Perched high above the uppermost grandstand seats at each Red Bull Global Rallycross event is a group of competitors who, after the drivers in their cars, probably have the greatest impact on the outcome of every Heat, Semifinal, and Final race of a GRC weekend. These team members are the all-important “spotters” who navigate their drivers to safe and winning races on a GRC circuit.
From the lofty vantage perch, kitted in Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross uniforms, are the spotters for Scott Speed and Tanner Foust, although you might easily be confused into thinking that the two teammates share one spotter between them.
“That is actually my brother,” Cole Carter jokes. “No, we’re not twins.”
Cole calls races for the No. 41 Oberto Circle K Beetle GRC of Scott Speed, while older brother, Dane Carter, watches over the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Drink entry of Tanner Foust. Together, the brothers are responsible for keeping Speed and Foust aware of their surroundings every time they go on track.
“In my car, I have a rearview mirror that kind of works, -ish,” explains Speed. “The side mirrors sometimes are pointing backward. Sometimes after the first corner, one of them is hanging off. You can’t really see and do everything you need to do, so you want someone who’s able to describe accurately what’s going on in the areas you can’t see in real time.”
At the frenetic start of a rallycross race, there’s a lot of information that needs to be relayed via radio to the drivers, a phenomenon Foust describes as akin to “listening to an auctioneer.”
“I do speak a little quicker than I probably should, but in spotting,—especially with these cars as fast as the action is—you need to think and speak quickly,” says Dane Carter. “There’s not a lot of time to get many words out.”
The Carter brothers bring a deep racing knowledge to their spotting expertise. Each is a veteran of sprint car and midget racing and they are the sons of another legendary oval racer. That history in motorsport gives the pair the ability to help their drivers in more ways than just giving warnings about other cars.
The brothers are on the spotters’ stand for every session, including practices, where they watch the competition to help their drivers ascertain their strengths and weakness at different portions of the track, leading to quicker lap times overall. Having been behind the wheel themselves, the Carters are able to offer feedback and constructive criticism to Foust and Speed in a language they can understand quickly and accurately.
“It’s literally letting you know how each of your corners compares to the cars around you,” says Foust. With the spotter’s input, “you have a better chance of focusing on your strengths and taking a win.”
That firsthand racer knowledge also allows the Carters to help dictate race strategy quickly and effectively in the hectic environment of a short rallycross event.
“Dane is trying to interpret the intentions of the guy behind me, not just where he is relative to my bumper,” says Foust.
With the joker shortcut playing a crucial part of every GRC race, it’s important that a spotter can monitor the constantly shifting gaps around his car, telling his driver when he needs to push hard to build a gap and when it’s alright to ease back and protect the car.
“It’s really critical to watch how the race plays out—not just your own car, but the cars you’re kind of racing around,” explains Cole. “Keeping good track of who’s taken the joker and who hasn’t.”
Racing drivers are notorious control freaks, so the relationship between driver and spotter must be strong and built on a foundation of trust.
“You have to trust your spotter,” says Foust. “There’s no doubt about that because you can’t double check anything they say.”
“When you’re out there driving, you don’t have really any other voice but the spotter there telling you where to go, what to do, where everybody else is around you,” adds Cole.
While each of the Carters has plenty of victories to his name in GRC and other racing disciplines where Andretti Autosport competes, the two are always trying to outdo one another, helping their driver to victory against the other.
“Once the green drops, he’s just a competitor. He’s no longer my brother,” says Dane with a smile. “Having that friendly rivalry between teams makes both teams better.”
Competition between the cars at Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross is fierce, but Foust credits the familial, intra-team bond with easing some of the tensions that come with racing side-by-side each race weekend.
If there’s an incident between the two Beetle GRCs on track, “[The Carters] will tell each other what they think, they’ll fight about it, but they’re going to be brothers at the end of the day,” says Foust. “It doesn’t put a split between the teams.”
The Carter brothers and their friendly sibling rivalry represent some of the best qualities of Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, and perhaps the source of the team’s great success over the past four seasons—a group of talented individuals who push each other to constantly improve.
That attitude has served Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross extremely well and given each of the Carter brothers the opportunity to answer a Spotter’s favorite question from his or her driver after the checkered flag falls, “Where can I do donuts?”