No better way to spend Memorial Day weekend than at my local Cars & Coffee. This meetup at Tice’s Corner in Woodcliff Lake, NJ is always a treat, check out the pix:
I arrived a bit late, after 10am which meant may cool cars were either leaving or had already left… like the Enzo Ferrari and McLaren P1… but the Miata’s were still there, and after parking lot clearing a bit we decided to get them together for a photo op:
At this point it was around noon and everyone was hungry so we headed down to Hackensack to my favorite BBQ joint… Cubby’s!
This place is so awesome… there’s nothing “bad” on the menu, everything is “great!”
Autumn is winding down. Fall foliage has been reduced to leaves waiting in piles on the side of suburban streets, to be sucked up by the DPW trucks… things are about to get pretty gray for a couple of months over the winter. Let a little color cheer you up this weekend. I went to a local Cars & Coffee in Paramus to see some awesome cars on display for everyone’s enjoyment!
I spent a whole of five minutes running around taking pictures, but I’m quite happy I got out of bed early this Sunday morning for this amazing opportunity, enjoy:
Surprised my car looks so good even when it definitely needs a wash.
The one thing that stood out at me was the amount of Lotus Espirit’s that showed up for this event.
Lots of SRT-8 Challengers and colorful Hellcats in attendance too…
That’s all folks… I think there’s one more of these next week. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it!
It’s been at least three years since the last time I marshalled at NJMP. Or at least two years since I went there with HRD to audition for a job that I didn’t get. But after hearing about Trans Am holding a round there at Detroit GP I quickly signed up to volunteer. Besides Trans Am which is amazing in it’s own right, Formula 4 was supposed to make it’s rescheduled debut after cancelling the race at Lime Rock. Well, Formula 4 ended up cancelling again at NJMP and instead we got a NASCAR style weekend like what happens at the Glen where Trans Am had the event all to themselves with lots of downtime for the marshals.
I mention downtime for the marshals because unlike other tracks that solely rely on volunteers, NJMP pays it’s workers. The good thing, after three year absence I noticed that most of the faces working as flaggers were very familiar. Which means NJMP retains it’s workforce. But the workers working this weekend were bitching a little about only having 4 hours of paid work on race day, since we had a late start and early finish with only two races on the schedule Sunday.
Unlike Detroit and Watkins Glen in the past, Trans Am at NJMP was pretty tame. There weren’t any major incidents, no blown engines, no heavy impacts… just little spins and continues, that’s it. I requested to work Start again saying that I really want to get practice with this position having worked it already at the Glen. But my request was denied. Instead I got to work Turn 2 on Friday, Turn 1 on Saturday and Turn 11 in the Octopus/Tail of the Devil on Sunday. All those turns were amazing, and I’m really happy with the experience I got at each post. I do wish I had a chance to work as a backup starter at least one day thought.
Day 1 at Turn 2, wondering why NJMP and Lime Rock use an Orange strip Blue flag while the rest of the country uses Yellow stripe.
Day 2 in the amazing Turn 1.
Day 3 at Turn 11, which was even more amazing!
The Starter Stand…
Unlike previous times where I basically CouchSurfed in Millville, this time around I camped at the track. It was convenient. I bought a new Coleman tent at Walmart because all my other tents that I own are living elsewhere so that I don’t have to carry them with me when I travel… (the latest one I left in Florida this year, there’s one in Texas which I left a few years ago, and one in Belgium I left ages ago). The brand new tent was amazingly spacious which was awesome, but less then 24 hours since setting it up I arrived to discover one of the poles broke on it, so I’ll have to take it back to the store for an exchange. Kind of bummed me out.
I was the only camper at NJMP using a tent this weekend.
Luckily it didn’t rain and there wasn’t any foul weather. In fact it was a perfect sunny South Jersey weekend. I enjoyed it very much!
I took the opportunity to take lots of pictures in the paddock which was wide open to the spectators. Including some shots of my car with the extremely wide body Trans Am TA class cars.
That was pretty incredible.
I’m hoping I could make it back to NJMP again if not this year than maybe next. The track is about 150 miles from where I live and between 2 and 3 hours drive. Which is about the same as Palmer Motorsports Park in Massachusetts or Thompson Speedway in Connecticut. It’s not exactly close but most people assume that since I live in New Jersey it is my home track. Next weekend I’m off to my true home track, Lime Rock which is only 100 miles and 2 hours away… see ya!
