Joey Meier, veteran spotter for NASCAR Cup driver Paul Menard and others, announced Sunday night on Twitter that he will be leaving the sport after nearly a quarter-century of service.
“All good things must come to an end” Meier (pictured above) wrote. “My ‘good thing’ for the past 23 years has come to an end … my choice this time.”
Meier said he will devote all of his energies going forward to flying airplanes.
“NASCAR was in my life WAY before Aviation, but flying is my profession,” Meier wrote. “NASCAR was just a huge bonus. I’ll leave knowing I always tried my best (Thx to Big E and Pops) … being a small part of Wins and Championships, in all 3 series. … BUT it was more about being a part of a TEAM, thru thick/then, winning/defeat/flying/spotting, I cherished being part of THE TEAM. I will miss that. But that’s OK.
“I’m excited about my new team & a new cockpit. Thank you for following along. Keep it up. I’ll stay busy keeping the “BLUE SIDE UP” from here on out, I promise.”
Meier took over as spotter for Menard this season after spotting for Brad Keselowski from 2006 through the end of the 2018 season. He won NASCAR championships with Ron Hornaday, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Keselowski, as well as also winning the Daytona 500 with Michael Waltrip. Among the notable team owners he worked for over the years were NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt and Roger Penske.
Also, Andy Houston, who had spotted for Austin Dillon for the last nine seasons, announced Sunday on Twitter that he also would no longer be serving in that role. Houston will be Cup rookie Cole Custer‘s spotter in 2020.
After 9 years, 17 wins, 2 championships, including the #Daytona500 Today will be my last day spotting for @austindillon3 Thanks to everyone that has supported me through the years! We had a lot of great times. Tomorrow brings a new adventure! ✌🏻
HARRISBURG, N.C. — Wailing strands of a saxophone leap from Ryan Preece’s phone. The distinctive opening notes of Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” take Preece back in time even as the NASCAR Cup rookie looks ahead.
“If you listen to the lyrics, there’s a lot of things I can relate to,” Preece tells NBC Sports. He speaks while seated at a table that comfortably accommodates 10 people in the competition room at JTG Daugherty Racing, his new home after running limited Xfinity races the past two years with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Although Seger’s song is about a musician, it could be about the highs and lows of a racer. Preece, born 17 years after the song’s debut, has lived life in the spotlight and experienced the late-night road trips on his circuitous path to Cup.
On a long and lonesome highway
The song’s opening line resonates with Preece. The 28-year-old Connecticut native raced modifieds throughout the Northeast and traveled to the South numerous times in his quest to reach NASCAR’s premier series. There were many nights on the road.
Preece worked his way to the Xfinity Series in 2016 but had limited success with an underfunded JD Motorsports team. With no other opportunities after that season, Preece returned home and faced the likelihood he would race modifieds the rest of his career.
If Edwards had not left the sport, “I probably wouldn’t be where I am today,” Preece said.
“There was no talk of going anywhere. When I went home, I went home (after 2016). I spoke to a few teams and the (cost to run those cars) were so high. I just figured I could go make a living running a modified and winning. It wasn’t a sense of I wanted to be a big fish in a small pond … this was my best chance at being successful.”
Preece spent 2016 living in former Cup crew chief Kevin “Bono” Manion’s race shop before moving back home after the season. After Edwards’ announcement, Manion called Preece and told him to contact JGR.
“I was going to figure a way out,” Preece said. “That was the chance I was waiting for.”
He gathered enough money for two races, won at Iowa and got two more races that season. That turned into 15 races in 2018. He won at Bristol. His success that season led to the ride at JTG Daugherty Racing in place of AJ Allmendinger.
When you’re ridin’ sixteen hours
and there’s nothin’ much to do
And you don’t feel much like ridin’
you just wish the trip was through
A crew member often played the song on long road trips and it has remained with Preece since, a reminder of those all-night drives from one region of the country to another to race.
As he plays the song on his phone, Preece slips back to the past. He recalls a time he raced at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut, finished around 11 p.m. and drove through the night with his team to be at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for a race that Saturday. He won that weekend.
Preece smiles at the memory.
Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin’ star again
There I go
Turn the page
“When I was younger, I was like that’s pretty catchy,’’ Preece said of the song. “As you grow older and you go through different events and different situations in your life, you start to relate to it. Every time there has been a great moment in my life, the more I can relate to that song.”
He hopes to add to the collection of memories this season with the No. 47 team. Preece is ready for the season to begin. He’ll get an early start. His team will be among those that will test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Jan. 31 – Feb. 1.
Shortly after that, he will be off to Florida to compete in his first Daytona 500.
Even as he heads on a new journey with Cup, Preece won’t leave the modified series behind. He plans to run a few races this season when his schedule allows.
