Friday, August 19, 2011
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Mike Calinoff is the spotter for the #17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion of Matt Kenseth in the NSCS, #6 Ford of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the NNS and the #8 Chevrolet of Nelson Piquet Jr. in the NCWTS. Calinoff's professional career has been centered on the sport of auto racing. And most of his involvement in the sport has included winning races. In fact, he has visited victory lane more than any other active NASCAR spotter.
Melissa Wright (MW): Tell me a little bit about Mike Calinoff the person:
Mike Calinoff (MC): I guess the standard answer to this question is that I'm a "simple guy who loves racing," but it isn't the case. I've got a pretty hectic life by choice. I usually have two or three business projects going at the same time and I like being busy. In addition, I write a column for SPEED and Ford Racing, and I'm on Sirius NASCAR Radio once a week. Every day is different for me and, with the exception of the weekends, I don't have much of a schedule -- I kind of do things when I want. That takes a while to get to a point where you can do that, but I've worked pretty hard to make that happen. I like making people laugh because life is too short. And I always say that "misery is optional."
MW: How and when did you become a spotter?
MC: NASCAR defines the spotter’s role as a “safety device,” but over the years it has evolved into much more than that. The drivers are basically in a cocoon when they’re in their cars, and they’ve got very limited visibility. Although they can see well through the windshield, they cannot see past the car ahead of them. So, if there is trouble on the track, they rely on the spotter to give them that information. There is no visibility on either side, so if the driver is making a pass, we need to tell them when it is “clear” to move up. So, we are giving a lot of different information , pretty much at the same time, throughout the race. We only get a quick break when there is a caution period.
MW: How long have you spotted for Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Nelson Piquet Jr.?
MC: I started with Matt in the Cup Series in his rookie year, 2000. I left at the end of 2005 to go work at Ganassi with David Stremme. He lost his job at the end of 2007, but Chip asked me to stay and work with Dario Franchitti. I did that until they lost their sponsor in the middle of the year and then I spent my weekends at the beach for a few months. Tony Stewart and I have been friends for a long time so he asked if I would go and spot for the Chase in 2008 with him. I had already signed to go back to Roush Fenway and work with Matt at that time, so I knew it was only going to be for 10 races. We won Talladega, which was a race that eluded him for many years, so that was pretty cool to be able to do that with him.
I've been with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in the Nationwide Series since he started in 2010 and with Nelson in the Camping World Truck Series since this year, which is also his first.
MW: Describe your relationship between you and Daytona 500 winner, Matt Kenseth.
MC: Matt and I have a really great relationship. We both share the same sense of humor and we get along very well. There is a great level of trust that the driver has to have in his spotter and that definitely exists with us. He's a awesome driver and a really good friend. I'm blessed to be able to work with a guy like that.
MW: Which teams have you spotted for (other than your current status)?
MC: Back when I first started, I'd spot for just about anyone who needed a spotter. Pretty much any under-funded team who was willing to give me a radio. I did that for a few years until I started meeting more people who would give me an opportunity to get with a better team. I've worked with Brett Bodine, Jimmy Spencer and Ricky Craven. When Roush started the No. 17 team with Matt, they asked me to do a trial race. Apparently, it went well!
MW: How would you describe the way you spot for each driver, is there a different technique?MC: Everybody wants and needs something different. When I'm working with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. or Nelson Piquet, I take on a coaching role in addition to the standard spotting. With Matt, I'm giving him plenty of information about how the leaders are driving the track so that he can improve his lap times if necessary. With all the drivers, I'm also usually a cheerleader. But I don't wear the skirt or shake any pom-poms.
MW: When it comes to incidents on the track, how do you feel about the criticism the spotters receive?
MC: Typically, the criticism comes from the TV broadcasters, which is kind of funny because that's all speculation. Unless they are listening to the radio chatter in real time, they have no idea whose fault in an incident was. We all make mistakes; just like a tire-changer leaves a lugnut loose or the jackman lets the car down to early or a gas man doesn't get the car full. It's all part of it, none of us are perfect. If I feel that I've made a mistake -- and I have -- I just own up to it and we all move on.
MW: How do you prepare for race day?
MC: About an hour before the race I start listening to music on my iPod which takes me away from over-thinking the race. I also eat sunflower seeds.
MW: Tandem two-car packs or pack racing?
MC: Love the three-wide packs!
MW: How do you feel about the yellow line rule?
MC: I think they should paint it a different color.
MW: The greatest challenges in your job is?
MC: All the peripherals of the travel are what makes it tough most of the time. It's a lot of time away from home and I miss my dogs all the time. As far as the job itself, the only challenges we face are views from some of the spotters stands on the circuit, although most places are pretty good. The other element is being able to deal with adversity on the track. Drivers typically get antsy when things aren't going well. It's our job to help keep them in the game and focused.
