Tag Archives: Barber Motorsports Park

Mazda MX-5: 2,500 mile Road Trip Down South For Some Racing, Foodie Sampling and Exploring

So the last two weeks were spend exploring the Southeast again… I used the opportunity to volunteer two fantastic events in Alabama and Virginia to be a little bit of a tourist, a foodie, Miata Fiata fan, and of course a road tripper.

pre-trip inspection bright and early at WAWA… well actually I forgot to check my tire pressure, so I stopped by to get it all leveled out. For whatever reason the tire pressures were all over the place in each tire.

The trip included stopovers in Knoxville, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and Danville, Virginia (Milton, North Carolina really).

I volunteered two massive events: working as a flagger for the Alabama Grand Prix at the beautiful Barber Motorsports Park and as fire rescue crew for PWC Grand Prix of VIR at the awesome VIRginia International Raceway.

Along the way I did a bunch of Miata Fiata stuff about which I wrote some previous posts, read about it here:

My Motorsport posts included:

But in this post I’d like to wrap up and talk about the actual road trip part… after all I put nearly 2,500 miles on my Miata. Burned more than 60 gallons of fuel and spent over $160 bux doing it. I was lucky to average in the high 36mpg’s at one point hitting over 38mpg’s which is fantastic! And it was all trouble free… which is the best part!

I sampled a lot of good food along the way. Some fairly average food, and some I tried to skimp out on… like Chick-fil-a for breakfast many times… or the Steak ‘n Shake visits thanks to a discounted gift card I bought… $50 card for like $20 bux!

In many ways this Road Trip was a continuation of my drive to Texas in Wes’s Crown Vic… in fact I used that drive as a dry run to see what I should expect taking my own car to Alabama. I knew I would have a great time in Knoxville, TN because I stopped for lunch there before. This time I had booked a hotel in the Knox to stay overnight after a 700+ mile journey there from New Jersey. I googled some BBQ places to eat, went to pick up my order at Archer’s which came highly rated… and wasn’t all that impressed with the ambiance of the facility when I got my box to go. On the way to the gas station to fill up before returning to the hotel, I noticed a much more happening BBQ joint just a block away called Full Service BBQ… and there I was faced with a dilemma… do I stop by there and buy another dish? I had already picked up a fairly large box that was more than enough for me to have for dinner… or do I keep going and regret not visiting this busy place? I decided to come and visit… and to my surprise not only did they have everything I wanted (a mix plate of their ribs, pulled pork, sausage and brisket) but it was also smelling and tasting really good. So as usual I got way too much food. But boy was it fantastic! I left the box of Archers to bring with me the next day to Alabama, and had it for dinner there the next day instead.

Nice Drive-Thru

Excellent food… Archer’s was great too in it’s own right, but Full Service had them beat with the ambiance of the place, and the big crowd of people eating there when I stopped by.

After a nice rest, I was off again for another 400 miles or so to my final destination. And I don’t know why but Alabama sure feels like “Sweet Home” even though I don’t consider myself Southern at all.

So of course the first order of business upon arrival in Birmingham was to go register at the track and take some pix of all those IndyCar sanctioned Global MX-5 Cup car Miata’s.

And straight after I went into town to meet up with my wonderful CouchSurfing hosts that welcomed me with great Southern hospitality going above and beyond what hosts typically do.

Perhaps my favorite activity with my generous hosts was sharing some amazing food with them. They fed me every night I stayed there, but one night I treated everyone to some Soul Food from Niki’s West… including two types of Catfish with all the fixins’

After a truly wonderful time in ‘Bama it was time to work my way back North to the next weekend’s events in Virginia. But since I had a few days to kill I visited Sakshik (my fellow Miata Fiata buddy) who now lives in Decatur, Georgia where he’s off to Law School.

The few days we spend there could be accurately characterized as a foodie tour! We had a somewhat disappointing experience getting Fried Chicken and Waffles on my first day there… unfortunately the place I went to last year closed (without telling Google, we arrived to find windows boarded up)… plan B turned out to be very snooty with a long wait time… and place C butchered the Waffle by making dough out of some cheddar mix that tasted awful. But our luck changed the next day when we went for BBQ and the following day when we did Indian food.

