n MCT photo
Big wheels: Jimmie Johnson has won five straight NASCAR championships, thanks in part to Earl Barban being a part of his team.
* MCT photo. Big wheels: Jimmie Johnson has won five straight NASCAR championships, thanks in part to Earl Barban being a part of his team.
n MCT photo
Big wheels: Jimmie Johnson has won five straight NASCAR championships, thanks in part to Earl Barban being a part of his team.
* MCT photo. Big wheels: Jimmie Johnson has won five straight NASCAR championships, thanks in part to Earl Barban being a part of his team.

Earl Barban enjoys sipping Bermuda rum swizzle and hanging out with local NASCAR fans.

But don't be fooled by this laid back approach.

Barban is the spotter for five-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and is one of the busiest men in NASCAR.

The former US Marine Corps reserve serves in multiple capacities at Hendrick Motorsports, such as building racecars, public relations and back up truck driver to name a few.

But he is perhaps best known for his eagle-eyed spotting from atop the grandstand.

Such is Barban’s reputation in NASCAR circles it is often said he can spot a champion from miles away.

Since joining forces with Hendrick Motorsports Barban has won multiple Sprint Cup titles as well as the Daytona 500 with Johnson behind the wheel.

Barban describes the 35-year-old Californian as out of this world.

He told the Bermuda Sun: “Jimmie Johnson is like nothing I have ever seen. He is driven with his workouts and dedication to understanding the racecar, and drives every lap like it is qualifying or the last lap of the race.

“I have never seen anyone more caring and truly a good person in all aspects.”

At this month’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Super Speedway, Johnson drove the Lowe’s (48) Chevrolet Impala to victory lane in one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history since the introduction of electronic scoring.

The margin of victory was a mere .002 seconds ahead of runner up Clint Bowyer.

“After taking the white flag with one to go there is really nothing to say — the driver is just heading for the checkered,” Barban said.

Johnson’s recent victory at Talladega capped a memorable day for Hendrick Motorsports at the racetrack as stablemates Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin all finished in the top ten.

“We have run well there (Talladega) in the past and even won a few times in the last 20 races,” Barban added.

The avid scuba diver and fan of star R&B singer Janet Jackson was pleased to see multiple NASCAR champion Gordon extend his impressive record at Talladega.

He said: “Jeff’s performance has been great for a long time. His record is five wins in the last ten years.”

Bermuda connection

Barban, who has been involved in stockcar racing for nearly a quarter of a century, is also a former chief spotter for retired driver Rusty Wallace.

It was during his time with Penske Racing that he had the opportunity to meet former local cricketer Gladwin Edness.

The two men met in 2000 and have kept close tabs ever since.

“Gladwin and I met at a fan appreciation day we had when I worked for Rusty Wallace,” Barban recalled.

“Gladwin and several of his friends had just gotten there and we were closing up. I started talking to them and showed them around (and) we have been friends since.”

Former Somerset Cup Match batsman Edness said: “We communicate almost every other week. I’m trying to get him to stop smoking this year.

“He’s a very cool guy and is pretty busy working every week with a championship team. I really enjoy hanging out with him.”

Barban, who has visited Bermuda on multiple occasions, is moved by the huge following NASCAR has on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

He said: “I saw a dump truck painted up like Dale Earnhardt’s racecar — that was good stuff!”

Barban admires the island’s beauty and charm — not too mention its famous rum swizzle.

Edness added: “If I don’t have the rum swizzle it doesn’t make any sense going to the shop (Hendrick Motorsports).”