MW: What is your schedule like between spotting for Trucks, Nationwide and Cup series? How do you stay alert on the stand for such long hours?
MC: I actually enjoy when all three series are running together. The practice days are long, but you do get three chances to win -- so that's pretty cool.
MW: What are your favorite/least favorite tracks to spot at?
MC: I love them all really. I enjoy the plate races because it is a different style of spotting these days. I'm not a big fan of the two-car push, but it's pretty nuts to spot and I kind of like that. I also enjoy the short tracks like Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond because it reminds me of my roots and the action is pretty tight. I could do without the road courses.
MW: What is your greatest achievement? Future goals?
MC: I guess my greatest achievements would have to be winning the championship with Matt in 2003 and the Daytona 500 in 2009. For the future, I'd like to be part of winning the Nationwide title with Ricky and Rookie of the Year with Nelson.
MW: What is your best and worst memory in your career?
MC: There are plenty in both categories, but winning Daytona and a championship is tough to top. There aren't a lot of bad memories really. Maybe days when you had a great car and blew an engine or something. Those are pretty disappointing days.
MW: If given an opportunity to change anything in the sport, what would the change be?
MC: Honestly, I like the way things are with NASCAR these days. They've made some cool adjustments to the races with things like the double-file restarts. I think the races need to be shorter at places like Pocono and I would like to see more Saturday night Cup races so that we can be home on Sunday.
* * * * *After just 10 starts in the 2011 season, Kenseth has one pole, one win, three top 5s and four top 10s. He is currently 10th in the Cup Series points. Stenhouse Jr. has one pole, two top 5s, seven top 10s and is currently 5th in the Nationwide Series points after 10 starts. Rookie Piquet Jr. is 17th in points after all five starts in the NCWTS. He has both a top-5 and top-10 finish.
In addition to his work as a spotter, Mike serves as CEO of many companies. One of which includes Activ8 Development, a full-service agency and consulting group for young drivers. Calinoff followed the footsteps of his father Len Calinoff. Mike spent most of his time working on the media side of the sport. He was the head announcer for a number of years at Riverhead and Islip and also wrote for various racing publications throughout the '80s. He never had the interest in driving himself. His focus was always getting into other sides of the sport – broadcasting, officiating, marketing, those types of areas and he has succeeded.
Melissa Wright is a freelance writer who currently resides in unsung heroes in motorsports. She can also be found on Twitter. Her column, Over the Wall consists of the
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
On Thursday, April 21, Tim Andrews, driver of the No. 79 Ford Mustang for 2nd Chance Motorsports, made his first public appearance. Andrews and his team arrived at McKnight Park in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to support a local little league team that was currently undefeated. The game was scheduled to start at 6 p.m., but was canceled due to the field’s condition after the rain the night before. However, practice continued at another field.
Throughout the duration of practice, Andrews signed nearly 100 hero cards, several baseballs and a couple casts. The team opened the side doors to the hauler and allowed the kids to check out the inside. They were in awe. They said it was the coolest thing they’ve ever seen. They asked Andrews a couple of questions while they waited anxiously in line for their turn for an autograph and to have their picture taken with him. Jackson Mrozinski, who plays for the Tigers asked, “What’s inside there?” Andrews replied, “That’s where we keep all of our tools and through that door is the lounge.” Mrozinski proceeded to ask him if he would pull the car out and let him see it. Andrews chuckled and said, "Not today, buddy, but you can come on up in here and check it out.” And his eyes grew larger than life.
28-year-old Andrews told me that he was excited about the opportunity to go to the McKnight Ballpark to meet the kids. He said that this was a really neat, fun and fascinating thing to do. He truly enjoyed putting a smile on their faces. He said he had an awesome time just hanging out with them, letting them see the car and he’s looking forward to more experiences like that. “Pretty cool night. I enjoyed myself,” he commented.
The President of the Ballpark, Kevin Davis, was deeply honored that Andrews and his team were making an appearance. Davis told me that they’ve never had a special guest in all the years that the league has been running. Davis apologized about the circumstances due to the weather, but the owner of 2nd Chance Motorsports, Rick Russell, assured him that it was simply understandable and not an issue at all. It’s all about the kids. They just wanted to show their support like the fans do at the tracks.
The Murfreesboro Optimist Baseball League is in its 53rd year of existence and is home to more than 800 youngsters in six different age groups in 2011. The first Little League Program in Murfreesboro was actually sponsored by Kiwanis in 1950, but the Murfreesboro Optimist Club took over sponsorship in 1958 and has maintained its affiliation with Little League International since.