Probably the highlight of my visit… besides hanging out with Sakshik, checking out Mazmart parts store, visiting both Mazda and Fiat dealerships and recording an episode with Daniel on our podcast; was visiting World of Coca Cola which I had been planning to do for the longest time but never had a chance (until now!)

My favorite part of the whole visit to the World of Coke was the “Tasting” room featuring soda pop from around the world… divided by continents and featuring some drinks I’ve tried in their home countries like Fanta, Crush, Inca Cola, etc.

Funny part is, I actually own some Coca Cola clothing, my favorites though were t-shirts from around the world with Coke in cyrillic for the Russian market or in Mandarin for the Chinese market.

After spending several hours in downtown Atlanta and almost getting sick on all the drinks I sampled at the Coke museum, we hit up a cool Indian place to sample something different. Sakshik lives in a part of town where lots of Emory University students live so it by definition is very diverse. And the Indian restaurant we went to was a good representation of this diversity. The food was excellent!

And of course Sakshik coming from India meant he knew what to order and how to eat the food properly. I enjoyed that experience!

And finally the time flew by super quick, and the rest of the road trip to Virginia came bright and early on Thursday morning.

The food I had in Danville, VA just outside of the track I tried before. Unfortunately most of the time I ordered late and got way too much, so I didn’t enjoy it as I really should have. I went to Mayflower for some seafood on the first night. And Checkered Pig BBQ on my last night at VIR. Of the two the BBQ was best… though having worked with a fella from Roxboro, NC he recommended a much better option on the North Carolina side of the border for my next trip.

VIRginia International Raceway is extremely impressive, I think one of the best race tracks there are in the United States!

And so the trip came to a close way too fast. But to slow it down a little I took a rather scenic drive back to the Interstate through Virgnia… at one point going parallel to the famous Blue Ridge Parkway… US 501 was excellent zig zagging along a mountain on a rainy morning… reminded me a lot of Skyline Drive or what I remember of it from my last visit to Shenandoah.

It’s always kind of cool exploring rural areas of various states along with suburbia to see what’s it like… spotted plenty of Miata’s along my way!

Can’t wait for my next Road Trip… and if I’m lucky it will be another Grand Prix Road Trip like this two week trip I just did. Stay tuned…

Thank You Faynisha for Amazing Alabama Grand Prix Experience

A huge thank you goes out to Faynisha from Flagging by Faynisha and her entire crew that made my experience feel really special.

I really think I got VIP treatment this year because of the awesome station assignments over the weekend.

Day 1: Turn 8 which reminded me a little of the Corkscrew at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Though not as dramatic of a drop, it is still quite an elevation change after a blind apex going into the corner.

(the Ambulance flag wasn’t used this weekend but as this is a very Motorcycle friendly course it was only appropriate to pose with it).

Day 2: Turn 13 and another blind corner that saw a ton of action of cars overcooking it and losing control in our corner.

An elevated station with good views out towards the front straight, the straight between 4 and 6 and 6 and 7, and of course 10 to us.

Day 3: Race Day: Turn 6 the cherry on top station. It’s the hairpin corner that saw a ton of excitement over the weekend. And we too got some opportunities to wave the yellow flag. Nothing too crazy, but exciting nonetheless.

I had a wonderful time and I appreciate this opportunity more than anything. Events like this make you want to come back over and over again and tell everyone I know how great Southern hospitality is.

IndyCar Will Soon Use Digital Flags (Lights) Finally!

Great news!

IndyCar series will soon start utilizing a light-flagging system, much like many of the elite global series including FIA Formula 1, FIA Formula E, FIA WEC, Blancpain Endurance Series, etc.

They’re pretty late to the party. The first time I used the FIA TSB digital light panel system was during the 2012 F1 season… a full five years ago! Since then, I’ve used it around the world from the 24 hours of Le Mans in France to 24 hours of Spa in Belgium. To a small club event in New Zealand!

