Third-generation racer Jarrett at home on the spotter stand
Third-generation racer Jarrett at home on the spotter stand
TOLEDO, Ohio (March 16, 2016) – Third-generation racer Jason Jarrett spent five full-time seasons on the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards tour (2001-2005), twice finishing runner-up in championship points and loving every bit of it along the way.
“I don’t want to downplay anything I’ve done in racing before or after ARCA, but for those five full seasons, that was the best experience I’ve had,” Jarrett said. “Those were great years, not only from a competition standpoint, but ARCA got me out there, meeting new people, experiencing new tracks.
“The diversity in tracks is an incredible experience in itself. I got to go to Daytona, then the dirt, and then win at Salem, one of the most famous tracks in the country. No…I wouldn’t trade those years for anything…for what I learned and the people I met along the way.”
Rest-assured Jarrett’s still out there meeting people, chasing the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Jarrett’s been employed as a spotter full-time over the last 10 years and counting.
“I knew I wanted to stay in the sport, and if I wasn’t going to be in the driver’s seat, spotting could be the next best thing. As a driver, it’s just where my next role took me. And once you get to the Cup level, you can cover the rest of your weekend with the Xfinity Series, the Truck Series and ARCA.”
When Jarrett isn’t spotting for Ryan Newman on the Cup side, he can be found on the spotter’s stand for Bobby Gerhart in ARCA, Blake Koch in the Xfinity Series and John Hunter Nemechek in the Trucks.
“That was really something winning with John Hunter at Atlanta…his first time there. He’s really talented. I think he learns quicker than anybody I’ve worked with, at least from the younger guys.”
Jarrett admits that spotting isn’t quite the same rush as driving, but winning from the spotter’s stand is still pretty cool.
“Obviously, it’s not the same experience as winning as a driver, but I will say…just being a small part of one of these teams and helping the drivers get to victory lane is rewarding. Being part of winning the race at Atlanta was really gratifying. I don’t want to make a big deal out of the small part that I contribute – the credit goes to all those guys and the crew who put in all those long hours in the shop and at the track – but winning that race with Hunter was very rewarding.
“I think back to 2013 when we won the Brickyard with Ryan (Newman)…that was incredible. I wasn’t there when my dad won the Brickyard, but winning with Ryan helped make up for that.”
Jarrett, who’s been spotting for Newman since 2013, also says it’s common for drivers to get attached to certain spotters.
“When Ryan went from what’s now Stewart-Haas to Richard Childress Racing (RCR), I went with him.”
Jarrett’s first spotting experience was with Hermie Sadler toward the tail-end of his last year racing on the ARCA tour. That turned into an opportunity to spot for his father, Dale Jarrett in 2006.
“He (Dale Jarrett) decided to change spotters after Charlotte and he asked me if I wanted to give it a shot at that level. That did more for me than anything at staying at that level. He gave me the patience and the time I needed to learn it. It was kind of a unique situation. Usually dads are spotting for their sons...not the other way around. My dad is really good about it…as long as you do your job well and professionally, he’ll help you stay there. He kept me at this high level.”
Jarrett says he’s grateful for the relatively new full-time industry of spotting for professional racecar drivers.
“It does kind of surprise me that it’s an industry of its own now, but I’m glad from the safety aspect that it is. It’s no different than the HANS or safer barriers. You can’t back up from safety. That said, I’d say spotters are here to stay.”
Jarrett makes an interesting analogy between racing and football.
“Spotters are the field goal kickers of the racing industry. For the most part, spotters don’t work in the shop – there are some exceptions – but they don’t really practice their craft with the team until they’re called on. You’re out on an island. It’s the same experience I envision with field goal kickers.
“I’m glad it’s an industry. It’s afforded me the opportunity to stay in racing and at the same time provide a good living for my family, especially if you can stay connected with all the series while you’re doing it. You’re already at the track for the weekend…might as well get busy on the Xfinity, Truck and ARCA side.”
Even in the 10 years that Jarrett’s been spotting, he’s seen his industry change.
