During Speedweeks in Daytona,...
During Speedweeks in Daytona, spotters crowd above the tower at New Smyrna Speedway to spot one of the races. This is typical of most short track events throughout the year. A good vantage point, good eye site and being able to stay calm are all assets for a spotter. Photo by Jim Jones
- Clearance all around the car. Let the driver know when it is clear all around so he can run his line.
- Who is closing and how fast. If a faster car is closing, let the driver know so he can be prepared. If for position, the driver can judge if he needs to be aggressive or allow the other driver to pass. If you know you are holding up a car half way through a long race, it is wise to let the car go. Later on the situation may reverse itself. The car that was faster twenty laps ago might have worn his stuff out and is now backing up to you. If you are considerate, chances are he will return the favor. If you blocked him, get ready for a long delay.
- If there are slow cars ahead. Notice about slow cars on the track can help avoid trouble, especially when your car is involved in a race for position with another car.
- Information about the car. You might be able to spot trouble with the car before the driver or crew notices anything. Your vantage point is usually high, and you can see all or most of the track. If you see tire smoke or a sudden push developing, let someone know.
- Laps run and laps remaining. Let the driver know when the half way point has come, when there are ten to go or if it will be a green, white, checker at the end after a late caution.
- Lap times vs. leader. Some drivers need lap time information to judge how they are doing against the leader. If they are the leader, they might want the gap between them and second place called out. If your car is faster and is pulling away, it might be prudent to take it a little easy and sand bag to avoid unwanted scrutiny.
There is no real need to speak...
There is no real need to speak with this situation. Both drivers have a clear view of where each other is. If the 5 car is slowly overtaking and actually makes the pass half way down the backstretch from here, then you would need to clear him right away so he can take a low line into Turn 3. Photo by Jim Jones
- Moral support and encouragement. Offer support to the driver, especially during long cautions. Tell him what he did right and possibly what might make the run better.
- Directions to victory lane. In all of the confusion of winning, the driver might get disoriented burning all of those donuts and lose track of where Victory Lane is located. Help him along while you enjoy a mutual win.
Every driver is different when it comes to their personalities and thinking processes. You need to get to know your drivers way of thinking. Does he need encouragement or does he need to be restrained?
The spotter may be in a position, depending on their relationship with the driver, to manipulate their mood and strategy if needed. After an inadvertent spin or bad start, you need to reinforce the fact that it is over and we need to move on with the rest of the race. You might hear, "did you see what that guy did?" or "wait til' I get to his bumper, I'm gonna pay him back big time..." In these cases, do what you can to calm the driver down and encourage him to see the big picture. "Hey, I don't think he knew you were there," or "that's okay, we can make it up, let's get ready for the green..."
Never, ever encourage a response to an incident. It is your job to remain calm and to direct information that has a positive affect on the outcome of the race for your team. If you can't do that, then you don't need to be in that position.
Before the season and/or before a particular race, do some pre-planning with the driver and crew chief about strategies and alternatives in the event certain things take place. For example, some teams choose to pit during an early caution in a longer race that requires a stop, so that when the rest of the field pits, they will be at the front for the final stint.
This only works well if you have gotten behind due to a spin or flat tire that put you to the rear and you need to get back up front. The drawback to this is that the late pitting teams will have fresher tires (if everyone puts on new rubber) and be faster.