The light system is an important supplement to the traditional flagging system using physical flags, and is one of my favorite roles to work as at a track because there’s so much responsibility on your shoulders when operating one of these digital panels.

Why?

Because digital panels streamline the process.

In a traditional scenario, if something happens, the person on flags displays the correct flag. The observer/communicator sees that flag displayed and radio’s it to Race Control. When they receive the news Race Control spread the message back to the marshaling group, both communicators and rescue services. As well as to teams, TV, even drivers… for those that have displays of real-time info on their fancy steering wheels. With a push of a button, all of those steps become one. The light comes on as a flag, it is better visible to the drivers on track. It is also immediately visible to Race Control, to the Teams, to the TV, to other marshals in the neighboring stations automatically adjusting their flags too, for example waving yellow automatically creates a standing yellow in a preceding station and a green at a following station. The computer does this automatically, no additional input is necessary from the marshals at adjoining stations unless their individual situations change.

Well, today IndyCar announced that they are testing a system of lights and gave us a little waterproof box controller to play with and give feedback…   and to my surprise and amazement, the prototype is shit! I mean these systems have been around and in actual use for at least five years, I know because I’ve used them personally. And the designers of this box still made the same mistakes that plague the older/primitive systems.

It’s a shame the people that design and develop these are not the ones that will actually use these devices themselves. And I’m afraid any feedback we provide will be shelved without serious consideration.

But here it is…

This waterproof box bullshit is stupid. Why? Because chances are you will be using this device when it’s raining out. Umbrellas aren’t always allowed, we don’t always get proper shade from the rain, so how the fuck do you keep this fragile thing dry when it’s open???

You can’t… it will probably get flooded and malfunction.

The design must be such that it is waterproof when opened, in the condition it would typically be used. So having a seal-able watertight box for storage is nothing what reality calls for.

Why give users buttons they are not allowed to use?

There’s no fucking reason any flag point on track would require a “RED” flag button. That decision comes from race control and they are the only ones who should have control of it. Placing a button onto individual station controllers is pretty dumb and only accomplishes creating confusion. And assuming it does work, placing it so close to one of the most used buttons in the box: “BLUE” flag is calling for trouble… Imagine hitting “RED” flag accidentally when a faster car approaches slower car for a pass…   I’ve done that. Not with red flag but with a “SURFACE” flag, and never seen cars hit the brakes harder instead of pushing gas to pass.

That is my other suggestion. Put neutral flags next to BLUE flag, one of the most used flags in the box. You should only have WHITE or GREEN flag buttons next to Blue. But never anything serious or important like RED, SURFACE, YELLOW or WAVING YELLOW.

That said, the box design is the easiest part of this whole system development. I’m very excited about what they told us the actual lights will look like to display to drivers. That will be awesome and potentially leapfrog other series already using digital light panels.

I’m especially looking forward to using this myself.

Ironically, several people at this morning’s presentation jumped to conclusions that this box will replace existing flaggers. I call bullshit on that! Traditional flaggers have a place at today’s race tracks, unfortunately they are taken for granted by every series out there, and most of the people in Motorsport from drivers to fans. Nobody respects marshals and that’s a shame. But there will always be need for them, even if just to push the appropriate buttons to display the correct warning flags.

Post Card from Alabama Grand Prix and MX-5 Cup Season Opener at Barber

Greetings from one of the prettiest racetracks in the United Sates!

I took advantage of an amazing opportunity again to work with Flagging by Faynisha crew for the Honda INDY Grand Prix of Alabama where the Global  MX-5 Cup is making it’s season debut under a brand new sanctioning body: IndyCar…

Why the fuck would MX-5 Cup switch to IndyCar is beyond me. I don’t see any connection whatsoever other than playing a support role during events like these. But MX-5 Cup had already played a support role under it’s previous sanctioning body: SCCA Pro… so I don’t see what justified this move. Similarly, I am dumbfounded why IndyCar out of all the other “sports car” sanctioning bodies like IMSA which would have been a more natural choice, or even USAC.

