Tag Archives: checkered flag

NARRA, Trans Am, Global MX-5 Cup at Watkins Glen International Race Weekend Debrief

I’ve been riding a wave of really outstanding events… one better than the next, and so far the NARRA / Trans Am / MX-5 Cup weekend at Watkins Glen has topped them all… I just wanted to check out the Miata’s race but instead I got so much more out of it… got to drive the track on the newly repaved circuit and most importantly got to wave the Checkered flag on the Starter stand.

So to start at the beginning, Watkins Glen is 250 miles from where I live, which Google says should take about 4 hours with no traffic, but with all the construction along the way and pee stops at Sheetz in Pennsylvania (where I also pick up some delicious chicken wings or burger sliders with delicious Dr.Pepper BBQ sauce) it’s a 5 hour trip. My goal was to get good gas mileage on this trip… unfortunately the best I got was 29mpg which is well short of 36mpg’s I got on the trip to Florida… but arriving at the Glen got me excited for other reasons.

Cars!

Lots and lots of awesome looking cars. I was able to wander around the Mazda MX-5 Cup paddock and take a million pictures of the cars. From there I watched the Vipers roll into the NARRA padock, and the Trans Am cars getting assembled. It was freaking awesome.

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My buddy Pat Fuller hosted me for the weekend in his spare camper which was very convenient and comfortable because the temperature dropped from 70’s on Thursday to 30’s on Sunday. Plus it rained Friday and Saturday. I had my wet weather gear so the rain was bearable but a lot of cars suffered major smashups because of the track conditions, which was sad to see.

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I was impressed though how quick the MX-5 cup cars were able to handle the repaved track in wet conditions. On Saturday while working Turn 7 the cars were taking a sharp right hander at a pretty high rate of speed without much effort it seemed, and in the wet. Pretty cool! I was impressed with my BFGoodrich Sport Comps 2 in the rain while driving on track also, tires made me feel very comfortable even where I thought the conditions would be slippery.

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Because RSI, the club that provides marshals for events at WGI didn’t supply us with lunches for this event, I went to Jerlando’s Pizzeria in Montour Falls and stocked up on some pizza, which tasted pretty good for the next few days for lunch. What’s better than cold pizza? (well probably hot pizza, but that wasn’t feasible).

The highlight of the weekend for me was of course the total surprise of working the Starter Stand. I did not expect that in a million years and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. It was an amazing educational experience and a perfect viewing spot for the races. The MX-5 Cup race was impressive, the Trans Am races were sweet… the whole stand shook when the field of cars went by. The NARRA field was pretty small, but the support races made up for the boredom. I really enjoyed the Formula Atlantic races, even though I couldn’t figure out whether they were SCCA PRO or SCCA CLUB event.

Oh well…

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The main take-away for me from this event was how well the event ran, even when faced with difficulties. The weather didn’t help… rain caused havoc with the cars, and freezing cold caused pain to the marshals. The redeeming feature of large fields was the fact that despite the big attrition there was still exciting racing to be had. Although at times it did feel like there were a few long stretches of full course caution interrupted by a few quick laps under green flag. The MX-5 field suffered the most losses, but I’m sure it’s good for business for Mazda Motorsports and Long Road Racing. Trans Am too had a few serious smash ups that will undoubtedly hit the pocket book of the private teams that run in that event. My favorite thing was to see cars from various series repurposed to run in this weekend. I mentioned earlier the former Grand-Am and Conti Tire Sports Car Series cars running in Trans Am as well as a current Pirelli World Challenge Miata running with NARRA. That was way cool!

I don’t know what my next event at Watkins Glen International will be but I’m certainly looking forward to that experience… I’ll be sure to request to work Start/Finish again, who knows maybe it’ll work!

Thanks to James Wilbur at RSI for the opportunity.

Worked my First “Pro” Event as a Starter at NARRA / Trans Am / Global MX-5 Cup Weekend at Watkins Glen Int’l

Woo Hoo! I still can’t believe it but I was lucky enough to work the starter stand for my first pro event weekend at Watkins Glen Int’l.

My goal for this weekend was just to watch the Global MX-5 Cup race for their second stop on the 2016 calendar after Laguna Seca last week. I knew I would have fun flagging but I couldn’t even imagine they would allow me to work the Starter stand… but they did and a big thanks to Jim Wilbur for giving me the opportunity. I certainly greatly appreciate it!

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I have to say I was a bit nervous because my only prior experience was working some club racing at Thompson Speedway and I had made a few hiccups during that day. But this time I was ready to learn on the go and it was a lot of fun doing it. The atmosphere was a lot more relaxed to my surprise. Things went pretty naturally and my training from Thompson Speedway paid dividends. I was in good hands on Friday and thought that was going to be it… I figured the locals would not want to see an outsider taking such a spot away from one of them and that I’d be put back on F&C roster the next day… which is exactly what happened. I got to work Turn 7 which was a blast in itself because it allowed me the opportunity to do a few laps around the newly repaved circuit while getting to my post. But on Sunday I got a surprise of a lifetime… I was back on Start! Woo Hoo!!!

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Friday was a very wet and rainy day… I went from wearing shorts driving up to the track on Thursday to wearing few layers plus my rain gear on Friday but it was still bearable. On Sunday though the weather took a turn for the worse… the temps were in the 30’s! The four layers I had on were insufficient, I was absolutely frozen, and for the end of the Trans Am race at the end of the day we had snow flurries coming in waves… it was absolutely nuts!

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I was thrilled with the opportunity to work on the Start / Finish stand, so much so I would love to do it again in the future. The view of the pit lane across from us gave you a good vision of what was happening throughout the race. We had to keep track of incidents around the track also and display the appropriate penalty flags, etc. I loved it!

The best thing about working start was going up to use the race control bathroom which felt like a steam room being either heated too much or it was just that cold outside. The views from Race Control were amazing, you could see most of the track up there. Parking under the front straight grand stand was convenient also, sure didn’t worry much about getting stuck in the grass like at turn 7. What a tremendous experience this was!

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Mazda MX-5: Kiwi Day Trip from Orlando to Daytona Beach and Daytona International Speedway

What do you do when a marshal friend visiting from New Zealand wants to get out of the Disney bubble and go exploring Orlando? Forget Orlando, you take her to Daytona Beach, Florida instead!

I was trying hard to decide what to show my kiwi friend around Orlando. Did a little research and the only things that came up were theme parks: Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens. Pfffff! Luckily, Daytona Beach is only an hour’s drive towards the Atlantic coast. And that’s exactly what we did.

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It’s not like there’s a whole lot to do in Daytona either, but the first stop on our trip was to check out the Daytona International Speedway. Not sure how much my friend was into NASCAR before coming to America but an iconic race track is a race track, and therefore definitely worth a visit. No matter how much I tried I wasn’t really able to sneak her into the lesser touristy bits of the track I was able to experience while volunteering. The money making machine at the Speedway is configured in a very efficient way to separate you from your money. But what we got to see was plenty. I even took the opportunity to take some beauty shots of the Miazda with the track… because: why not?

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The plan was to hit the beach after the track visit and I reached out to some American marshals that call Daytona Beach home to see if they’d join us for lunch, luckily they did and picked an awesome place to do it in Ponce Inlet.

Of all the times I’ve been coming to Daytona I never experienced this dining gem: Racing’s North Turn. I knew the history of NASCAR at Daytona and how initially they raced on the Beach, but I never knew there was a place like this restaurant still standing. What an awesome experience that was for me. And the food was good to boot! The clam chowder I had was excellent.

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The ambiance was great inside and out. Plenty of racing memorabilia on the walls and as part of the dining experience (like the fuel jug drink cups). And best part you can see the beach from the tables.

Afterwards we took a leisurely drive towards the light house and I jumped out to take some more pics of the car with the beach in the background. It was possible to drive the car on the beach but I figured that’s an experience I’ll save for next time.

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Back at the restaurant I noticed even the crosswalk was checkered flag theme:

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On our way out of town back to Orlando we picked up some Steak ‘n Shake milkshakes and made another pass by Daytona International Speedway where the sun was just in the right place for some more beauty shots:

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I noticed my cup was starting to leak and while I wiped two or three drops of the cup holder I dropped the damn cup… attempted to catch it mid-air with a swift karate chop which instead broke it and sent goops of milkshake flying all over my door, including the mesh around the door speaker… that wasn’t fun at all. I tried to wipe it but the damn thing went into the holes instead. As funny as it was I couldn’t wait to clean the milk out before it started to reek… the story will continue in the next thread from our visit to the Orlando Roadsters Get together at Miata’s and More shop in Longwood, FL

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I had a blast visiting Daytona Beach in the Miata, driving around with the top down and sharing the experience with my kiwi friend. Would love to do that again in the future!

 

PS. the best question of the day coming from a marshal friend who taught me how to use flags in New Zealand back in 2012 was: “Hey, what’s the Blue flag with the Yellow stripe?” lol