Eyes In The Sky | Josh Williams: A Two Sport Athlete
**So I really have to admit here, I have been on the fritz here about how I wanted to go about doing these two different series. I was worried that while running the driver series it would interfere or take away the allure for this particular series. When talking with a friend of mine he advised me that it’s probably just better to keep going with content because as our off-season approaches more and more fans turn there attention to the NFL. I finally sat down and looked at a bunch of different interview outlines and decided to try a little something different. I want to try to give each new spotter we talk to something special, something they can call their own. So without further delay, I want to bring you the newest installment of our Eye’s in the Skies series. I would also like to apologize for taking so long**
Josh Williams: I am from Martinsville, Virginia. Grew up about two miles away from the track there. Born September 16th, 1988, I graduated from Magna Vista High School in 2006. Took a few classes at Patrick Henry community college while starting my pro golf career after high school.
TWR: Wait a minute, so you became a pro golfer right out of high school? You have to tell us more about that!
JW: I played full time professionally after high school on the mini tours for 5 years. Won over 10 professional events including the Carolina pro golf tour tour championship. Kind of have my golf to thank for starting my spotting career because it led me to relationships with drivers and that’s how I got started with Scott Speed. We played golf all the time and I started spotting basically to get paid to come on the road and play golf with him when we weren’t at the track.
TWR: So really your golf career helped kick start your NASCAR career?
JW:Well yea pretty much. I started spotting because Scott needed someone to spot for him after he separated from Redbull and we were good friends. He asked me to do it so I could give him golf lessons basically while we weren’t at the track.
TWR: That’s actually pretty awesome, did you ever really think that might have been a turning point in your career?
JW:You know at first it was just something part time and I never really looked at is as a career. It was my first time spotting anything bigger than an Allison legacy series car, and it was the night race at Bristol too!
TWR: Speaking of cars you have spotted for, what are some other series you have spotted for?
JW: I’ve spotted in the Allison legacy series, all of the top nascar series (Cup, Nationwide, Trucks, K&N). I’ve spotted full time for Scott Speed with Leavine Family Racing in Cup (95 car). Full time this year for Michael McDowell in the 95 cup car, also full time in the Nationwide series for TJ Bell and now this year for Jeffrey Earnhardt. Also a few on & off races for some drivers like AJ Allmendinger, J.J. Yeley, Mike Wallace, Reed Sorenson, Blake Koch, Brennan Newberry, Regan Smith, Tim George Jr, Josh Wise, Mike Bliss.
TWR: Wow sounds like you have been in the helmet of a lot of drivers. About how long have you been spotting for?
JW: I have been spotting for 4 years.
TWR: So what kind of person in your opinion does it take to be a spotter? Is there any special traits you think you need to be a spotter and do you feel those traits can be taught or can you practice them or is it something that just comes naturally?
JW: I think it definitely takes someone who is aggressive and can remain calm. I feel like a lot of my drivers attitude can come from how I communicate with him about other drivers or how I can keep him calm in certain situations. Special traits it takes I believe are just remaining calm, ability to react quick to changing situations. Most of the time if I can react fast enough to tell Michael (McDowell) what another car is doing or if a car has a run he can prepare to try and stall that run out or react before that car gets beside us.
Takes a lot of trust from the driver too, that driver has to trust you that when you say clear that he can dive off to the bottom in the next corner and a car isn’t going to be inside. I do think you can be taught to spot, there’s no right or wrong way to do it I don’t think, [but] if you and your driver can get on the same page and he has trust in you, no reason anyone couldn’t work out doing it.
TWR: One thing I used to do at my local short track sitting in the stands was just talk to my self attempting to spot for a late model, making sure he was clear or saying what was going on around the track. Going through your career how did you try and better your self? Did you find yourself talking with other guys in the business?
JW: I grew up around NASCAR, so all my life I’ve listened to in car audio and heard how spotters talked and things they do. I didn’t necessarily do it to learn because I never thought I would be where I am now, but you pick up on things and what you need to do. Now If I’m not spotting I do listen to other spotters and see how they do things and if there’s anything I can incorporate.
I listen and talk to my good friend TJ Majors (Dale Jr’s spotter) and I pick up stuff from him a lot. For instance he’s really good at what cars are doing 2 or 3 cars behind his car. I try and incorporate that into what I do for who has the run and stuff like that. Also a few things on restarts like how far the leader is from the restart box and stuff like that.
It’s a lot of fun and over time I hear myself say things I don’t practice, it just becomes habit from listening to other people and you end up with the same situation sometimes. I don’t think there’s any way to practice spotting without actually doing it though, me and Scott Speed tried on iRacing to practice when I started and I’ve tried to listen to other people and pretend I’m spotting and it’s just not the same. You never know or have the same situation twice until you’re on the track in the heat of the moment.
TWR: So I know drivers and spotters have somewhat of a different bond and levels of trust, but one of the hardest things I would think about being a spotter is knowing when and what to say. Is that something you just learn in time or do you meet with the driver and lay things out and figure out what they want?
JW: I think you learn with certain drivers when to say things and when not to say things. I always meet with my drivers before the race and see if there’s anything different they want that week compared to others. This is my 1st year with Michael McDowell for instance and our 1st full race was in Phoenix, well that whole race I would clear him if he got passed or behind another car. After that race we talked about it and now I never clear him. If a car is passing him I just say by hisself or if there’s a couple lined up. Sounds weird, but that way he’s not looking for other cars. So when I say by hisself he knows once he sees that cars bumper he’s clear.
TWR: Well Josh, we have talked a pretty good amount of business why don’t you tell us some of your hobbies?
JW: I’m a big sim racer and race on iRacing a lot. Also enjoy golfing and playing tournaments when we have weeks off. Other than that hunting, being on the lake, and traveling
TWR: I have to say a buddy of mine got me addicted to iRacing a few months ago. Still working my way up to speed but its so addicting! So I know your a busy guy, so one last question and we will let you get out of here….
With the experience you have in the business, what kind of advice would you give to those looking to either become a spotter or working to better themselves? What words of wisdom would you have for them?
JW: I think the main thing I would tell anyone is to spot anything and everything you can. Local Late Models, Street Stocks, lawn mower races it don’t matter! Just get all the experience you can! In order to move up you just need that experience and a resume [showing] that you’ve done this and this. Try and get with a good Late Model guy or even a good K&N team that has larger teams, I think it’s a good way to go too, such as Turner Scott who has a lot of cars. If you can get in with a young up and coming driver and you two bond well, you can make a good team and make it.
I want to sincerely thank Josh again for taking the time to do this interview as well as have the patients he has displayed with us. I feel this series can help connect the NASCAR fans to a whole other side of the sport they may not be able to see or hear on the weekend. Such an open person willing to offer any information to help out. This is only my second interview of this nature and believe it or not both spotters made it that much easier on me, I have to thank them for that and look forward to bringing you the readers inside the helmets of these drivers they spot for.
Also, since taking this interview, back in a month I would rather not say, Josh Willaims has had the honor of visiting victory lane along side AJ Allmendinger at Watkins Glen in New York back in August. Bellow I was able to find a little video on YouTube with a clip of some in-car audio helping his driver to victory lane.