Atop the Spotters Stand: 24 Hours of Rolex
As we prepare to start the new season #48 spotter Earl Barban and I would like to welcome Chris Lambert to our weekly spotter’s stand chats.
Chris spots for Denny Hamlin in the Sprint Cup and Brian Vickers in Nationwide.
The 2013 racing season kicks off this weekend with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Chris lets us know what spotting for a 24 hour race is like.
I’ll let Chris tell you what he’s been up to since we left Homestead.
Although my 2012 NASCAR season ended in mid-November, I’ve stayed pretty busy thru out December & January. On top of testing the new Gen-6 Cup car at Daytona & Charlotte (twice), I’ve also worked with different teams in different series whether thru testing or an actual race weekend.
I was in Pensacola, FL in early December to work the Snowball Derby, easily the biggest late model short track race each year. I was also in Daytona, FL in mid-December to work a three day ARCA series test, getting ready for their season opener in early February during the 2013 Speed weeks.
Although I enjoy working with different drivers/teams in all kinds of different series, the one I’ve been looking forward to the most is this weekend, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. I again will have the privilege of working with Action Express Racing, a North Carolina based team competing in the DP class of the race.
Last year was my very first time working the Rolex 24, but it was an unbelievable experience. I must say, coming from the NASCAR world that there are a lot of differences in the two series, on & off the track. With the race starting at 3:30pm on Saturday and running thru the night until 3:30pm on Sunday afternoon, we have to use two spotters per car. Obviously that means that each spotter will work 12hrs each, but how you break those hrs. up is entirely up to us.
Last year we did 3hr shifts, and my partner started the race at 3:30pm, so my first shift was scheduled for 6:30pm-9:30pm.It was during my first shift that I figured out how I could be the most help to my drivers, and also noticed the biggest differences in Grand Am and NASCAR, even NASCAR on our road courses.
While Action Express fields DP, or Daytona Prototype cars, there is also another class running at the same time called GT, or Grand Touring cars. Last year there were 14 DP’s and 45 GT’s in the race. The DP cars are about 6-9 seconds faster per lap on average than the GT cars, so helping my guys decide when to push hard or ride while trying to work thru GT traffic was huge.
Being that the 24 is more of an endurance race, the guys aren’t always pushing as hard as they can every lap, so trying to keep my guy safe and get him in position to pass in the better passing zones were huge.
After my first shift was over, I went inside to the garage/infield to talk to the crew guys and also to eat. The infield was “sold out” last year, and it looked like a huge fair/party was going on the entire time. They have carnival rides, games, and lots of places to shop and get anything related to the race you can think of. There was people everywhere, having a good time. I actually rode the Ferris wheel during my break from 3:30am to 6:30am.
Probably the biggest differences for me were three main things. Working different shifts, working thru the night, and working with four different drivers during the same race. During my races on the NASCAR side, our races usually average 3-3.5hrs and then I can let my mind wind down. But working the shifts for the 24 race, you work your shift, then have a 3hr break, but you have to go back to work again. So you can’t fully unwind and really rest. Also, working thru the night was different too, but there is so much going on that it keeps you alert.
We have night races, but none that run thru out the night. And finally trying to figure out what each of the four drivers that is in the car want out of you is different too. Some of them have really never had or used spotters, so they’re not used to having a voice in their ear. I had a good group last year, and the transition was from one to the other was pretty simple.
Hopefully it’s the same this year too. We finished 5th last year with the AXR #5, and hopefully we can better that this year. I can’t wait to get to Daytona later this week and try to do just that.
My drivers in the #5 this year are Christian Fittipaldi, Brian Frisselle, Felipe Nasr, and NASCAR’s Nelson Piquet Jr.
You can follow Chris on twitter @3widemiddle. Earl and Chris will be back for the Daytona 500.
If you have any questions for Earl or Chris please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll make sure it gets to them.
Thanks to MotorSportsNews’ photographer Steve Langley for the spotter photo for this series of articles.