The spotter is a crucial part of a race team. They are the guides for the driver. When the cars go three wide into a turn, the spotter is the one who gets their guy out of that tight spot (you know, if they’re good). It sounds like the world sits on this guy’s shoulders, right?
Kevin Hamlin, the spotter for NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, doesn’t see it that way. Instead of holding a steering wheel, he now uses binoculars to coach his driver through turns and wrecks. His past as a driver has led him to his new position, with some help from Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis. Through email, he told me about his racing background and being someone’s second set of eyes.
1. Your background includes being behind the wheel at one point. What did you run, and how long did you race?
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and ran the NASCAR Northwest Series from 1999-2003. We won the championship in 2001 & 2002, and then my wife and I moved back to NC in the summer of 2004. Brendan Gaughan really got things kick started for me with some ARCA races with Kenny Schrader, which eventually led to an opportunity at Chip Ganassi Racing. I was under his development program from 2005-2010. I only ever ran about 6 races for Chip, they farmed me out to Biagi Brothers and smaller teams in the Nationwide Series until Chip’s Nationwide program closed down in late 2007. I was also test driving for Chip at the time, and spotting for Front Row Motorsports (John Andretti & Travis Kvapil). When my contract at CGR was up, I moved over to RCR and spotted for Clint Bowyer all of 2011.
2. How did you get started in spotting?
I got started spotting just helping out while I was at CGR, at tests and some stand alone NNS races. My first Cup race I spotted was in 2008, I think, when Scott Pruett ran the 40 Coors Light car for Chip. David Stremme was normally in the car and it was a one race deal. I kept spotting when I knew my driving gig was going to end, it’s the next best way (in my opinion anyway) to help out and be involved. I enjoyed it, and seemed to be decent at it.
3. You’ve recently became the permanent spotter for Kasey Kahne. When you were filling in week-by-week before, was there chemistry with the #5 team?
Kasey and I had good chemistry right away. I think partly because it was a no pressure deal. I already had a job at RCR, and if Kasey didn’t like the way I did it, it was no big deal – I had a job already. I just spotted the way I spot, and Kasey really seemed to like it.
4. When you got that call from Mr. Hendrick [to become Kahne’s full-time spotter], was there any hesitation since the past few guys were let go?
I actually haven’t spoken to Mr. Hendrick, the deal was put together through Kasey and his crew chief Kenny Francis. Kasey made it all happen, and there wasn’t any hesitation as far as job security goes because he did so much leg work to get me over there. That meant a lot. Plus we worked really well together in those first few races.
5. Can you describe the pressure of being a driver’s second set of eyes?
I don’t really think of the position as having a lot of pressure. I don’t think any of us up there do. You just basically report what you see. You get a feel for what the driver wants to hear, and when he or she wants to hear it. You get amped up for the races, and want to the best job possible, but if you feel a position is pressure filled and you don’t like that then it’s probably not for you.
6. What is one of your craziest spotting experiences?
Craziest spotting experiences is probably getting down from the stand and to the airport. You see some stuff in the stands coming down. NASCAR fans are dedicated and a lot of fun, so when your going the complete opposite way of a lot of people, you meet some cool folks
7. What tools or objects can be found in your handy-dandy Spotter Kit?
I’ve got 4 radios in my bag (one to transmit, one to listen to NASCAR, one to listen to myself, and a private radio where I talk to Kenny and Keith.) I’ve got a spare headset in there, binoculars, chap stick, duct tape, extra radio cables, extra radio batteries, Gatorade, a phone charger, sun screen, a rain coat, Gatorade, Aquafina & a packet of Spark from AdvoCare.