What I have come to know is that there is an art to spotting for a race car. To be good at it takes a lot of observation and knowledge of what the driver needs. A spotter is like a co-pilot in an airplane. In many cases, the spotter should be able to "fly" the car if need be, or have the kind of experience and knowledge needed to do that. In short, the spotter must understand the duties of the driver and anticipate his needs so that correct and useful information can be relayed in an instant.

I have spotted for stock cars and road racing cars. I have been watching and listening in on teams live race communications in all divisions including short track and NASCAR Cup races for as long as there have been radios. When I was a teenager growing up in Daytona, I was at every race watching the cars and the moves drivers made. I saw when they got good information from the spotter and I saw when they did not.

In the past few years I have spotted in the Grand Am series including the 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race, doing 18 out of 24 hours some years. I have my style and others have their style. The best style is the one the driver likes.

I know when I am on my game and when I am slacking off. When on, the drivers know it and although I get very little feedback when it is good, the drivers always want to make sure I am with them. When I find myself drifting off (after four or five hours in the rain) I snap back to it and remember why I am there.

From all of that, I formed some opinions as to what a driver needs and what the spotter should know in order to do a better job of spotting and keeping the car out of trouble. I offer some of my thoughts on the subject keeping in mind I don't even begin to think I know it all. I just have some thoughts that might help those who are new and those who wish to improve.

Education

In order for a person to do a good job at spotting, they need to be educated about racing first. They need to watch a great deal of racing with the object of seeing how drivers work the traffic and how they react to traffic working them.

If possible, early on, listen in on spotter/driver communications and get a feel for what sounds right and what makes sense. As a boy I remember watching races and trying to figure out who was fast and how they worked to pass other cars.

I could pick out a crash situation a good two to three laps ahead of time by observing a conflict early on. I would tell my buddies, watch the number so and so cars, it's fixing to get ugly. Sure enough, nine times out of 10 they would get into each other and the crash was on.

Back in the 1960s, radios were not used and the driver was on his own. Conflicts between drivers happened a lot of times because a driver cut off another car for a lack of knowledge about the spacing between them, not on purpose. With the advent of radios, we now see much cleaner racing with fewer missteps.

Draw on your past experience gained just plain watching races. How many times have you said to yourself, man that guy needed just a little help from the spotter and that crash wouldn't have happened.

Practice

Once you have taken on the role of spotter, do a lot of practice before an actual race. Work with the driver in testing and practice sessions. Get to know how much information he or she wants and needs from his or her perspective. It matters not what you think, although you can offer suggestions. In the end, it is what the driver feels comfortable with that works best.

You will inevitably need to do your first race. This trial by fire is the fastest way to learn. I remember having never spotted before and being asked to help a Goody's Dash team from back home that was racing at Martinsville. They asked me to spot and I said sure, "How hard could it be." Afterwards, I realized that I knew nothing about this art and I got informed in a hurry in case that happened again.