The #42 Target car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series has a new driver, but the spotter remains the same. The new driver, rookie Kyle Larson, will have Windham native Derek Kneeland spotting for him in both the Sprint Cup series and the Nationwide series.
It’s a change for Kneeland to be spotting for one driver in both series. Last year, though he worked in both series, he was spotting for a different driver in each. Larson raced in the nationwide series last year, where he was named the 2013 Rookie of the Year. While he has earned respect in that series, Kneeland said Larson is still earning his wings with the cup drivers.
Spotting for a rookie brings some new challenges, said Kneeland. They have had a few difficulties in the last couple of races, he said, as he helps Larson get familiar with the strategies and procedures of the cup series. “A cup race usually goes another 100 laps longer, and it’s harder to keep someone calm at the beginning of a race, and in the middle part of a race, so that they can be there at the end to try and achieve the goals we want to achieve every week,” said Kneeland.
Kneeland said the off season brought an opportunity to relax and spend some time in Maine. The racing season kicked off in Daytona in mid-February, and Kneeland said he’s glad to be back into the swing of things. He’s looking forward to working with a rookie, and guiding him in the right direction, he said. He also continues to try to race once a year.
Kneeland is working towards trying to do the Oxford 250 again this year, which falls on NASCAR’s off weekend and is also the weekend after they race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. This works out well, said Kneeland, because his family comes to Loudon and then he comes back to spend a week in Maine before the race. Right now, he’s said it’s looking like a 50/50 possibility of him being able to do the race. “It’s about sponsorship,” he said. The person he raced for last year in the Oxford 250 would like him to race again this year, so now it’s about coming up with the money in order to be competitive and do it right. He doesn’t want to do it halfway he said. If he can’t do it all the way, said Kneeland, he’ll be a spectator, rather than racing and not running well.
Kneeland said he continues to love what he does every day. “I don’t wake up and not look forward to my day,” he said.