If you only watch your TV or listen to your radio’s broadcast of the weekly NASCAR races, you’re missing a lot of color, detail, and race insight. NASCAR is the only professional sport where you can listen in on the transmission between driver, spotter and crew chief. Regardless of your driver allegiances, veteran spotter Brett Griffin is one of most entertaining, insightful and fun guys to listen to on your race scanner.
A few hours before the green flag dropped at Richmond Raceway Saturday night, he was gracious enough to sit down with ClosetNASCARFan.com to spend a few minutes talking NASCAR with us. In the interview, he was just as entertaining and insightful.
Meet Spotter Brett Griffin
We sat in the folding director chairs line up at the back of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 hauler — a thrill for me as a long-time Clint Bowyer fan.
Griffin’s got his stuff together, currently spotting for JR Motorsports No. 1 driver Elliott Sadler in the Xfinity Series and Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 14 driver, Clint Bowyer. He’s worked with Sadler since 1999, and Bowyer just over five years. Griffin also has spotted for Jeff Burton and Kasey Kahne.
Griffin is a chill person — the kind of guy that you can have a few beers with and shoot the breeze with, and that’s how interview went. Before the “formal” interview began, we just sat for a few minutes chatting. Then the No 14. crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz walked up and the three of us talked racing — very surreal as a Bowyer fanboy.
Scanners, Spotters and Entertainment
The radio and television NASCAR broadcasters do a good job of showing and talking about the race, but strap on a scanner trackside, or fire up the NASCAR app and purchase the radio broadcasts, and you’ve got a whole other level of entertainment and information than you’ll get in any other professional sport. Tune into the No. 1 radio in Xfinity, or the No. 14 in the Cup series, and you’ll hear Griffin clearing his drivers, motivating them and talking crap about the other competitors on the track — all in an entertaining way.
“I spot like I talk,” Griffin said.
I’m a pretty aggressive dude, and I hate to lose and I don’t take any shit. It’s pretty easy to go be me and not worry about it.
“I don’t go into character. A lot of guys want to sound fancy and cool. I grew up playing a lot of sports and I have the same personality and outlook on sports as I do in life. I’m a pretty aggressive dude, and I hate to lose and I don’t take any shit. It’s pretty easy to go be me and not worry about it.”
Griffin (and his drivers) can often use colorful language throughout the course of the race weeknd — a part that enhances the entertainment factor, but Griffin said it’s just part of spotting like he would talk.
“I don’t say things on my radio to appease anyone who’s listening to us,” he said.
“My job is to make sure we get the best finish we can get, is to communicate with Clint, is to communicate with Buga, and I don’t worry about all that crap.”
He said he’s been very fortunate with the teams and owners he’s worked with.
“I’ve had one owner out of 20 years to sat stop using the ‘F’ bomb so much, and I think I probably said ‘fuck’ within the next 30 laps of the next race because again, I just talk.”
Griffin said listening in to the race radio is a huge privilege NASCAR fans get.
“No other sport are you in the huddle for the entire game,” he said.
He added that the language and conversations should be passionate on the race radio.
“We’re dumping our hearts and souls into this forty weeks a year on the road. So we’re gonna be passionate about it. If you aren’t, you probably shouldn’t be here.”
Griffin said they’re really in the relationship business and have to have a good rapport with the drivers they’re spotting for.
“Yeah, we work for the race team, but we’re ultimately servicing the driver and providing a resource and a tool to the driver,” he said.
Griffin said about 85% of the time, they’re helping the driver. The other 15% they’re assisting the car’s crew chief.
Griffin has worked with Elliott Sadler going on 19 years, first coming on to do Sadler’s PR. In 2001, Griffin became the business manager and spotter for Sadler.
“He’s more like a brother to me than a boss.” Griffin said.
“He’s done nothing but great things for me and my family. I’m very fortunate to have a guy like that in my life.”
Compressed Race Weekend Schedules
This season, NASCAR has moved schedules around at tracks, compressing the number of days that the NASCAR circus is at and on the track. Griffin said the shift in schedule hasn’t had a big impact on spotters because the vast majority of the guys on the roof are spotting Xfinity and sometimes Camping World Truck series trucks as well.
“I think the two day schedule are great for the guys. It keeps them fresher.”
He said the majority of the spotters don’t have weekday jobs, so they’re pretty fresh when they get to the track.
“To ask these guys to work six days a week — I mean [Friday] for me, it was a 15.5 hour day for me at Richmond,” he said.
“Anytime you can get hours back in your life, it’s going to keep you fresher.”
The No. 14 spotter said when it’s early in the calendar year, everyone feels great and have been waiting all winter to come back to work.
“But when you’ve gone literally eight months and only had one weekend off, it wears on you man. So anything they do to save the teams some money and keep us fresher is a good thing,” Griffin said.
Griffin said he’s a huge fan of Saturday races — but not necessarily Saturday night races.
A big football fan as a University of South Carolina grad, Griffin said Saturday afternoons seems to work for college football
“I just watched a Michigan game where 100,000 people were in attendance, so I think Saturday afternoon would be a good option for us.”
“I feel like a lot of our surfaces don’t put on a good shows at night,” he said.
“They cool down and it’s harder to pass cause the the faster the speeds, the harder to pass.
Creating Good Race Action
Griffin said he though both Martinsville Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway were two of the tracks on the NASCAR schedule where surface mattered the least.
“You’re piling 40 cars into a very small space,” he said.
“So you’re going to create guys being aggressive. You’re going to create tempers flaring. You’re going to create passing just because there are faster cars and slower cars and they can’t hide.”
He said unlike the larger tracks like Michigan, where a slower car can get out of the way, that’s not happening on the shorter tracks.
“You look at a place like Martinsville. If you’re way of the pace, you actually create that excitement because you’re taking away a fast car’s groove, and you’ve got another fast car behind him trying to pass him.”
Speaking of Martinsville, they just completed a lighting project earlier this year, installing LED lights around the track. Griffin said Martinsville under the lights sounds fun and the NASCAR series should give it a shot.
“We all grew up short track racing at night. I think that’s when the lights thing works, but I’m not a big fan of running these night races at a mile and half track or bigger.”
This sport tends to quit you before you quit it.
The past couple seasons have seen a lot of big names retire — guys like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have all bowed out of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. While Griffin has long term friendships and partnerships with his drivers, eventually they too will retire.
Griffin said he intends to be with Clint until he’s done driving. When Bowyer does hang it up, Griffin sqid he’ll have to keep working to support his three kids. unless Clint gives him a huge retirement bonus.
“This sport tends to quit you before you quit it,” he said.
First Year at Stewart-Haas Racing
After Michael Waltrip Racing folded two seasons ago, Bowyer and Griffin spent a year at HScott Motorsports before Bowyer inherited Tony Stewart’s No. 14 ride at SHR. Despite not getting into the 2017 playoffs, Griffin has been pretty satisfied with their progress.
“It’s been a great year. I’ve been nothing but happy with how Stewart-Haas Racing has adapted to the Fords.”
He said it’s really difficult to switch manufacturers and be successful right off the bat, but they have been.
“We’ve got two race teams who’ve won out of four, and we’ve got ours sitting 10th in points — which should be good enough in any given year. It just wasn’t this year,” the SHR spotter Brett Griffin said.