But after years of going back-and-forth from the Northeast to the South, Preece has one trip left. He heads to Connecticut today to retrieve the last of his belongings and complete the move he and his wife have made to North Carolina. He also will tow his modified with him.
He plans to leave Connecticut at 3 a.m. Sunday. He knows through experience that’s the best time to depart to avoid New York traffic snarls.
One more overnight road trip. This time he’s headed for a new journey and a chance to turn the page in his racing career.
2. Study habits
Coleman Pressley admits he’s a “huge note taker” and he’s been doing just that as he reviews film and prepares for his first season as Brad Keselowski’s spotter.
Pressley, the son of former Cup driver Robert Pressley, spent the past four years spotting for AJ Allmendinger at JTG Daugherty Racing. Pressley became available after Allmendinger was not brought back for this season.
One of the biggest challenges for Pressley will be Daytona Speedweeks and the Daytona 500. Keselowski is among the sport’s premier drivers at that track and Talladega. He and former spotter Joey Meier — they had been together since 2006 until parting after last year — were among the top driver/spotter duos, winning four of the last 17 plate races (only teammate Joey Logano matches Keselowski’s record in that span).
Pressley, who doesn’t have as much experience spotting a car at the front of the field at a plate track, has been studying how the race is different there than in the middle of the field.
“I went to school the last two or three weeks just learning what the first two or three rows do,” Pressley told NBC Sports. “It’s amazing how much the draft changes in the first three rows then it does in the 10th or 12th row. I’m learning from arguably the best superspeedway racer right now.
“I feel like I’ve learned more in two or three times sitting down with Brad than in four years of spotting. He’s that good at it. It’s like dealing with AJ at a road course. AJ is so good at a road course, I learned a lot from him there.”
One of the challenges with racing at Daytona is how the lead car controls the field and moves up and down the track, blocking the run from the cars in the lanes behind. It’s critical for the spotter to tell the driver which lane is making a move so the driver can block and remain in the lead.
“Everything that we’re reviewing is more situational,” Pressley said. “Like what happens when three cars are this close and this lane is a car length apart. … Does this change if you’ve got a slower car third in line or what happens if there’s three lanes. We’re trying to make sure that when we get there, when I’m on the roof, that when I see something I know what is going to happen.”
Pressley already has watched last year’s Daytona 500 multiple times and planned to watch the race with Keselowski this week.
It’s an interesting concept. While it’s not something that could be done for a 500-lap Cup race, maybe it is something to ponder for the K&N Pro Series. Possibly a Truck race. Or maybe don’t count caution laps in the last 50 laps of a Cup or Xfinity race at a short track.
Cathy Rice, general manager at South Boston Speedway, a .4-mile track, told NBC Sports that the change — caution laps did not count previously for local races 75 laps or less — was made to give fans more racing.
What if the race has several cautions and the night stretches on? Rice, entering her 31st season at South Boston, said they would shorten the event. It goes back to her belief that they should limit the racing to three hours (not including practice and qualifying). If the first race takes the green flag at 7 p.m., then the checkered flag should wave on the final race by 10 p.m. so fans can return home at a reasonable time.
“I’m pretty hard on that … that’s what we want to do, that’s what we’ve got to do,” Rice said.
Rice said she’ll keep a close eye on how long the races go with the caution laps not counting. The rule may work perfectly or may need some tweaking, but for Rice it was worth trying after fans had told her they wanted more green-flag racing.
That’s what they’ll get this season.
4. Close quarters
Daniel Suarez’s first time on the track with his new team at Stewart-Haas Racing was Wednesday and Thursday at a Goodyear tire test at Auto Club Speedway.
Two other cars were there, including Suarez’s former team, the No. 19 team at Joe Gibbs Racing now driven by Martin Truex Jr.
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Meier will spot for Paul Menard this season, a team official confirmed to NBC Sports.
Pressley, the son of former NASCAR Cup driver Robert Pressley, had been the spotter for AJ Allmendinger at JTG Daugherty Racing from 2015-18.
With rookie Ryan Preece taking over the No. 47 car for Allmendinger this season, Preece will have Stevie Reeves as his spotter, a spokesperson with JTG Daugherty confirmed to NBC Sports. Reeves had previously been the spotter for Menard at the Wood Brothers.
Michael McDowell also will have a new spotter this year. He’ll work with Frank Deiny Jr. Rookie Matt Tifft will have Chris Monez as his spotter. Monez worked with multiple drivers in the Xfinity Series last year.
Matt DiBenedetto moves to Leavine Family Racing this season and will be paired with Doug Campbell, who was the team’s spotter last season.
Aric Almirola‘s performance this season at Stewart-Haas Racing provided validation to a driver who had not raced in the best Cup equipment before 2018.
Almirola improved 24 spots from last year to finish a career-high fifth in the points, the biggest turnaround from one season to the next in Cup since the elimination format debuted in 2014.
