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Derek Kneeland Leans on Racing Experience on Spotters' Stand

Kneeland discussed winning with Kyle Busch at Auto Club Speedway and his own racing endeavors while appearing on Racing America’s “The Bullring” on Wednesday.


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The spotters’ stand in the NASCAR Cup Series features plenty of individuals with racing experience of their own. Derek Kneeland, who spots for Kyle Busch at Richard Childress Racing, is one such example.

Kneeland discussed the team’s win at Auto Club Speedway, the new partnership and his own racing endeavors while appearing on Racing America’s “The Bullring” on Wednesday.

Kneeland admits that success has come quicker than he expected for the team with its new driver.

“I thought the curve would be a little bit more than it has been,” said Kneeland. “I only did five Truck races with Kyle last year, but we both have a substantial racing background. Everybody at RCR, Richard and Judy [Childress] and Randall [Burnett] and all of our engineers have knocked it out of the park, made it super easy for Kyle to come in and get comfortable quick.”

Kneeland is in his first season working with Busch full-time in the Cup Series, after spotting for him for a handful of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races in 2022. Busch, Kneeland and crew chief Randall Burnett worked together in the offseason to get in-sync for the upcoming campaign.

“Last year, when I did those five Truck races for him, I was spotting for Reddick at the time. He said, ‘Do your normal deal. I’ll take what I need and weed out what I don’t need.’ Everything went great, we got a Truck win during that time, and we had really good success.

“Over this winter, just before the Coliseum, they had me fly down and we had a three or four-hour meeting in Randall’s office. He didn’t have anything he wanted to touch on for short track or intermediate stuff, but he was blunt and vocal and clear that he felt his biggest weakness, not that there’s much weakness with Kyle Busch, was speedway racing.

“I’ve been fortunate to have good success on speedways, more so in Xfinity races and Truck races. We just went over a bunch of film and audio and how I did things. He didn’t ask me to change anything, he was just asking me questions on what certain things might mean that I say, the severity of certain things I say at some points. He wanted to adjust to that.”

READ MORE: Kyle Busch Enjoying Promising Start at Richard Childress Racing

It’s been a strong start for the pairing, with a third-place finish at the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, a shot at the win in the Daytona 500, and now the victory in Fontana.

“We went to the Coliseum and had good luck. We went to the [Daytona] 500 and, had that caution not come out, we probably would have had a shot to win the 500. This weekend, he kept me very busy. We had that penalty on pit road for speeding. We just tried to keep his head in it, not get too frustrated. We probably passed the most cars and won the race with no problem.”

Of course, Kneeland is a racer at heart himself. While his NASCAR schedule keeps him busy, Kneeland has circled four dates on the calendar where he will climb behind the wheel of a Late Model in 2023.

“I’m going to do four races as of now. The first race will be Wednesday, June 7 at Berlin for the Money in the Bank 150. The second race will be Saturday, our one and only Cup weekend off, at Oxford. It happens to be a 100-lap open show. The third race will be at Lee Speedway during Loudon weekend, like I did last year. The fourth one will be the Battle at Berlin on August 9.”

Kneeland believes his racing experience is a huge asset while spotting, as he can convey the information he would be looking for from his own spotter if he were behind the wheel.

“I spot the way I would want to be spotted for. I’m big on trying to paint a picture behind. The best thing for a driver is looking out the windshield and not having to look at mirrors. I do everything I can to paint that picture for him. If there’s no pressure there, everything is out front, seeing if you’re catching what someone’s weakness might be at the moment and trying to help them with that.”

Race fans can watch Wednesday's episode of The Bullring by clicking here.