Joey Meier of Hialeah is the spotter for NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski
You can say, literally, that Joey Meier will be staying above — far, far above — the fray of speeding cars and grinding metal at this weekend’s racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Meier, 52, is a spotter for Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford car that will be competing in Sunday’s NASCAR grand finale for the season, the Ford EcoBoost 400.
As a spotter, Meier — a home-grown South Floridian from Hialeah — will basically make his way to the highest spot available in NASCAR’s stadiums. Top of the press box, highest part of the stands, stadium roof, The Tower at Homestead, etc.
It’s not a job recommended for someone afflicted with fear of heights (acrophobia for those of you searching for the technical term).
Meier sluffs off the heights as “no problem.”
“It’s not scary,” he said. “It’s not like we’re on a ledge and that we will fall off.”
Meier, with his trusty binoculars by his side, has a direct vocal feed to Keselowski, guiding the driver around the track, warning of wrecks ahead on the track, pointing out the best line to take in addition to much other information.
“The primary goal for a spotter is safety ... to keep our driver safe,” Meier said. “After that, the goal is to make the performance more efficient.”
Only two people talk to the driver during a race, the crew chief in the pits and the spotter. “The spotter and the driver are the ones who communicate to each other the most,” Meier said.
Meier and Keselowski are longtime friends with a bond on the track and off.
“He’s easy-going, talkative and a happy guy,” Meier said. “Easy to work with. What you see on TV is what you get with Brad.”
Meier grew up in Hialeah, going to Hialeah-Miami Lakes High, and spent much of his youth at the famous but now-closed Hialeah Speedway, a one-third-mile track which was shut down in 2005. That was a sad day for many locals, including Meier.
“In my youth, I was there all the time,” Meier said. “Most people in auto racing started on a track like Hialeah Speedway. I went there at age 5 or so with my parents [his father was a NASCAR driver in the ‘50s].
“I remember as a small, little kid sitting in the car and making race-car sounds.”
His future, obviously, was being molded early.
“The cars that raced at Hialeah Speedway were street stock,” he recalled. “No higher-end racing parts. We would race ’69 Chevelles, ’70 Monte Carlos. We went to the junkyard to get our parts.”
The lead-up to Meier becoming a spotter included working the pits and as a pilot, sometimes flying drivers and team members to the tracks where they were competing.
Unexpectedly on a day in 1988, Meier was working at an airport in Marathon and a fellow worker told him Dale Earnhardt had just landed at the airport.
Quickly, Meier went over to Earnhardt, introduced himself and talked to him -- in awe, but also bold enough to engage Earnhardt in a fairly lengthy conversation.
For nearly 10 years, Meier stayed in contact with the Earnhardt team, hoping to land a job.
“Finally, they got tired of me pestering them and hired me,” Meier said with a laugh.
Depending on the depth of your auto racing knowledge, you might be aware of or not aware of the role a spotter plays during a race.
Nevertheless, Meier is somewhat confident people are familiar with his voice.
“Many fans have scanners so they can listen to the conversation between the spotter and the driver,” Meier said. “They want to know what goes on behind the scenes.
“In football, the fan can’t be in the huddle. In baseball, the fan can’t be in the dugout. But in auto racing, you can be in the car.”
Does Meier feel fulfilled by his career as a spotter?
“Yes,” he said. “A lot of people want my job and very few can do it.
“I’ve been doing it for 22 years, so I certainly hope I’m happy,” he said decidedly.
“In fact, I know I have been blessed.”
Ford Championship Weekend
Race: Ford EcoBoost 300, Xfinity Series
When: 3:30 p.m.
Last year’s winner: Cole Custer
Race: NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBost 400
When: 3 p.m.
Last year’s winner: Martin Truex Jr.