Part of the reason for Almirola’s jump was because he missed seven races last year after being injured in a crash at Kansas Speedway and finishing 29th in points for Richard Petty Motorsports.
Almirola also showed what he could do in his first year at Stewart-Haas Racing.
“For me, there was always some amount of self-doubt, how much am I a contributor to the performance not being where I want it to be,” Almirola said this week in Las Vegas ahead of Thursday’s NASCAR Awards. “Sometimes you have to take that long, hard look in the mirror. I think for me … with my future and career being uncertain, one thing I was really hopeful for was that I would get an opportunity in a really good car to be able to know, hey, is it me or not? If I get that opportunity, can I make the most of it? Can I compete?
“I was fortunate enough that things worked out for me that I was able to get that opportunity. Some people never get that opportunity. But I was able to get that opportunity with Stewart-Haas Racing. I’ve got the best equipment in the garage area, and I was able to go out and compete. I ran up front and won a race and finished in the top five in points. It was a great year for me personally.”
“Now that we’ve got a year under our belt, and I feel like we achieved quite a bit, we can really focus in on our weaknesses and where we didn’t perform at our best and try to make that better. We can circle back to some of the tracks we ran really well at and figure out what we need to do to capitalize on some of those races where we felt like we could have won and didn’t do it. It’s very reasonable to have higher expectations going into next year.”
2. Not going anywhere
For those who wondered — and there were some whispers in Miami — Brad Keselowski will be back with Team Penske for the 2019 season.
“I don’t know where that came from,” Keselowski said Wednesday in Las Vegas of questions at the end of the season that he might retire. “As far as I’m aware (all is good). I will be at Team Penske driving the No. 2 car this year to the best of my knowledge. I’m under contract to do so.”
What does a racer do when the season ends? Race, of course. At least that is what Alex Bowman will do.
He’ll compete in a midget at the Gateway Dirt Nationals today and Saturday at The Dome at America’s Center, the former home of the St. Louis Rams NFL team before they moved to Los Angeles.
Bowman also plans to run a midget at the Junior Knepper 55” USAC Midget event Dec. 15 in the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin, Illinois in preparation for the Chili Bowl in January in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He also has entered a midget for C.J. Leary for the Chili Bowl, which will be Jan. 14-19.
Not every driver will race in the next few weeks.
Ryan Blaney says he’ll leave Saturday for Hawaii. It’s his first trip there.
“It wasn’t my first choice, but the group I was with wanted to go,” he said Wednesday in Las Vegas. “I would like to go somewhere other than America to try to change up the culture, but I think that’s enough of a culture change in Hawaii to experience new things.”
He also plans to do some snowboarding before being home in January when his sister gives birth to her child.
Erik Jones said he’ll do some ice fishing – “go sit out in the cold and look at a hole in the ice, it’s just relaxing for me.” He said he plans to spend time with family in Michigan enjoying the holidays.
Denny Hamlin said he’ll go to St. Barts for a friend’s 50th birthdaycelebration. “Just going down there for some vacation time in the next few weeks and after that just spend some time at home relaxing.”
Austin Dillon said he expects to be in a deer stand for some time before Christmas.
When the K&N Pro Series West raced at the Vegas Dirt Track in September, the conditions were so dusty that it impacted the racing and viewing for fans.
“I think for them to both be able to showcase how cool the event is, the track needs to be right, the way it is prepped needs to be right,” Larson said this week. “That’s the only thing I”m nervous about, judging how the (K&N West) race went a few months ago.
“I just hope that the track is good so fans can get the opportunity to see some good racing in a few different series.”
5. Together again
Among those joining Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn in moving to Joe Gibbs Racing will be car chief Blake Harris and an engineer, Truex said in Las Vegas.
Having Pearn in the JGR shop should prove beneficial for all, Kyle Busch said.
“Adam (Stevens’) and Cole’s offices will be right next door to one another instead of being on a chat all the time,” Busch said of his crew chief and Pearn.
Busch likened Truex and Pearn helping the organization as much as Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth did. Joe Gibbs Racing won 26 of 72 races in 2015-16 when both Edwards and Kenseth were there.
Joey Meier’s tenure as Brad Keselowski’s spotter ends
Joey Meier announced on Twitter Monday that his time as spotter on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford has come to an end after Sunday’s season finale.
Meier has spotted for Keselowski since 2006.
“Ive (sic) been told my time as the 2 Car spotter has come to the checkered flag,” Meier said in the Twitter post. “I will miss spotting but there will be more Chapters in my life as I continue to be a pilot.”
“His communication, his way of kind of verbalizing what he sees, is the key for me to be able to make the right moves on the racetrack,” Keselowski said. “It’s a good 1‑2 punch … He’s been part of three of the four Talladega wins, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”
Keselowski would win at Talladega again in 2017.
Keselowski won three times in 2018 and finished the season eighth in the standings.