The #17 team has been under the microscope as of late; with driver Matt Kenseth leaving Roush at the end of 2012, many are wondering how they will fair for the remainder of the season. Will they be able to stay strong in The Chase? Nobody knows yet.
One member of that team, however, doesn’t seem nervous about the rest of the races at all. Well, on Twitter at least. Mike Calinoff, the spotter for Kenseth, uses his sarcasm to shut down the questions of, “Where’s Matt going? Are you going with him? What about Ricky and Nelson?” It brings a light humor to the whole situation, which everyone needs.
Calinoff also spots for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the Nationwide Series and Nelson Piquet Jr. in the Trucks series. Going back, the spotter has gone with multiple drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. at one point, until finally settling with Matt for good.
I got the chance to interview the busy, sarcastic spotter, where I asked him about chemistry, learning what a driver needs, and fighting on the spotters’ stand.
1. The chemistry between driver and spotter is very crucial. How do you manage to maintain a relationship between the three drivers you spot for?
I think the most important part of the relationship is knowing what each driver needs and how that information is delivered. With Matt being a Champion, there’s really no coaching necessary. A lot of what I do is cheerleading and reassurance. Nelson and Ricky are a little different based on the fact that their careers are really just getting started, so I’m watching more closely what they’re doing and try to help them with their lines, etc.
2. Some drivers go through countless spotter changes. What do you think is the key to having long-term success?
Basically, it’s all about understanding what a driver needs. I have developed that with Matt for 12 years and I’m now establishing that kind of relationship with Ricky and Nelson.
3. You’ve never been a race car driver. How are you able to communicate so well with your drivers without that personal experience?
Everything I’ve learned about spotting is a result of working for Matt. Watching him for tens of thousands of laps has taught me what works and what doesn’t. It’s kind of like we learned together starting back in 2000. Again, all of that knowledge translates over to the coaching aspect of my job.
4. We see how tempers flare on track. Does the same thing happen in the spotters’ stand?
Only for a brief moment. We realize that none of us are holding the wheel, so there’s only so much we can control. We’re all pretty good friends up there.
5. Have you ever gotten the call to spot for two different drivers on the same weekend and had to choose which to go with?
My regular jobs are to spot for Matt, Ricky and Nelson when they’re racing. On occasion, I will spot some ARCA races that are companion with Cup — but only if the driver has a chance to win!