But anyway, 2017 season is underway. The cars haven’t really changed. Most of the liveries are exactly the same as last year’s, the only thing different is the IndyCar sticker on the front and rear bumpers.

I arrived Barber on Thursday knowing there would be a promoter’s day in full swing, so I quickly registered and rushed to the paddock to take some shots of the Miatas:

Lovely statues adorn most of the circuit!

And there’s those IndyCar stickers…

And a few shots of my NC after two day and over a thousand mile road trip to get down here from New Jersey:

I really can’t recommend this facility enough to anyone I meat. Well worth the visit and especially for a race weekend like this one!

MX-5 Cup Season Opener at Indy Alabama Grand Prix Road Trip in my Miata

What a freaking week it has been…

I thought the recent Power Steering O-ring or the fucking squirrel were going to be my biggest issue on this amazing 1,000+ mile trip I had planned in my Miata down to Birmingham, Alabama for the Alabama Grand Prix (and most importantly the Mazda MX-5 cup season opener there).

I was wrong. The squirrel or whatever the hell the rat bastard it is has been back visiting my car. No nuts left this time but there’s a small pile of shit on the battery like last time. Ugh! The moth balls didn’t work. Neither did the traps. I’ll have to adjust when I return.

But I had a different nut problem altogether that made me less than optimal for this trip bright and early in the morning… I had some kind of peanut allergy that completely knocked me out for three days straight and I still don’t know what the hell happened to me.

So the day I broke my power steering o-ring mentioned in the last article, I bought some Planters peanuts. They are delicious. I buy them all the time, especially when they go on sale. I had a bunch the same day. I had a bunch the next day. And by the third day when I felt I was developing flu-like symptoms I ordered spicy Indian food to self-medicate, and had some delicious peanuts for desert. By Saturday I was fucking dying! Fever through the roof. Throat hurting like a mutherfucker. Couldn’t swallow. Coughing up dollar coin size chunks of hardened flem. And there I am still eating peanuts… because why not?

Sunday I was completely bed ridden. And Monday… and Tuesday. I started researching what the fuck happened. And it turns out peanuts are a cunt of a thing… they trick your immune system to think they are bad for you. So your body starts fighting a problem that isn’t there. How? I have no fucking clue. But I know what hell I went through over the past few days and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemies!

The flem bit was nasty, but something I could get over. I’m taking pills, and the next phase is caughing which will be annoying. But because of all those days of high fever my lips exploded with fever blisters. I didn’t think it was possible to get more than one at a time. But boy did they pop… First one, then second, then third, fourth and finally fifth all on the upper lip. I didn’t think it was physically possible. But now I look like some kind of a diseased mutherfucker.

Holly crap was this a bad experience!

And tomorrow 1,000 mile road trip to Birmingham commences.

I can’t wait! (even if I probably won’t be 100% until I get there).

Really looking forward to this event. And to the opportunity of visiting Barber Motorsports Park, in my opinion, America’s most beautiful race track. Can’t wait to see the Miata’s too! Fingers crossed my car doesn’t shit itself on the way there.

How about a Road Trip to the South: Volunteering MX-5 Cup at Barber in Alabama and PWC at VIR?

I would really love to plan a Southern Road Trip to Alabama and Virginia for some awesome car racing. The trip would be approximately 2,000 miles long and last two weeks with a weekend at Barber Motorsports Park volunteering for the Global MX-5 Cup and it’s parent sanctioning body IndyCar. Followed by a fantastic weekend at Virginia International Raceway volunteering for some classes of the Pirelli World Challenge which would include Sprint X, GTS and the TC/TCA/TCB support series which all feature Miata’s.

How cool would that be?

I think it would be fantastic! But how do I make it work?

Challenge #1: Money!

My concern isn’t just driving down 1,000 miles to Birmingham, Alabama… that’s actually an easy part, and I could make it happen relatively cheaply. There’s only $1 in tolls crossing the Delaware River from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and then smooth sailing all the way down i81 which is my preferred route to travel to Florida. The problem is if I plan this now when I’m still unemployed it would be super tough requesting time off from an employer if I do find a job which obviously presents a predicament… should I make contacts now hoping to be accepted or wait until later time when I know for sure I am not committed to actual paying work… I don’t know.

Both the Barber event and VIR event pay for participation. At Barber Motorsports Park, Flagging by Faynisha organizes marshals. They pay some money which would certainly offset the fuel and some of the accommodation costs involved in getting there. Similarly, VIR pays employees for participation at non-club events. And even though last year both the Global MX-5 Cup and Pirelli World Challenge were under the SCCA Pro umbrella, this year neither one is. The MX-5 Cup went with IndyCar as it’s sanctioning body while Pirelli World Challenge switched to USAC for the same reasons. And that will be interesting to see how and what, if any, will the differences be within the series. I suspect little to none, but I am curious to say the least.

There would be a few days to kill between the event in Alabama and the next event in Southern Virginia on the North Carolina border, which is about 500 miles drive from Barber. I would imagine instead of heading directly to VIR I’d make a few day stop in Georgia and maybe spend some time exploring Atlanta. It’s a nice city with nice food and I would love to have a few delicious meals there, like the amazing Fried Chicken and Waffles I sampled on my last visit to Barber where I flew via Atlanta and spend the night before flying back through Philadelphia (hey, the flight was cheap… $35 bux cheap). Anyway, it would be pretty amazing.

And I think I’ll put this high up on the list of events I’d like to participate in this year.

Since neither event is SCCA sanctioned and neither of the marshal bodies are run by SCCA people, I wonder if I should even renew my SCCA membership this year?

Stay tuned…

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!

Post card from the Grand Prix of Alabama

I must start by saying how ridiculously impressed I am with Barber Motorsports Park and the group that organizes the marshals there: Flagging by Faynisha. This event was a real pleasure and joy to work because of all the positive vibe I got on this trip, at pretty much every step of the way.

I’ll leave the details for a later post but suffice to say I had a blast. The trip started on the same day that my Long Beach GP trip finished, I booked a combination of public and private transportation services which included bus rides, train rides, airplane flights, etc. One of the most roundabout ways of getting from New Jersey to Alabama. But I made it, and I had a great time along the way.

I want to thank my buddy Robert Carnright for organizing the marshaling part of the trip for me and introducing me to Faynisha. Couldn’t have done it without the help… and super glad I did!

Some photos from the event:

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Welcome to Barber Motorsports Park, just about 10 miles outside of Birmingham, Alabama right off of Interstate 20

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Probably the biggest attraction of the facility is it’s amazing museum: Barber Motorsports Museum ( I only took a sneak peek)

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IndyCar going through tech inspection

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Indy Lights going through tech inspection

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The Holmatro Safety Crew that work all IndyCar events

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Mazda Road to Indy support series which include USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights… all cars obviously powered by Mazda

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A very diverse driver range, this one hailing from Malaysia

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My favorite support series was the PWC: Pirelli World Challenge

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The Sin cars were back, and after the smash ups in COTA they were kicking ass! One had a very impressive win, starting from the front, stalling, dropping to last and coming back to win!

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KTM Xbow GTS piloted by my neighbor from NJ Brett Sandberg

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More diversity in the Pro Mazda series, Argentine, Canadian, American and Australian pilots

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I was lucky enough to visit race control on my first day to Barber, was pretty interesting perspective I don’t normally get to see

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Some Ginetta GT4 cars from the GTS class

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Maserati Gran Turismo GT4 contributing to the variety in cars

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I love all the statues around the circuit, these were at the gates to the paddock, while my favorite were the alligators in the pond

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First few days were spent at Turn 1, VIP treatment for sure!

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For race day we were bumped to Turn 10, another excellent spot

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Stay tuned for a more detailed write up on this awesome experience.

Grand Prix of Alabama… or Bust!

I just did something incredibly foolish.

Seeing a friend post about flagging the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park I researched and booked my travel there without having any clue as to who is organizing the marshals for the race or if there’s even a chance of me volunteering the event at all.

