“Have a good day friend,” the words Tony Stewart hears each race from high above the race track. “You too friend,” Tony replies. The man behind that calming voice is Tony’s long time spotter Bob Jeffrey. Jeffrey is part cheerleader, psychologist, deal maker, but most importantly Tony’s second pair of eyes. Jeffrey can be heard warning Tony of hazards on the track, the drivers around him, dicey situations and the best line to be in…the list goes on and on. He also serves as the middle man between the driver, crew chief and NASCAR.
In an interview from 2012 on RTV6 Sports, Jeffrey said he started out as a tire changer in the 80’s. In the mid 90’s, spotters became mandatory and pit stops were increasing in speed. Jeffrey said he was volunteered to be a spotter. “They volunteered me because I wasn’t fast enough to do 23-24 second pit stops. They put me to spotting and I’m still here.” Before becoming Tony’s spotter in 2009, he worked with other drivers including Matt Kenseth, Dale Jarrett, and Dale Earnhardt.
Listening to Tony’s radio, you feel the respect, trust and comradery between driver and spotter. It was Jeffrey’s calming voice talking Tony through the closing laps earlier this year at Sonoma. Tony took the lead with 22 laps to go. Denny Hamlin was closing in on Tony as the white flag waved. As the two cars approached turn 7, Jeffrey told Tony, “be ready for the dive.” Entering the turn, Hamlin gave Tony a shove causing him to go wide, losing the lead to Hamlin. The voice in Tony’s ear simply said, “get him back.” Tony charged back catching Hamlin as they approached the final turn. Tony got to the inside of Hamlin making contact, taking the lead away and earning his first win in 84 starts.
Following the win at Sonoma Jeffrey said, “It lets you know what kind of champion he is. He’s always been a winner. A great driver and a respectful driver on the race track. It’s been a long three years to this point from when he got hurt. He went through a lot of obstacles.”