NIAGARA, Wis. — Trevor Vassar of Niagara, Wis., a local stock car racing enthusiast, was offered a very unique experience — serving as a race spotter at the NASCAR Xfinity Race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on Aug. 8.
The opportunity came from Dave Deprey, of JD Motorsports, who has flagged at Norway a handful of times. Vassar is in his first season as flagman at the Norway Speedway, having been the flagman’s assistant for a couple of years.
JD Motorsports, owned by a three-man partnership out of Gaffney, South Carolina, was in need of the extra spotters for the road course race, due to its size. It’s 4.3 miles around the famous track — for one lap.
Vassar, who traveled to Road America with his wife and son, had to leave at 4 a.m. the morning of the race, in order to not be absent from his perch, high above the front stretch at Norway Speedway, the night before.
“We got there early, I got a tour of the facility and it’s gigantic,” Vassar said. “I was shocked at how big it was, but then understood why I was asked to come for extra help.”
JD Motorsports had multiple cars entered in the race, and initially Vassar was assigned to spot for NASCAR veteran Mike Wallace, the brother of NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace. Vassar noted that Wallace’s instructions to him were minimal.
“Instead of saying ‘Driver inside, outside’ like a spotter would for an oval track, in road course racing it’s ‘Driver left, Driver right’ and that’s all he expected from me,” Vassar explained. Vassar also noted that meeting Wallace was a neat experience and that he was a very nice and appreciative guy.
Right before the race was set to start, Vassar got switched to having to spot for the No. 6 Big Machine Vodka car, which was driven by hotshot road course racer Jade Buford. Vassar noted that other than a couple of small things, Buford didn’t request any type of different instructions for Vassar as far as in-race radio communication.
Vassar was located and spotted for both Wallace and Buford in turn No. 12, the Canada Corner, as each corner of Road America has a name. Buford is not an Xfinity Series regular, and usually only races road courses for different teams each year.
“I could see only about a quarter-mile of the track from my location,” Vassar said. ” I used binoculars to pick up the car and then followed the driver through the turn, giving him input and track traffic until the next spotter picked him up.”
Vassar explained that there is a couple hundred yards between turn No. 12 and No.13.
“Turn 12 is a critical turn, it’s a sharp turn, after a long straight away, where the speeds get up to 150 mph,” he noted. “Because the drivers down shift and break hard into that turn, there’s lots of moving and banging between the cars in turn No. 12.”
Every two minutes or so, Vassar had to do the same thing, using the same process for the whole 45-lap race. There were two separate 30-minute lightning delays, early on in the race, which is a sit and wait period for everyone involved.
It rained through the early and middle portions of the race but the race continues with rain tires, a windshield wiper and a blinking red light on the rear of each car. Vassar noted that the red light is for each car to see the car in front of them, due to rain water spraying off the tires.
Because of the rain, the tires changes and prepping the cars to race in the rain, the first stage of the 14-lap race had only 6 or 7 laps of racing.
Vassar also explained that there was a Motor Racing Network track reporter in the same turn of the track as him. At a live NASCAR event of any kind, there are speakers broadcasting the live MRN feed.
Plus, there was a Jumbotron type screen with the NBC television broadcast on it, set up on the opposite side of the turn where Vassar and the other spotters in the turn were standing.
Two things about the experience stood out to Vassar.
“I met a man from Soo Canada who had ties to Norway and used to race at Norway when it was a dirt track,” said Vassar.
That man was Brian Hanbly, otherwise known as The Crazy Canadian, as he was dubbed by longtime Norway racer Allen Yelle of Sands. Hanbly had his engines in three of the four JD Motorsports cars that were in the race that afternoon.
Deprey introduced Vassar to him, “He was very enjoyable to talk with, and it was neat that he had raced at Norway,” Vassar said.
The other part of the experience that stood out to Vassar was getting to see the cars up close and see things that the casual fan who watches on TV would never see otherwise.
Deprey invited Vassar back next year for the Road America Xfinity Series race, if NASCAR has it on the schedule. Vassar notes that he’s fairly certain he’ll accept the offer once again.
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox