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Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama the debrief

The third and final stop on my April marshaling extravaganza, whirlwind tour of the south ended in Alabama. And to my surprise and amazement it was the best experience yet! I was impressed, I was surprised and very pleased with the whole experience and I’m happy to share my story below.

So a few months ago I saw a friend of mine bragging about doing an event at Barber… sweet, I looked it up, saw that my weekend was free on those dates, researched some flights and booked a deal! Of course flights were expensive directly to Birmingham, Alabama so I booked a $35 each way flight to Atlanta and then picked up a $1 Megabus ride to the destination. After doing all that I went on MotorsportReg.com to sign up and BAM! Barber is not staffed by SCCA….  DAMN! So I went back to my buddy and asked him for help convincing Flagging by Faynisha crew that I’m a worthwhile flagger.

Luckily she said YES!

Well, to start the journey I would begin in California… because as soon as I arrived New Jersey I was getting ready to leave the same day for the trip south. My SFO flight arrived 5am. I got picked up by my parents, taken home to do my laundry, breakfast, sleep… and then pack for the bus trip to NYC to take a Megabus to Philadelphia where I got on a plane to Atlanta, where I picked up the Greyhound for Birmingham.  A CouchSurfer picked me up for the first night where I got some much needed sleep and on the second day I took the city bus to the airport to pick up my rental car for the weekend. I got upgraded to a full size Huyndai Sonata that was a fuel hog, I think I put less than 100 miles on the car and paid more for fuel than I did in California, and fuel was almost half the cost in Alabama.

The same day I picked up my rental I went over to Barber Motorsports Park to have a look-see and register. I popped into the Barber Motorsports Museum which seemed like an overwhelming place for motorcycle enthusiasts, got sent to the Hampton Inn on the road leading into the track to register, where register I did, and then returned to the track with my credentials to actually have a tour of the paddock and even got a chance to pop into race control.

The first day was a bit rainy but it didn’t stop me from taking a million pictures particularly of all the Pirelli World Challenge cars getting their tech inspections done. For an open wheeler weekend the highlight of my trip was enjoying those beautiful and exotic PWC cars which were so amazing. The SIN cars returned to the track this time around after crashing (both of them) at COTA. There were all four KTM Xbows. The field of Ginettas grew by one. All in all a fantastic showing of wonderful machinery.

For the next three days I got to check out how Flagging by Faynisha folks ran the marshals at Barber and I was pleasantly surprised that the atmosphere in the morning meeting was a lot more pleasant than at many of the other pro events elsewhere.

I was put on the team with my buddy Robert who got me into the event and another Road Atlanta marshal on Turn 1 which was amazing, but for race day we were moved to Turn 10 which was just as amazing because that’s where the driver presentations were taking place in front of the big grandstand and the ferris wheel. Turn 10 especially was a wonderful blue flag station and the PWC race I got to work didn’t have it’s usual full course yellow nonsense, so I got my money’s worth for sure.

The rest of the time at Barber I was admiring how amazingly manicured the circuit was. It seems like not a single strain of grass was out of place. There were statues everywhere you look, some cooler than others. A big spider carrying a motorcycle. A few alligators sticking their heads out of the water at one of the many ponds around the property. Prancing horses… Elephants. Amazing!

I like this place. I really like it a lot.

I think I’ll post a new thread on how wonderful Barber Motorsports Park really is. For now I’d encourage everyone in the position to work with Flagging by Faynisha to reach out and join the group to marshal future events at Barber. If nothing else besides the pleasant experience at a world class facility, you’ll even get paid at the end of the day for rendering your services. The $90 bux per day I received absolutely paid for the entire trip of mine from New Jersey.

I loved it!

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See you next time Bama!

Thank You Very Much to Flagging by Faynisha and Barber Motorsports Park

It’s not often that I go to a new racetrack that really impresses me… Barber Motorsports Park made me say “wow!”

This post will outline all the things I liked about visiting Barber and working with Faynisha and a hopefully give a few tips to other facilities and organizations to improve the enthusiast experience.

I think the main thing that Barber Motorsports Park has going for it is the brilliant location. Surrounded by luscious green forest the track is tucked away yet close to the city of Birmingham which is just minutes away via Interstate 20. Yet, Mr. Barber has gone to great lengths to carve out an amazing facility that totally utilizes the nature it is surrounded by. I say this because I counted at least half a dozen little ponds around the track which I’m sure contribute to keeping the place green when it actually gets hot. The weather was particularly pleasant during my visit though I can’t imaging temps in the 70’s lasting much longer into the summer, it probably gets stinken hot. Besides the little ponds, one of which featured my favorite sculpture at the track: several alligators sticking their heads out of the water making for a very realistic scene. There were countless statues of elephans, prancing horses, spiders, some sort of tigers or other big cats, etc. And of course lots and lots of motorcycles all around. Even the gates to go to various places around the track featured a motorcycle on their design. But the biggest draw to the whole facility is of course Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum which proclaims to have the worlds largest collection of motorcycles and sports cars too….  I read that statement right on the billboard off the Interstate, and I would imagine they’re right, although I feel that visiting such a facility would be a lot more special with someone who could narrate what all those bikes actually are, where they raced, and who raced them.

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Just as impressive as this private track was the group organizing the marshals. Flagging by Faynisha LLC is a private entity responsible for staffing events there with marshals. Faynisha recruits them, Faynisha trains them and Faynisha pays the people for their participation. The group of marshals I worked with for the Indy weekend was fairly diverse, with people of various ages and skill sets present. Many of the workers came from Road Atlanta whom I worked with during SCCA staffed events. The marshals all wore FBF t-shirts which was pretty cool, it was sort of the uniform for the event until Sunday where Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama t-shirts were distributed for race day.

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I noticed that there was a lot of respect for Faynisha and her partner Tom at the event. Marshals were in a positive mood, people paid attention at the morning meetings. And then everyone got a ride out to station on two trams. Both Tom and Faynisha carried on with their work for the event. Faynisha manned the radios at Race Control while Tom seemed to run the Gridding duties on pit lane. Everything went like clockwork and whenever people had questions they made sure to ask Faynisha on the radio and she always came back with answers. I say this because there didn’t seem to be much of the typical backtalk and backstabbing you’d come across at other more loosely organized events. I thought the group ran the event in a very professional manner and everyone was very detail oriented and polite. People worked together on a lot of calls which was awesome. And I did not feel out of place working with a new group, they made me feel welcome which was very much appreciated.

The reason I wanted to thank Flagging by Faynisha particularly is because often times when I watch other people try to recruit new marshals the immediate go to suggestion is: join SCCA! And that couldn’t be more wrong. The problem with joining SCCA is the very immediate fee of up to $95/per year which scares people off right away. For folks living in Birmingham or near to Bama or Georgia it is easy to get in touch with FBF and not only save the membership fee, they could get paid $90/per day for marshaling big events like this Indy event I went to. Now how would that improve recruiting? I think it certainly would. And if people like to marshal and get paid for it, they would consider expanding their marshaling to other tracks and perhaps then joining SCCA to get the license to do that kind of marshaling…. which even then isn’t always necessary as it’s possible to flag at COTA without SCCA license, I’m sure other tracks too….   So my biggest praise for Faynisha’s organization is for the fact that it offers an alternative for Motorsport enthusiasts to become volunteers without getting scared off by fees, and dues, and various hierarchies, and bureaucracies. There’s a boss in place: Faynisha and it is easy to work with her to develop your career as a marshal.

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I was most impressed with Barber and FBF and hope I get another opportunity soon to marshal there. What a pleasant experience!