Once I know we have radio communication working fine, I’ll have looked at the pit road map and analyzed who is pitting on either side of us. That way, we know if we’re going to have an open in or open out. Then I let the crew chief know where 10 away is. It isn’t always a pit box. It can be a landmark. It can be a spot in the grass or a Sunoco fuel sign. It can be anything, but we want the crew chief to know exactly where 10 away is so that he knows where he’ll be picking up the driver to carry him into the box. Absolutely nothing is left to chance. We go through it all.
Neff: Spotters are a unique breed and are part of their own little fraternity. Spotters come and spotters go but there are many of you that are up there all of the time. When new guys roll up into the spotter’s stand, is there any kind of new spotter hazing or good-natured ribbing that you do to new guys when they first show up in the stand?
Herman, Jr.: I guess the best answer to that would be no comment. I’m totally unique from my standpoint. I started spotting in the East Series and quickly worked my way up to Nationwide and Truck and even some one-off stuff, here and there, in the Cup world. Then last year I got the chance to be up there quite regularly when I was spotting for Tony Raines. So pretty much everybody on the roof knew who I was and, of course, I had some contacts from when I was driving that carried over, so everyone knew who I was. So I didn’t have to go through too much of the initiation type stuff. It is definitely a fraternity, though. There are guys up there who have been spotting for 20 years in the Cup series and they are up there because teams want them up there. They know the system. It is a safe bet for a team because the guys know the rules and the officials and procedures and, just simple things like how to get in and out of the race track.
It is a hard job to pursue, trying to make it all of the way to Cup. I’d say it is just as hard to make it as a Cup spotter as it is to make it as a driver. It is tough. It is definitely a fraternity. It is a good fraternity, there are a lot of really great guys up there. Now, as far as the hazing and initiation-type stuff, I’m going to stick with the ‘“no comment” stance.
Herman not only has a very diverse view of the sport but also has hands on driving experience, as it seems many of the guys in the spotter’s stand have acquired these days. He is also a historian of the sport, redecorating his race shop into a racing museum filled with his personal racing memorabilia. He is a race fan with tastes for all types of competition. His passion for the sport not only makes him an excellent spotter but a great ambassador for the sport.
Connect with Mike!
©2000 - 2008 Mike Neff and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Interesting read. And I totally agree about Racing Electronics – they’re real easy to work with and they have great stuff.
Recent articles from Mike Neff:
Infographic for the West Coast Nationals for the Mini Outlaws
Want to find out more about Mike Neff? Maybe see all the articles he's written here at the Frontstetch? Check out his article archive and bio page then!