Here’s 2 New Views on NASCAR Spotters

Kate Ertmann
6 min readOct 26, 2018


My view from the tip-top of the stands at the inaugural NASCAR Roval weekend

Before the race began, as I walked past the spotter, high above the track and directly above the entrance/exit of the (new) Roval itself, I enthusiastically said “I wanna be a spotter when I grow-up!”, gave him a big grin, and he gave me the nod and raised eyebrows of an “Oh, really, is that so?” response.

*one of too-many-fantastic-quotes-to-choose from Brett Griffin (currently spotter for #14 Clint Bowyer) when he was trying to see his driver’s car through some heavy fog.

When I returned to my seat in the last row, at the highest point of the track stands, he was already busy working. And so were about 10 or 15 other guys — including Tony Stewart, former NASCAR championship driver and now an absolutely-hard-working-and-not-just-counting-his-pile-of-money owner of the Stewart-Haas Racing team. The spotters for the day’s race were in place.

The spotter is the person on the race team who is communicating with the driver and crew chief as another set of eyes on the track; they’re usually at the highest viewpoint and can relay info back to the driver and crew chief about track conditions and what other drivers are doing. At some tracks they may also be making deals with other spotters and their teams for track position, drafting, and general team work.

Some spotters come in just for the weekend’s race, touch-base with the driver and team, and work with the driver as he practices, qualifies, and then races.

But some are more integrated; when spotters first came around they were usually the driver’s pilot, too, and that is still the case with Brad Keselowski and his spotter, Joey Meier. With these tighter relationships there may be more involvement during the week with the team, including watching video, or reporting for Tuesday’s all-hands meeting, like Chase Elliott’s spotter, Eddie D’Hondt. Though many spotters are former or amateur stock car drivers themselves, many are not.

At the highest level, spotters will usually stay with their driver for all season. But there are also spotters who may jump around between drivers in different NASCAR series or even in other motorsports series — like Indy or F1. I met spotter Jason Reiner at the 2018 Grand Prix of Portland, and while he was working at the Indy race that day, he has also spotted for NASCAR drivers in the past.

A large part of the work that I do is in building productive, profitable, and sustainable work teams in the 21st century workplace. So I started thinking about opportunities for possible further efficiencies — and therefore opportunities for greater success — on race teams, and I’ve got a couple of ideas that I think are worthy of further exploration.

Spotter notes at the Roval

1. What if one of the other 6,500 languages that exist were used?
Split-second decisions that breed split-second reactions need every split-second opportunity they can find. In a sport that spends thousands upon thousands of dollars on the most talented engineers to get an advantage on the car next to you — a half second can make all the difference.

Mexican-born Daniel Suarez’ native language is Spanish, though he does speak English quite fluently. But English is not his native language. Does he dream in English? What if he didn’t need to translate what his English-speaking spotter is saying to him? What if his spotter talked to him in Spanish? And then they can be the bilingual person on the team, talking to the crew chief in English.

Suarez’ current spotter is Chris Osborne, an industry veteran, and by all accounts I’ve never heard of any challenges for them with each other. But I think of how, in the MLB, team owner / CEO Derek Jeter is requiring his managers at the Marlins to take Spanish classes; the Latino population is the nation’s second-fastest-growing racial or ethnic group. Not only does this line of thinking seem like a great consideration for Suarez’ team, it’s also an opportunity that could lead the industry down the road of better international representation within the sport and outreach to younger generations, key ingredients in making a healthy 21st century workplace. Doing this would be the very definition of equity.

And a little marketing and PR push on this to the media would be positive towards garnering new fans. Oh, and might help a non-native-English-speaker like Suarez have a better opportunity to advance on the track.

More spotter notes on a pole at the Roval

2. What if the other 51% of the population was seriously considered for the role of a spotter?
There aren’t any women who are spotters in the top-tiers of NASCAR. At first I thought this might be because, to be a spotter, you need to have experience on the track as a driver. Since that pool of women is already incredibly small, I suppose I could understand why there’d probably be just a single-digit amount of women to even talk with about a spotter opportunity.

But, experience as a driver doesn’t seem to be a requirement (though of course it would likely be considered to be an asset).

There’s a ton of women who would be interested in being a spotter :waveshand:. How about hiring women recently retired from the military? Disciplined and experienced in maintaining calmness in intense situations?

Representation matters and if done for the right reasons (Qualified! Talented! A good fit for the team!) it could have a lasting positive effect on other teams — making diverse leadership on teams a norm, not a token act — as well as on the sport itself.

I know NASCAR gives priority to nurturing diversity in its sport, but I don’t know how much the race teams actively work at it (or even understand why it’s important). As with any core structural change, for it to work you have to not only spend more energy taking a new direction, but it also takes more time. I totally get that when needing a new teammate, you call around, you ask the people you already know in the business for recommendations. And that’s how you end up surrounded by people who look, and think, just like you. It’s a lot easier that way. Ugh, unconscious bias. It’s in all the sports.

For those that still don’t understand what the business case is for diversity and inclusion: there’s a proven cost benefit having diversity-in-thinking in problem solving situations.

I think I do want to be a spotter when I grow up.
I’ll be at Martinsville this weekend, sitting high in the stands, with my scanner and headset on.
Y’all let me know if you need another set of eyes.

Such. A. View. — at Charlotte Motor Speedway



Kate Ertmann

Creativity — Technology — Operations. Lover of #NASCAR. Math is (my) everything. Making companies relevant in the 21st Century.