Although he’s never been behind the wheel of a car on a Sunday afternoon NASCAR track, Garrison native Steve Barkdoll is marking a major milestone in his NASCAR career this weekend, and looking back on a successful career that includes being part of many Victory Lane celebrations with some of racing’s best-known names.
Thirty years ago, Barkdoll was with his father, Phil, when Phil drove his first Daytona 500 race in 1988.
Since then, Steve Barkdoll has been working in a variety of NASCAR posts, making some well-known friends and being part of NASCAR wins in a variety of positions, from a crew member on the track to a front-office leader.
“This is my 30th year and I have been blessed to be a part of wins in all series – 3 Cup races, 3 Xfinity races, 2 truck races and 2 ARCA races – some role, as jackman, spotter, or VP/GM,” Barkdoll says.
This weekend, Barkdoll will be one of many spotters on the track at Daytona, helping crew chiefs and drivers know what is happening on the track.
For those not that familiar with professional racing roles, Barkdoll explains what a spotter does.
“At the track you can think of a spotter like a air traffic controller,” he says. “The drivers are limited to what they see and the crew chiefs want more information from their spot on pit road. So we are on the top of the stands, or roof of the suites and we are constantly talking with the drivers. We have four radios on, listening to NASCAR, the crew chief, and talking at the same time.”
At some of the smaller tracks, the spotters can see clearly with the naked eye. But on Sunday, at Daytona, Barkdoll and the others will be using binoculars to see every part of the 2.5-mile long raceway.
“I love Daytona and Talladega because they are on big tracks,” says Barkdoll.
This weekend, Barkdoll planned to serve as spotter for three teams.
“My primary is Michael McDowell and the 34 Front Row Motorsports in Monster Cup (in the Daytona 500). I will also spot for Mark Thompson in the ARCA 66 this Saturday, along with Xfinity number 15, with driver Joe Nemechek (in the Powershares QQQ 300).”
Barkdoll recently started is own racing promotion company, Barkdoll Enterprise.
“My marketing company will work with different sponsors of the sport to make sure they activate their sponsorship, through entertaining, tours and hot passes,” he explains.
Among the big contributions that the Barkdolls made to NASCAR: They gave Jeff Gordon his first NASCAR ride.
“Gordon got his start with Barkdoll Racing and we are best friends,” says Barkdoll.
After attending school in Garrison until he was in fourth grade, Barkdoll finished his school years in Vinton.
Now, 30 years, after his first experience at Daytona, Barkdoll recalls his early NASCAR days fondly, and enjoys looking back on how it all began.
A 2009 Midwest Racing story recounts how Phil Barkdoll, inspired by a challenge by the late Keith Knaack, went to Daytona with virtually no asphalt track experience, and qualified. Phil went on to race several times at Daytona and Talladega.
“Dad still does charity auctions with NASCAR themes every now and then, but is not involved in the sport,” says Barkdoll. “He keeps his annual credentials and still attends a few races, sharing his journeys and experience.”
This year is also the 20th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s 1998 Daytona 500 win. Steve was included in an FS1 story about that historic win. See that video HERE.