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Driver-Spotter Miscommunication Ends Smithley’s Day At Atlanta

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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Big One at Atlanta leads to three contenders parked and a spark of disputes between Smithley and his spotter.

What’s Happening?

About halfway through the first stage of the Xfinity Series race at Atlanta, the first Big One of the day occurred as Kaz Grala in the No. 26 and Jefferey Earnhardt of the No. 44 tangled. Earnhardt was spinning down low after cutting a tire and was subsequently hit by Grala. The two slid up the track to collect Garrett Smithley in the No. 4 entry for JD Motorsports.

But the real talk here was the implied miscommunication (and tension) between driver, Smithley, and his spotter.

You Need To Know:

  • This is the third different team in 5 different attempts for Garrett Smithley in 2023. He failed to qualify for the first two races of the season with B. J. McLeod Racing. After this, the two mutually agreed to part ways. He’d move onto the team of DGM Racing to drive the No. 91 for Vegas before returning home to his long-tenured ride at JD Motorsports. Smithley ran for JDM intermittently for the 2016-17 and the 2018-19 seasons, driving almost every car number they’ve ever fielded.
  • With Smithley returning to JD, it would seem he would be quite comfortable in the ride. However, if the communications over the radio with his spotter have indicated anything it’s that they’re not quite gelling together as a driver-spotter combo. Garett Smithley. As the crash occurred in front of the No. 4 Camaro, the spotter told Smithley to go high as the cars were spinning down low. As Smithley went high, however, the No. 44 of Earnhardt was hit by Grala’s No. 26 and the slid up the track, collecting the No. 4. Smithley criticized the spotter after coming to rest on the apron. The spotter then defended himself.
  • Spotter-driver toxic relationships are nothing new to fans of the sport. Most famously, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (pre-Letarte era) was notorious for being hard on his crew chiefs and spotters over the radio, his spotter being TJ Majors. So, while the radio communications between Smithley and his spotter may be hard to listen to, fans will most likely understand that it’s pretty much the nature of the sport.

The Main Characters

Here is the full footage of the incident which collected Earnhardt, Grala, and Smithley. Towards the end, some radio communication between Smithley and spotter, Coleman.

Around The Garage

Kaz Grala had no clue what happened during the accident. Bob Pockrass caught up with him.

FOX Sport’s Bob Pockrass also caught up with Jefferey Earnhardt who sheds some light on the origin of the crash.

Spotter Brett Griffin gives his expert opinion on the spotter vs. driver dispute.

In The Stands

Read Cyberpunk on Twitter criticizes the spotter for “derping” Smithley in his return to JD Motorsports.

Julian Spivey has a different take, stating that Smithley isn’t good enough to have that much of an attitude.

On Your Screen

Smithley spoke with Frontstretch to discuss his return to JD Motorsports prior to Saturday’s race.

From The Pressbox

Bob Pockress says that neither Grala or Smithley had a clue as to what happened. Earnhardt shed some light on that in his interview, however.

Toby Christie reports that Earnhardt blew a tire prior to that incident.

Spotters and drivers getting into disputes is nothing new. For Smithley and his crew at JD Motorsports, we at DDF just hope that they iron out all the wrinkles in their communication.

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Picture of Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
All Posts