Its teams compete at the all-star level each season and aspire to reach the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Little League baseball is the oldest and largest youth baseball program in the world with more than 7,000 Leagues and 2 -1/2 million participants.
That’s some extremely impressive youth baseball. Missouri native Andrews spent nearly two hours with a group of kids between the ages of 9-11 years old. Andrews began racing at the age of 12. He has raced in series such as Karts, Late Models, Legends, ARCA, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and is currently 36th in points in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Growing up, his dad Paul Andrews was his hero. He has followed in his footsteps. Andrews, a newlywed to wife Jennifer, currently resides in North Carolina along with their dog, “Buckeye.” I was curious and asked him if he’d ever driven on dirt tracks and he looked at me really serious and then laughed with this response, “No, I haven’t. But if you put me in a car I’ll drive the wheels off of it!” He also stated that he has no preference to either asphalt or concrete tracks as long as he is able to race.
Andrews made his fifth start with 2nd Chance Motorsports at the Nashville 300 on Saturday; he finished 36th. The team heads to Richmond next weekend for the Bubba Burger 250. The team is currently seeking full-time sponsorship. Sports Massage USA was the sponsor for this weekend's race. Andrews has a lot of talent and gained even more respect from the community while in the Nashville area.
All photos credited to: Rajayna D. Riley
|Credit: Melissa Wright|
She sent out this tweet this morning, "Very bad news coming. This is the toughest year of my life. I promise I will persevere. I know God has a plan." I contacted her PR representative for a statement in regards to the issues Cobb had encountered and she declined. She stated that Cobb will make her statement on Twitter. However, she continued to advise me that they are looking forward to the next race and that they will be back.
After 3 p.m. ET, Cobb tweeted, "Car just wasn't quite ready to be competitive. We are all hungry for some good results so back to NC to see what we can do for Darlington. #nevergiveup"
Cobb had previously mentioned that she was relieved to be moving back to her own team in high hopes of stability and consistency for the remainder of the season.
Cobb was to make her sixth Nationwide Series start this weekend and is currently 29th in points.
Former South Florida native Joey Meier is the spotter and team pilot for the #2 Miller Lite Dodge in the NSCS and the #22 Ruby Tuesday/Discount Tire Dodge Challenger in the NNS for Brad Keselowski.
I got a kick out of the fact that as a pilot, he doesn't have to deal with holiday traffic. He and his family, wife Ann, and two sons, Alex, 22, and Tyler, 19, flew a Cessna 182 down to their last Thanksgiving get-together. Meier and his family reside in Mooresville, N.C.
Meier grew up in racing. His dad and uncle ran boat cars at Daytona Beach in 1958. Meier has raced short tracks in South Florida. He ran the street stocks and pure stocks and was also a mechanic prior to becoming a pilot. He began flying right out of high school.
He met Dale Earnhardt Sr. when he was down in the Florida Keys. At this point he was still an aviation mechanic. Meier pushed his toolbox to the back of the plane and Dale Earnhardt Sr. signed it. Eleven years later Earnhardt became his boss. Meier still has the toolbox to this day. Another memory that Meier shared with me was when he and Ty Norris spotted for both Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. during the 24-hour Corvette testing of Daytona in 2001. Ty Norris, who is the in-game "spotter" in the new video game "NASCAR The Game 2011," was Meier's mentor. Norris is now the vice president and general manager of Michael Waltrip Racing.
Meier realized there was a connection between racing and flying: both were like a dream come true. When it comes to flying and spotting, he said, "The two go hand in hand. They are pretty much parallel to each other."
Questions with Joey:
How and when did you become a spotter?
Meier began spotting in the late 1990s. "It's ironic," he said - the only reason he wore a headset at the track was to protect his hearing. "It was so loud and obnoxious!"
Years ago at the road courses or at the big plate tracks, they'd have a second spotter; Meier was that guy. That's how he initially got started. Since NASCAR has required a mandatory spotter to be on the roof for all practices, Meier happened to be there and did an awesome job. He was given an opportunity and it has evolved from there.
I asked him what other drivers has he spotted for and he said, "just about every driver that has been at DEI."
Did you ever spot for a driver that you feel is more demanding than others?
"Drivers aren't demanding. They either want more information or less. Veterans such as Michael Waltrip are easy to spot for. They require less communication. Brad likes me to pour in as much information as possible and he will filter it. You can not physically give him too much information. Being flexible. My ability to change my way of spotting to give the driver what he wants is the objective."
How long have you worked/spotted for Brad?
"I've known him since 2006 but didn't start spotting for him full-time until the beginning of 2010. He and I worked together at JRM and then made the transition to Penske," Meier said. However, Meier started out as a pilot for DEI in 1997 before becoming a full-time spotter.