But, I am now on a mission of getting myself accepted as a marshal for this event which I haven’t done before, at a track I haven’t been to yet. Because, why not?

Apparently the event is staffed by Flagging by Faynesha, the same lady I’ve been in contact with about marshaling MotoGP at COTA a year ago, an event I got accepted but couldn’t attend because of the short notice. But this time my flights are booked, just need to get my acceptance in order. So if anyone knows Faynesha please put in a good word for me.

I think I’m more addicted to shopping for a good travel deal than I am to Motorsports. The way I went about booking this trip will raise some eyebrows and probably kill me from exhaustion, but it’s worth sharing the story here. This kind of dedication to volunteering is not something you are likely to see in the business world, even if it is the business of Motorsports hiring paid flagges for an event.

First, I checked out the flights. New York City to Birmingham, Alabama. To no one’s surprice they were pricey, something in the $300-$400 range for the IndyCar weekend.

That wasn’t an option, but I kept on checking alternatives. Flying to Atlanta dropped the price by half. I started getting excited. But at $175 it was still expensive. Looking further east, Columbia, SC and Charlotte, NC were in the $140’s – $150’s, but I knew I cold do better. So I expanded my search to include Philadelphia and eureka! Leaving out of PHL to ATL it was $36 each way…. SOLD!

$72 round trip to fly Southwest from Philly to Atlanta. But the savings didn’t end there. To pay for the flights I used some creative shopping for gift cards on eBay.

For a long time now I’ve been buying $100 eBay gift cards every time they go on sale for $95 bux. You pay $95 and get $100 card which you can later use to purchase other discounted gift cards. I used mine to buy a $100 Target gift card for $95 bux. So basically $100 Target card only cost me $90. As soon as the Target card arrived via snail mail, I used it to buy $100 eBay gift card on Target.com so that I could use it for future purchases on eBay.

And so along came a Southwest gift card deal, only $90 for $100 card. I jumped on it, using my eBay gift card I ended up paying $80 for the $100 value, or instead I got $100 Southwest card with $20 left over on my eBay card to use in the future. So depending on how you look at the situation, my $72 flight really cost $52!

Next, I had to get to Philly early enough for a 7am flight, the day after I arrive home from California after doing the Long Beach GP. Typically Megabus is a good solution for this problem, and while no $1 fares were available, the $5 deal I booked was significantly cheaper than spending twice the time to take NJTransit train down to Trenton and changing to SEPTA for another 2 hour journey to the airport. The bus will leave NYC at 1:30am and get me to the 30th St. station before 4am. I will be able to book a round trip train ticket to the airport, arriving hopefully in sufficient time for the flight.

The better Megabus deal was to be had in Atlanta. I found a $1 bus ticket from Atlanta to Birmingham departing the night of my arrival at ATL. The trip takes a few hours and gets me in town quite late but hopefully I find some accommodation to spend the night.

Barber Motorsports Park is a short drive out of Birmingham but not close enough to rely on public transport. So I booked a rental car. Found an $8.15/day rental with Alamo at the BHM airport which is a short public bus ride away from the city for like a $1. The four day rental will run me about $64 and earn a nice bonus with Southwest which should get me enough points for a freebie short flight on the airline for the future. In fact the $64 rental will get me more than 10x the points that I’ll earn from flying the airline on a $72 ticket.

I will return the car on Monday morning after the race and take an afternoon bus back to Atlanta for $5. With all my trips to Road Atlanta I have yet to actually visit downtown. So this trip will give me the opportunity to explore a little. Get some delicious southern food and spend the night before flying back to Philly 8am Tuesday morning. I booked a 2pm Megabus for $5 back to NYC and should be home around 6pm later that day.

So total spent so far: $72 + $64 + $18 = $154 – 20 = $134 on a trip that could have easily pushed half a grand going the direct route.

Next step is finding accommodation for the event, and most importantly finding a way of getting myself accepted as a marshal. It would be a huge waste if I end up being a spectator.

For anyone familiar with the event, please contact me with the appropriate parties I should contact to get on the worker list. Cheers!