BRISTOL, Tenn. — Tab Boyd was grinning from ear-to-ear.
The No. 22 spotter has spent his weekends for the last five years perched atop hills and high-as-the-sky towers at race tracks across the country and guiding Joey Logano’s Shell-Pennzoil Ford on track.
But he had never seen Bristol Motor Speedway from a hot air balloon until Saturday afternoon – nor did he ever think he ever would.
“That’s one thing about this job,” Boyd told NASCAR.com with a laugh, while airborne. “It’s never dull and it’s always full of surprises.”
The Pensacola, Florida, native is no stranger to racing; he grew up around the sport and has memories going to tracks around the Southeast with his father. The tiny Tennessee short track known as Bristol was always a place he looked forward to seeing.
Being able to spot for a living at this special place is “pretty much a dream come true.”
“It’s a very unique place, it’s always been,” Boyd said. “Bristol’s always been somewhere I’ve loved to come since I was a little kid, so it’s neat to come here and help be part of the show.”
But the Bristol show is one that isn’t so seamless; the small track equates to small spaces to move and even smaller tempers from drivers as they bump and rub one another’s cars.
It makes a spotter’s job even more crucial.
“It’s very challenging here at Bristol,” he said. “Being in this hot air balloon is a pretty cool experience to see a different perspective of the speedway rather than the spotter’s stand, but it’s so intense; everybody’s doing everything they can to pass each other every second they can around the track. So, just being alert and being on the game is the hard part at Bristol.”
Boyd points out the spotter’s stand from the hot air balloon, an area to the right of the Bass Pro Shops-emblazoned tower. He shows a picture that he took from the spotter’s stand looking at the hot air balloon.
“So that was from there to here. As a matter of fact, I’m going to take one from here to there,” he said, snapping a photo of the iconic colosseum.
“The view from the Bristol spotter stand is really good, but I tell you what, I’d like to get this A11 to bring this thing to Watkins Glen or something like that,” he said later with a grin. “To go way above a road course, that would be pretty handy.”
Tonight’s race (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will present an additional challenge for the No. 22 team, as it marks one of three races left for Logano to win his way into NASCAR’s playoffs. With his win at Richmond encumbered, Logano currently sits 18th in the playoff standings, two spots out from the 16-car field.
But while that creates pressure for the team, some of that goes away when the green flag is dropped, Boyd said.
Because, after all, it’s Bristol, baby.
“It’s really important to do well each and every week but knowing that we’re about to wrap up the regular season, it’s more important for us to be able to get a win,” Boyd said. “Once the race starts, that kind of all goes out the window and you get in your zone and you do the best you can to get in good positions and be up front.
“So, that’s the fun part about Bristol, is being here and the intensity and the crowd and hearing them roar whenever a big pass is made, so that’s what it’s all about.”