Eye in the Sky: Jefferson Hodges steps into the spot(ter) light
Throughout the 2018 season Motorsport.com will spotlight the winning spotter from various Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series races.
This week, Motorsport.com caught up with veteran crew chief and spotter Jefferson Hodges. Hodges is no stranger to NASCAR racing having worked in the business as a crew chief, crewman and spotter for over two decades. He also has served as director of competition at REV Racing since 2011 and has overseen the on-track drivers that have participated in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program.
The Williamsburg, Va., native also has filled in and assisted as a spotter for Team Penske and the former Brad Keselowski Racing teams over the past several years. Last weekend he spotted for Keselowski and helped guide him in his Xfinity Series win and a fourth-place finish in the Cup Series race on Sunday.
How did you wind up helping Brad Keselowski and Team Penske this past weekend?
Well, Brad’s regular spotter Joey Meier and I have been friends for a long time and we go way back together along with Doug Randolph who used to be a crew chief for Brad’s truck team. Joey needed to miss this weekend as his son graduated from Naval boot camp and he wanted to be there for that so he asked if I could fill in. I was happy to be able to step in so he could attend such a important family moment. I was only supposed to originally spot in Sunday’s race, but they decided to use me as well on Saturday for continuity and it worked out pretty good.
How long have you been helping Team Penske?
I’ve been spotting for them for several years at most non-companion events or standalone weekends. I’ve spotted when Austin Cindric picked up his ARCA win at Kentucky and also Sam Hornish’s win at Mid-Ohio. I also help Joey out when they need multiple spotters at places like Watkins Glen and Indianapolis.
How long have you been spotting?
Growing up short track racing if I could spot and Crew Chief the car it was one less person I had to figure out how to pay, so that is when it really started. I started out helping Aric Almirola in the truck series with my first job spotting in a NASCAR national series. I also helped spot for Tyler Reddick when he drove for BKR and eventually started helping Joey when he asked me to a few years ago.
How long have you been working in racing?
I started my first job in racing as soon as I graduated high school while I was going to college at Townsend Race Cars. We built Mark McFarland's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship winning cars which propelled my move to Charlotte, NC. I then went to work at JR Motorsports with their LMSC and Hooters ProCup Series teams and later with their NASCAR teams before moving over to DEI. That is where I met Max Siegel and ultimately made the move to REV Racing.
How do you juggle your responsibilities with REV Racing and spotting?
Well, I don’t spot all of the time and I never spot for the drivers at REV Racing unless it’s an emergency situation. When I was spotting for BKR and also with Team Penske, they have been very supportive and worked with my schedule. BKR was always good about getting me my own hotel room on the road so I’m able to communicate with my guys back at the shop if I’m away and catch up on work in the evenings. I have a great group of hard workers at REV Racing and they get things done while I’m away and I’m able to communicate with them constantly while I’m away.
What is the biggest difference working with a driver of Brad’s experience versus the young drivers you are helping become race car drivers?
I don’t think fans really understand just how immensely smart a driver Brad Keselowski is when he’s behind the wheel. He likes to be fed as much information as possible and he acknowledged it and he’s always thinking in the car. The drivers we have at REV Racing as part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program are young and still learning and I do a lot more coaching with those drivers.
Does working with established drivers like Keselowski help you at REV Racing?
I think it helps a lot with my young drivers. I think when they have the opportunity to see me work outside the team and listen to what I do with Brad like they did last weekend it helps. It helps in that they see I’ve earned my job and opportunity to work with a driver who’s a champion in our sport and that I’ve earned things by hard work and doing it the right way. It’s a nice refresher for them to see how Brad was using information I was providing him in the race and listen to that and learn from it for when they compete.
What is the biggest thing you want to accomplish helping Team Penske?
First of all I want to make sure I keep Brad safe and Team Penske in their regular rhythm as a team when I do come in and help out. I sat in the competition meeting last week just so I can learn and be prepared going in to the weekend. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure I don’t do anything to upset the rhythm of the team and I wanted to do a good job so Joey could spend some quality time with his son. My goal was for Team Penske to put two race cars back in their haulers in the same condition they unloaded them at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Other then some confetti Saturday, mission accomplished.
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