“The biggest changes from ’06 till now seems like that younger drivers want more information from you. The radios are better too. It really goes back to the driver’s preference. Some of the veterans don’t need as much information. You try and be really specific as to what that particular driver needs. When I started working with Ryan Newman, he taught me valuable lessons…that you have to concentrate on key words. He taught me that principle. Make the info shorter and clearer. If I can do that…get right to the main point of the situation, I feel like I’ve done my job.
“You really have to get to know you’re driver. You’ll get ignored if you talk too much…it’s like constantly nagging. You have to create a balance between the two.”
Jarrett’s work schedule is opposite of most.
“My weekend is Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m usually at the track Thursday through Sunday.”
Jarrett’s grateful to have the opportunity to earn a living in racing, but admits it’s always nice to get home. During this current western swing (Las Vegas, Phoenix, California), he’s been gone for two weeks.
“We have a seven-year-old son, so it’s always fun to come home. I got to get up and take him (his son Ford) to school this morning. It was really cool catching up with his soccer, catching up with school. It was one of those rides to school I’ll never forget. He talked the whole time and I just listened. I loved it.”
Jarrett says he’s not sure if his son Ford will want to eventually steer toward the family trade.
“Right now, he’s pretty-much hooked on soccer and basketball. I’ll let him make that choice when the time comes, if it comes. It would be a little tougher for him to pursue racing, but not out of the question. When I was coming up, my dad had a team so it was easier for me to get going, but if he wants to go down that road (racing) we’ll approach it then. I plan to get a golf club in his hands this summer.”
Jarrett also says his grandfather Ned Jarrett is doing well.
“He still plays golf when it’s nice out. He doesn’t travel to the races anymore, but he definitely keeps up with it. He called me right before Daytona wanting to know who I was spotting for in the ARCA race because he was watching. He loves racing more than anyone I know to this day.”
Jarrett is married to his wife Christina, who is from the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan.
“Her family moved to North Carolina back in the mid-90’s. Her dad raced up there at Auto Clearing Speedway…used to be Bridge City Speedway.”
When this story hits the homepage at arcaracing.com, Jarrett will be preparing to head west again to California for this weekend’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway. Jarrett travels with his RCR teammates.
“I travel with the team…a charter through Victory Air…usually 50 of us in different roles…crew members, crew chiefs, spotters…sometimes with other teams hitching a ride.”
Jarrett says he’s completely at home in his new career outside the driver’s seat.
“I probably couldn’t say that back in ’06 and ’07, but I’m good right where I’m at now. I have a job to do and I don’t worry about driving anymore. If I can help John Hunter, Koch, Gerhart or Ryan Newman run well and win races, I’m happy with that. If the team is achieving its goals, I’m content. I don’t necessarily want to be a spotter the rest of my life, but I’m still learning so much about the sport from all the great people I’m fortunate enough to be working with.”
Don Radebaugh, email@example.com
Jason Jarrett ARCA Bio: Finished runner-up in ARCA Racing Series points twice ’01 & ’03. Also finished 3rd ’02, 5th ’04 & 9th ‘05. In 114 career series starts since 2000, has 34 top-5 finishes and 67 top-10s including 2 wins at Salem ’04 & Kansas ’01. 2001 SCOTT Rookie of the Year. Also finished 2nd at Toledo & Salem ’04, 2nd at Toledo ’03, 2nd at Salem ’03, 2nd at Salem ’02, 2nd at Toledo ’02, 2nd at Pocono twice ’02, 2nd at Nashville ‘01, 2nd at Chicagoland ‘01, 2nd at Salem ’01, 3rd at Kansas ’04, 3rd at Winchester ’03, 3rd at Atlanta ’03, 3rd at Toledo ’01, 3rd at Springfield dirt-mile (first start on dirt) where he also qualified outside pole ‘01, 4th at Springfield ’04, 4th at Kansas & South Boston ’03, 4th at Salem ’01, 4th at Charlotte ’00, 4th at Kentucky ’02, 5th at Gateway, 5th at Kentucky & Nashville ’03, 5th at Atlanta ’02, 5th at Chicagoland ’02, 5th at Talladega ’02 & 5th at Berlin Raceway ‘01. Michigan polesitter ‘01. Has led 440 laps in 25 races. Son of 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Dale Jarrett and grandson of 2-time NASCAR Grand National champion Ned Jarrett.