In The House With Brandon McReynolds, Trackhouse Spotter

June 2, 2023

Trackhouse is made up of a family, all with the love of racing and having a good time.

This house has plenty of interesting people and characters that have the common bond of pulling together to achieve success.

One of those is Brandon McReynolds the spotter for Ross Chastain and the No. 1 Chevrolet.

The 31-year-old McReynolds is the son of former NASCAR Cup Series crew chief and longtime NASCAR on FOX analyst Larry McReynolds.

The Charlotte, North Carolina native grew up in racing and was a race driver himself. That gives him the unique understanding of what goes on inside the car and how to best relay the information that is important to the man behind the steering wheel.

He also understands what a driver needs to hear to help him succeed.

“A lot of it is your relationship with the driver you are working with,” McReynolds explained. There are some drivers that like a lot of chatter and someone who is coaching them up and giving them a lot of cheerleading.

“Ross, in my opinion, is a guy that likes information on how to drive the car faster. If you are saying a bunch of words or commentating on the race, that isn’t anything he is interested in. He isn’t worried about what is going on behind him; he is focused on what can make him drive the car faster whether that is running the top lane quicker at a place like Homestead. Or arcing Turn 3 at Charlotte more or hugging the curb more off Turn 2 or Turn 4 at Martinsville. It’s things like that he is looking for.”

It's not a “one-size-fits-all” position. What works for a driver from one spotter, my not work for another.

It’s about developing the right chemistry and most importantly, trust.

“Every driver is a little different,” McReynolds said. “Fans that tune into the race will hear different styles on what spotters are saying to their drivers. It’s working through that relationship over many races over many years between the driver and spotter to what that right chemistry is.”

McReynolds path to the spotters stand on the roof started a few years ago when he was racing in ARCA and the K&N Series. McReynolds started spotting for his friend, Corey LaJoie in the races that McReynolds not competing.

More and more drivers asked McReynolds to spot for them, including current NASCAR Cup Series driver Noah Gragson. That is how McReynolds got to know Josh Wise.

He also competed against a younger Ross Chastain for quite a few years and the three became quite familiar with one another.

“Long story short, they were looking for a spotter for Ross on the Cup side when it was Chip Ganassi Racing at the 42 at the time,” McReynolds explained. “Josh Wise asked for a recommendation on a handful of spotters from Ross and he gave me a call and I was brought in for an interview.

“Then, it became Trackhouse, and the rest is history.”

Together, Chastain and McReynolds have formed a cohesive bond that is an important fact in the success or failure in any given NASCAR Cup Series race.

McReynolds can see the whole race develop from the spotters stand, which is valuable because the driver sees what is out of his windshield or from the rear camera in the car that gives him a view point on the digital dashboard.

“With Ross’s focus and what he has worked on with Josh Wise and working with Phil Surgen, our crew chief, we always prepare to win,” McReynolds said. “Whether we are running 15th or first in the race, always be looking ahead to where there are opportunities to be faster during a certain part of the run. If we need to be lower on the race track.

“You can see everything; it’s keeping your eyes forward to see opportunities to gain speed through different lines and things like that. That is what we try to contribute on the roof.

“Also, working off the tempo of the crew chief and relaying information quicker to the driver. If we are on a green flag sequence and pit stops are coming up, you have to pay attention to who is on newer tires or older tires. That way, you can help reduce the amount of time you are losing on the race track if you are getting run over by guys on newer tires until you pit.

“It’s really helping the driver understand his surroundings and how to create the most valuable lap time and maximizing their day.”

The challenges of being a spotter changes because different race tracks are more challenging than others.

At a 1-1/2-mile oval, spotters have to fight the angle off Turn 4 to let the driver know if the car on the bottom has cleared the angle of the car on top because different drivers are running different lanes that converge with different angles.

At a short track, there is a lot happening in a confined area, and the spotter has to talk more because the field is closer together front to rear.

But the hardest tracks for the spotter and driver are the superspeedways, where mass chaos can develop lap after lap.

“We are painting the picture of everything going on around the driver so he can stay focused and make conscious moves that he feels like will benefit the line he is in so he can jump down a line or up a line to try to win the race,” McReynolds explained. “You are talking about the car in front of him or the car in front of that car if he has to push.

“It is chaotic, especially in a scenario where you are four-wide and there is one car on the bottom and two cars on the top of you and really trying to stay on top and how to portray and paint that picture as clearly as you can to help the driver understand what is going on around him.

“The forever changing races are the superspeedways. The mile-and-a-half tracks are letting him know what is going on the restarts, but things calm down a little bit.

“On the short tracks, you can get run over, or beating and gouging and drivers banging doors. There is a lot happening.”

The digital screens that feature the rear camera have changed the nature of spotting. Before the rear camera, spotters had to relay information on the car closing in from behind and how fast it was gaining on their car.

Now, it’s paying closer attention to the cars alongside of their car.

“On restarts, the gap of the car next to you and how far they are away from you when you are side-by-side going into Turn 1 at Kansas is important because the driver is trying to figure out how much they can arc the corner or if they can shoot to the middle on a restart or go three-wide on the top,” he said. “The doors and side of the car is pretty important. Or, if they are on the low lane and challenging, that is hard for the driver to tell.

“The biggest thing about our job is to communicate as clearly and efficiently what the crew chief needs to tell the driver while he is out there driving, and we are the only ones that can see him at that certain point on the race track.

“Safety is the No. 1 thing to let them know when the cautions are out, so they don’t get run over or running over someone or safety workers cleaning up an accident.

“What the spotter can do today is help the driver go quicker, where they are running, what their arcs look like, where other guys are making time. That is where the spotter role has adjusted over the last several years.”

As one of the family members “In the House” at Trackhouse, McReynolds has flourished on a team that stresses communication and trust in one another.

He credits Trackhouse owner Justin Marks and Trackhouse President Ty Norris for creating a winning environment that treats everyone like family.

“I applaud Justin and Ty for what they have built, and everyone believes in that communication and teamwork and being honest with each other,” McReynolds said. “There is accountability for each other, but there is a lot of trust within every single person’s role at Trackhouse because of the level of communication from the top down.

“That might be a generalization, but I truly applaud them for that. There is so much trust and work ethic that comes from the top down that you don’t find in a lot of businesses around the world.”

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