By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Spotter Chris Osborne didn't know at the time that he was part of a two-month audition process conducted by driver Matt Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliff.
But the man who goes by the handle @crazy_spotter on Twitter passed the meticulous test admirably and now is installed as spotter for Kenseth and his new No. 20 Toyota team at Joe Gibbs Racing.
One area of concern to the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, after he announced plans to leave Roush Fenway Racing and join the Gibbs organization, was finding a spotter to replace Mike Calinoff, who opted to remain with Roush Fenway.
Calinoff and Kenseth had a rhythm and repartee that would be difficult to duplicate. That's why Kenseth and Ratcliff listened to hours of audio before making their choice.
"I did a lot of research last year -- Jason and I did -- before we really interviewed or offered a job to a spotter," Kenseth told the NASCAR Wire Service on Friday at Daytona International Speedway. "I listened to a lot of different audio... I was so sick of listening to spotters and drivers and crew chiefs talking back and forth.
"I just listened to a lot of audio from different races that we recorded, so I could listen to different spotters and their style, without them knowing that you're listening to them."
More than anything else, Kenseth was looking for a spotter who fit his laid-back style. He found that in Osborne, who was spotter for the No. 22 car at Penske Racing.
"There's a lot of things I look for," said Kenseth, the defending Daytona 500 champion and a two-time winner of NASCAR's most important race. "One thing is the way they talk, how clear they sound, their accent -- all that stuff, so it's something you can understand -- somebody that doesn't get excited, somebody that's calm, and gives you all the information.
"I was excited with what I heard (with Osborne), and that being said, when you do that research, you don't want to find somebody where you need to change 10 things. I liked the information that he was giving the other guys, and I was like, 'Man, just go do your deal; if we have to make any adjustment, we'll make 'em.' And we really haven't had to make any adjustments. I haven't really told him to do anything different.
"We tried to do our research. It took a couple months to figure out who we wanted, if we could get him, and that was Chris."
PATRICK WILL START ON TOP
Based on her experience in Thursday's first Budweiser Duel 150-mile qualifying race, Danica Patrick will bring the field to green in the outside lane to start Sunday's Daytona 500.
Patrick, who was the pole winner has her pick of lanes, confirmed the decision to reporters Friday afternoon in the Daytona media center. In her Duel, Patrick chose the bottom lane and was shuffled back through the field.
"I started on the bottom," Patrick said. "Tony (Stewart) was right behind me if I started there, so we thought that was kind of the best place to be. We didn't really know that it was going to be so obvious that we needed to start on the top; that's why we will do that for the 500 on Sunday. Tony just stayed back there, so I just stayed with him.
"We just kind of fell back; we got three-wide a little bit at one point, and I just got out of it and let that pass and then dropped to the back. The car was pretty tight, so there wasn't a lot I could do anyway. Passing seems tough without a fair amount of help. And even when you get that, it sometimes gets stopped-up by somebody dropping down in front of the lane, and slowing it up.
"So, it is going to be interesting to see how things end up working out on Sunday."
Patrick is the first female driver to win a pole in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. No female driver has won a race in any of NASCAR's top three touring series.
If you thought "injectors" were part of a car's fuel delivery system and nothing more, think again.
The grand vision for capital improvements to Daytona International Speedway includes "injectors," five expanded and redesigned fan entrances leading from International Speedway
Boulevard into the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
According to the plan, the injectors will lead to escalators that will transport fans to three different concourse levels and a series of "neighborhoods" (where fans can meet and socialize without missing any racing action) along the one-mile frontstretch.
That's just part of the concept, which is subject to approval by senior management of International Speedway Corporation, which owns the track, pending economic stability factors and design and construction costs.
Daytona president Joie Chitwood III presented the vision to reporters Friday morning at the speedway. Other aspects include the replacement of every seat on the frontstretch with more comfortable seating, open sightlines from the concourses and their "neighborhoods," as well as the addition of restrooms and concession stands with easier access points.
BAYNE ON POLE FOR NATIONWIDE RACE
Trevor Bayne posted a lap at 177.162 mph (50.801) midway through Friday's Nationwide Series qualifying session and waited for someone to go faster.
That didn't happen, and, accordingly, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner will start his quest for a Nationwide title on the pole for Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
Sam Hornish Jr. came closest to knocking Bayne off the provisional pole. Hornish ran 176.869 mph to earn the second starting position for Saturday's season opener. Danica Patrick, last year's polesitter for the Nationwide race at Daytona, qualified 12th, one position ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Through no fault of his own, Carl Edwards has been involved in four accidents during Speedweeks. After Edwards' No. 99 Ford was demolished in Thursday's first Budweiser Duel qualifying race, another race car arrived from North Carolina early Friday morning. "While you guys were sleeping, we were working," crew chief Jimmy Fennig said... Tony Stewart announced Friday that Rush Truck Centers will serve as primary sponsor for three races on his No. 14 Chevy SS and will be an associate sponsor for the rest of the Cup schedule...