Meier expressed that he and Keselowski have a high level of mutual respect for each other. "(I'm) not just his spotter, his life is in my hands." Every Monday he and Brad get together for lunch and study videos from the race weekend.
When asked about his thoughts on pack racing, or as Meier calls it "pod racing," Meier said, "Pack racing is challenging, a lot of work and your on your binoculars all day stressed out. With pod racing you can relax a little bit, much more interesting and I don't find myself - bored. Regardless, it's all about radio communication. It's only begun. It's only going to get better and better. Looking forward to Daytona in July."
What are your favorite tracks to spot at?
"Those with great spotter stands! Martinsville and Michigan. As for tracks with the most action - Bristol, Richmond and Talladega."
|Joey calls this his "Vroom with a View." This is his view from Texas Motor Speedway.|
Lastly, I asked him what's it is like to be away from his family every week. "Even after 14 years, it's still difficult to be away from home. I miss not being around but I accept it. Being away you become numb to it. All you can do is hope that you don't get a phone call that something happened and you can't get there to comfort them; it pains me. However, it's my job."
Sunday, April 10, 2011
14 year Veteran of the Camping World Truck Series, David Starr made his debut Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway for the Samsung Mobile 500 in the No. 95 Ford Fusion car owned by the Leavine Fenton Racing team. I spoke to the Houston native prior to the race.
When questioned about his debut this is what he had to say: "First opportunity to have my debut in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and for it to be here at my home track, Texas Motor Speedway, I think it's awesome. It really means the world to me, pretty cool. We've got really great race cars and equipment, a great owner and a great crew chief, so we're really trying to make this race. There's a lot of excitement, and a lot of enthusiasm with everybody. We're running the Roush Engine package and they're awesome and have brought a lot of success for other Cup drivers."
Starr started racing when he was 13. He has an intense passion and desire for racing. He approaches his fans with arms wide open. True genuine person. Loves all his fans and the ovations from the home fans. He's so grateful for the support he has received.
Talking about driver intros at Texas. If you've never heard the roar, you're missing it! I asked him how he feels about the crowd, he replied, "You're just really blessed and honored that somebody would just clap and recognize you because I'm just like the fan, a normal guy."
He had a dream and he was blessed. He took advantage of the opportunities that were given to him. Life is really good. He don't complain about much. He says it's because the job he has racing in motor sports, it's a big honor. His family doesn't come from money but he grew up on love and enjoys hearing about the journey of his fans and others. Life is nothing without a dream. That's where it starts.
Starr started in the 33rd position Saturday for the Samsung Mobile 500. On Lap 160 he scraped the wall in turn 4. That was the end of the race for the No. 95. He also finished 23rd in his 18th career start in the Nationwide Series on Friday at Texas.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Goody's Fast Relief 500 in Martinsville
April 3, 2011 | Race 6 of 36
1. Jamie McMurray (300th start)
2. Ryan Newman
3. Kasey Kahne
4. Joey Logano
5. Denny Hamlin
6. AJ Allmendinger
7. Bobby Labonte
8. David Reutimann
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Regan Smith
11. Kyle Busch
12. Mark Martin (800th start)
13. Brian Vickers
14. David Ragan
15. Clint Bowyer
16. Paul Menard
17. Jimmie Johnson
18. Martin Truex Jr.
19. Marcos Ambrose
20. Kurt Busch
21. Jeff Gordon
22. Brad Keselowski
23. Carl Edwards
24. Matt Kenseth
25. Trevor Bayne
26. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
27. Juan Pablo Montoya
28. Tony Stewart
29. Dave Blaney
30. Casey Mears
31. Travis Kvapil
32. Jeff Burton
33. Greg Biffle (300th start)
34. Robby Gordon
35. Michael McDowell
36. David Gilliland
37. Joe Nemechek
38. Landon Cassill
39. Mike Skinner
40. Ken Schrader
41. Tony Raines
42. JJ Yeley
43. Hermie Sadler
* The #87 car did not pass post-qualifying heights inspection and its qualifying time has been disallowed. It will start at the rear of the field.
2010 Race Results
Sprint Cup Series
Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 :: Denny Hamlin - 03/29/10
Tums Fast Relief 500 :: Denny Hamlin - 10/24/10
Cup Historical Race Winners
Camping World Truck Series
Kroger 250 :: Kevin Harvick - 03/27/10
Kroger 200 :: Ron Hornaday - 10/23/10
Completed : 1947
Distance : .526 miles
Shape : Oval
Banking : 12° turns0° straightsFrontstretch : 800 feet
Backstretch : 800 feet
Seating : 65,000
Ultimately what's famous in Martinsville? Their hot dogs!