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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
WATKINS GLEN — For years Terry Spalding has spent his weekends in the pits changing tires in the NASCAR Cup series.

This year the Troy graduate is still using the knowledge from all those years on a pit crew, but now it’s to help coach pit crews for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“It’s definitely different,” Spalding said. “Instead of getting my hands dirty all the time and doing all the work it’s coaching, but I like it. I am enjoying it. It’s a great bunch of guys and it’s the Gibbs organization, it’s fun.

Most of the guys I’m coaching I changed with them for years. With Gibbs we have a lot of experienced guys. A lot of guys I changed with for at least a decade or so. It’s neat, there is already a camaraderie there, kind of a bonding. It’s gone pretty smooth.”

A year ago Spalding went through a pretty big health scare as he came down with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, leaving him temporarily paralyzed. Spalding was able to come back late last racing season and change tires again, which he did at Watkins Glen a year ago.

After the season Gibbs approached Spalding about taking on the new role this year.

“After I had my injury and my problems, when I came back I was ready to go change again, and Joe Gibbs came to me and said, actually we think we’d like you to move into a coaching role. We have a position that needs to be filled and you might be the guy for it and we talked about it.

“I’m kind of in talks now to take on an even more expanded role next year. It’s not definite yet, but possibly I’ll be doing more for Gibbs next year.”

There was a time not many years ago where Spalding started to think about life after working on pit crews. Now he feels like this can make his career go longer. However, he also still feels young and still likes to change tires when he can.

“I think it can definitely extend my career,” he said. “But, I feel like I’m 16 years old. Yesterday (Friday) I went up to Turtle Back, the practice area where we practiced at Troy for years and years. I went up on Turtle Back and it just felt like I should go up there and run laps and hit somebody.

“I still have an itch to change. I”m changing in the Truck series. I have been changing in the Truck Series all year and I have done some one off Cup races this year. I have changed Cup this year a few times. Next year I’m probably going to coach with Gibbs again and maybe even a more expanded role. But, I am also going to weigh my options. Gibbs has been very good at letting me coach and change as long as I don’t change in the Xfinity series against the guys I’m coaching. The guys I’m coaching right now are in the Xfinity series so I’m allowed to change in either truck or Cup and next year I might try and work something out like that again. Maybe I’ll do some Cup pit stops next year too.”

Throughout his career Spalding has gotten a chance to work with a number of great race teams. However, Spalding always had the dream of working for Joe Gibbs racing. Spalding’s time the past few years with Gibbs has been something special.

“I was fortunate to be at Petty, Evernham, RCR and some really great places,” Spalding said. “But, I always wanted to be at Gibbs. It’s really neat how I ended up here coaching and it’s everything I thought and more. I find myself almost every week, or every other week I find myself in a competition meeting with Joe Gibbs and just sitting there and listening to him talk about what he thinks needs to be done and work with his managers. I have to pinch myself and it’s really neat to sit there and listen to him.

I have really always had an admiration for Joe Gibbs, like a lot of people, but since I’ve had the opportunity to be involved directly in his management, it’s no wonder he has been as successful as he has at everything. He just has this passion for people and it comes through in his management and how he handles people. He just seems to always do the right thing.”

Spalding was at Watkins Glen this past weekend, but instead of being in the pits he was up in a tower as a spotter for both Xfinity and Cup series.

“It’s definitely fun. I think it’s the next best thing to being in the car, because you are in the driver’s ear helping him drive that car, so that part is fun,” Spalding said. “But, also look at me too. I have shorts on and my hands and fingernails are clean. It’s not real easy to be a spotter. When you go to tell the driver something that is happening on the track you have to do it in a split second, you can’t hesitate, and you can’t be wrong. It’s not that easy, but I’m enjoying it.”

On Sunday it was the 54 car of Ty Gibbs that Spalding was working as a spotter for. For Spalding it’s been a lot of fun watching how hard Ty Gibbs works to be a great driver. Gibbs was fifth on Sunday and has seven top 10 finishes this year. A season ago he was the XFinity champion when he won seven times on that series.

“I really like Ty Gibbs also, not just because he’s a Gibbs,” Spalding said. “He is so dedicated. He works so hard. He is in the weight room as much as any of our pit crew guys. Then, he’s in the simulator, he’s down on the shop floor. He works so hard at being a good NASCAR driver. I think eh’s almost more driven because he doesn’t want to be known as the kid that had it handed to him. He’s really earning it. All of us around him, who know him, know he is really earning it. He works really hard. He comes to practice and drivers our pit practice car for us some and so does Sammy Smith and the other guys. But, I think some of the other guys come because Ty started coming.”
IN TOP PHOTO: Troy graduate Terry Spalding stands in the garage at Watkins Glen before the Xfinity race on Saturday. . . PHOTO BY BRIAN FEES

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