How would you like to have the best seat in the house each and every race? For 36-year-old Chris Lambert, the spotter for No. 83 driver Brian Vickers, he has just that.
Perched high atop the track, Lambert never misses a dull moment. From the action on the track to his fellow spotters relieving their bladder in 40-mph winds, he sees it all. We recently sat down with Lambert and asked him a few questions about his role as the second set of eyes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
RB: How did you land a job as a spotter?
CL: Back in ’96’ and ’97, I worked as a general mechanic for a friend’s late model team. One week the spotter couldn’t make it because he also coached high school football and had a game that evening. So I ended up being thrown into the position.
RB: You and BV go way back. How long?
CL: When Brian’s original spotter, David Green, left to drive in the Truck Series, I received a call from Elton Sawyer, former competition director at RBRT. I had a three-race tryout and was fortunate enough to do the final 10 races in 2007. Been doing it ever since.
RB: Did the driver give you any words of advice?
CL: He told me there are two things you need to know. First, during the first five races I am probably going to lay into you and cuss you out like a dog. Secondly, you need to have thick skin, brush it off and don’t hold a grudge.
RB: Is the role of a spotter really that difficult? After all, how hard is it to direct cars going in circles?
"If you have A.D.D., you can’t do it. Spotting has evolved from a safety device to a competitive advantage."
CL: If you have A.D.D., you can’t do it. Spotting has evolved from a safety device to a competitive advantage. If you don’t provide that you won’t have a job very long.
RB: So how do you help provide a competitive advantage?
CL: The job entails more than just letting him know he has a car inside or outside. I really try to paint a picture. I want BV to see what I’m saying, especially with the chaos that may be going on behind him.
RB: A lot of fans have heard drivers yelling at the crews during the race. Has Vickers ever really laid into you during a race?
CL: (With a chuckle) Yep! I actually made it through the final 10 races in ’07 and all the way to the Charlotte race in May of ’08. We were leading the race when we had a wheel fly off sending him crashing into the wall. I always remind him to keep hold the brake to keep him from sliding down into traffic. And like I typically do when he is involved in a wreck, I asked if he was OK. BV keyed the mic and screamed SHUT THE $^&% UP, I’m trying to keep from getting run over out here! That was just raw emotion.
RB: What is the most difficult track for a spotter?
CL: Restrictor plate tracks used to be due to what you think you may or may not see. But I would have to say Pocono presently. Turn one is so far away from you, which affects your depth perception, and the tunnel turn is another challenge again due to distance from the spotter stand.
RB: Do you have a favorite track?
CL: Martinsville. You’re not too high up, really almost on top of the action and they are only going around 100-120 mph. You know they are going to beat and bang on each other all day, so there’s no need to worry about contact that could put you out of the race, normally.
RB: Do you ever hear voices in your head when you get home?
"All of this is mentally draining. It typically takes three to four hours for me to wind down once I get home."
CL: I have four radios going every week. A primary which everyone can hear, a scanner which allows me to not only scan other teams and drivers but myself as well, a primary digital to communicate with the crew chief, and one to scan NASCAR. All of this is mentally draining. It typically takes three to four hours for me to wind down once I get home.
RB: Because you are the eyes and ears for BV, you have to be focused each and every lap. So the real question is how do you go to the bathroom during a four-hour race?
CL: The hardest part of my job is holding your pee. You mentally have to tell yourself to hold it.
RB: But what if you really have to go?
CL: We have some tricks of the trade, like taking a bottle behind the A/C units.
RB: Sounds easy.
CL: Unless it’s windy. For instance, at Texas we had some stiff winds during the race. Well guys were trying to go behind the A/C units and as you can imagine stuff was spraying everywhere.
RB: For all fans attending future races with seats under the spotter tower, I suggest wearing a poncho or keep an umbrella open at all times. More importantly, don’t look up.
RB: If you could sum up your role as a spotter, what would you say?
CL: I really enjoy what I do. While mentally draining, there is no other job in the industry I would rather have. For me, it is the next best thing to driving.
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Follow No. 83 spotter Chris Lambert on Twitter: @3widemiddle.