WATKINS GLEN - When the retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr., makes his final run in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series I Love New York 355 at The Glen Sunday afternoon, T.J. Majors will be in the very popular driver's ears as he negotiates the twist and turns of this fabled road course. Majors, an East Bethany native, is the spotter for the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet that Earnhardt is driving here this weekend.
Far more importantly, the two have become great friends. Majors was the best man at Earnhardt's wedding this past New Year's Eve.
Majors, has been Earnhardt's spotter since 2008, after joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2007. He also has been a loyal friend to Earnhardt through the peaks and valleys of Earnhardt's career. Earnhardt announced earlier this year that he is retiring as a NASCAR Cup Series driver at the conclusion of this season.
Majors is still adapting to the fact that Earnhardt will soon be retired and that Sunday is their last outing together in their current roles at The Glen.
"I don't think it's really sunk in yet," Majors said. "I've been with him for so long now that I think that once we start getting to the latter half of the year it's going to start sinking in that these are the last times that I'm going to go to these places with this driver that I'm so used to for years and years and years. It's been fun.
"I'm really happy for him the way things have went. He's really happy in life and this is a good friend, man. He's been a great friend to me. Hopefully I've been a great friend to him which I like to think I am. I've very fortunate in that I got to be the best man at his wedding and got to witness one of the best moments of his life and be a part of it. I'm behind him 100 percent. I think he's doing the right thing.
"I think being good friends helps me in my job as a spotter better just because you know each other and you know what each other is thinking a lot more. It just works better that way. The whole garage is a big family and you get to know people throughout the years and there's a lot of people from the Western New York area that work on other teams as well so you're competitive on race day but at the end of the day you look out for each other."
Earnhardt spoke Saturday about his appreciation for Majors, both professionally and personally.
"Well, he was the best man at my wedding so he means quite a bit to me personally as a friend," Earnhardt said. "He's a great spotter, I think he's the best spotter particularly at plate tracks. We really compliment each other well at those tracks. He gives me a lot of confidence when I'm out there. He's a guy that has drove a little bit so he kind of understands what he's seeing.
"He's a good person. He's good to talk to and bounce stuff off of outside the car. He's been real supportive of me. He just had another child this week and he's an incredible father so he's setting a good example for me there. He's just a really good guy that is fun to work with and whoever gets to work with him next year is getting somebody that knows what they're doing and he makes a difference I think in how I perform."
When Earnhardt was on the sidelines and suffering through his concussion related difficulties last year, Majors was there offering his great friend much needed support.
"He did the right thing," Majors said. "He wasn't feeling well so he went and got checked out. I'll always support any decision he ever makes on that stuff. He did the right thing by stepping back and he came to the guys and told all of us. Again, he did the right thing the right way and I'm glad he did that because now he's back 100 percent and not worried about it."
The Glen presents teams with unique challenges as it requires more than one spotter due to it's expansive layout.
"I'm going to have somebody in the inner loop and I'll probably have two other spotters out there," Majors said. "I might put someone in the Esses and if I can get a fourth one I'll put him somewhere out there. I'll be above the main front stretch grandstand and I'll be able to only see from Turn 10 which is the next to last turn, down the frontstretch and to the bottom of the Esses so it's hard to see."
Earnhardt and Majors met playing iRacing type racing games in 1997.
"There was a lot of guys on the games," Majors said. "We would all be on there at the same time. I didn't know who he was and he didn't know who I was but I would beat him a lot. We eventually started trading setups and just built a friendship out of that."
Majors once drove race cars at various Buffalo tracks.
" I raced all over Western New York, even all the way out to Chemung and Oswego," Majors said. "I won my first race at Cayuga in Canada. I raced in the touring Cup Lites Series that Tim Bender had."
Majors currently resides in Mooresville, NC., with his wife Tamela and two daughters Madelynn and Stella. Stella was born this past week.
Majors is weighing his options once Earnhardt is retired. Alex Bowman will take over the wheel of the No. 88 car, something he did last season when Earnhardt was sidelined.
"We're working on that now," Majors said. "The spotter and driver are more connected then the mechanics because you're talking to each other and it just works better to have a personal relationship. You know, I'm going to be in his ear all day so it better be someone you like so we'll see. You just want someone you can trust to. So I've worked great with Alex so things look great there. But I'll play it by ear and now that we have our next driver we can proceed forward with that stuff.
"I definitely want to win here this weekend with Dale and get locked into the playoffs. This is the part of the year where you want to get hot and want to be fast. This is where a championship run has to start at this time of the year."
What has it been like to spot for NASCAR's most popular driver?
"It's not bad," Majors said. "It's fun. Whether he's the most popular or not I'm just so fortunate to work with my best friend. It's not very often that you get to go to work with one of your best friends. Sometimes it doesn't feel like a job because you get to go to work and have so much fun."
Sunday's schedule here calls for Cup Series qualifying at 12:05 p.m. followed by the 90-lap I Love New York 355 at The Glen at 3:18.