Last Saturday morning during the Detroit Grand Prix morning meeting the Trans Am official giving us some encouraging words mentions their next round in New Jersey and a lightbulb goes over my head… hey, I live in New Jersey! why don’t I sign up?
Before I even made it to my station assignment in Belle Isle I was firing off an e-mail to NJMP to see if I could join their ranks to volunteer Trans Am at Thunderbolt… within minutes I had a response: Welcome to join! Sweet….
NJMP doesn’t rely on volunteers though. They hire workers to flag events and pay them about $8/hr to do so. The response email I got said that they had the event fully staffed but if I wanted to volunteer I was welcome to come. I wanted to push my luck and ride a wave of recent events I’ve got to work on the Start stand but for this event my request was denied. Still, I got to work some of the most awesome stations Thunderbolt has to offer. Day 1 I was solo on Turn 2. Day 2 I was the blue flagger on Turn 1 which was sweet! Day 3 I was blue flagger on Turn 11 which is in the “Octopus” or “Tail of the Devil” turn where the cars drive all the way around the station, which is almost on an island surrounded by ARMCO and a Tire-wall. That was amazing! More about the event later, for now some pix…
Day 1, paddock walk:
Day 2, scrutineering line:
I now use Pennzoil Platinum in the Miata, and like it very much!
Day 3, Flagging Turn 11
Checking out the Starter Stand:
New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission jacking my registration prices up so they could sponsor NASCAR… and then there’s a marketing fail, “Just Drive 125???”
Was happy to spot another NC1 Miata in the paddock:
This time around when I drove past some cool race cars I stopped and jumped out to take a few shots… should have done this with the Pirelli World Challenge Miata’s though, kicking myself for not doing it at Mosport and Lime Rock.
This year’s Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix was a blast!
I had such a tremendously great time I can’t express my gratitude enough to all the people that make the event possible.
There were some hiccups, as there always are, but things worked out perfectly. I was in good spirits from day 1, although it was hard to overcome my displeasure with the state of the roads in Michigan. Many of the highways and roadways in suburban Detroit suffer from incredible neglect and my Miata was the wrong vehicle to navigate these streets. Specifically Interstate 75, Chrysler Freeway and parts of Ford Freeway (Interstate 94) had such big pot holes I’m surprised I didn’t suffer a blowout. My GPS didn’t help me either, sending me along Mound Road or Metro Parkway (Metropolitan Pkwy) which had pot holes so big they had their own pot holes within them, it was so rough I cringed every time I found myself falling into one. And with the car being so low most of the time I couldn’t see it coming until I was in it…. So with that off my chest, to the positive.
Or at least sort of positive. My GP experience I found out, is what I make it… and on the first day of the event I found out I was flagging at Turn 11 which is along the Detroit River on the back straight just past a few sharp turns from Turn 7, 8, 9 and 10. Turn 11 was spectacular both with the views of Canada across the river, Windsor Ontario hustle and bustle can be seen and heard quite easily. But also because once the cars come out of the turn they come so close to the concrete barrier which we flag from, sometimes they brush up against it. Often times I had to yank my Blue flag back after displaying it because it was possible for the cars to rip it out of my hands and take it along for the ride… the rush was incredible!
Yet… Turn 11 has the identical views I’ve seen before from Turn 7 which I worked the last time I went to Detroit Grand Prix in 2013. And that bummed me out…. I was hoping to experience something new, something unique… even if it wasn’t the best view I wanted for it to be different…. so after contemplating whether or not I’d be a pain-in-the-ass for asking, I reached out to my corner captain and asked if I could be switched. He told me “NO”, the assignments were set in stone… Hmm. I asked a few more people on the ride back to the dinner tent after the day’s events were finished, and they said if I feel it is a legitimate reason I should go ahead and make the request, but it would be better if I present the Flag Chief with a solution, otherwise find someone from a different station to switch with me.
While I knew some people at the event, I didn’t know enough to have this conversation about switching so I went straight to the Flag Chief. I presented him with my dilemma and suggested that he could even put me on a “Shitty” station but my goal is to have a different view. He kind of “whoah’ed!” at my “Shitty” comment, as if there’s no such thing at the track and all stations are “good” but then after some thought told me he’d take care of it. I told him no pressure with the decision, I’m quite impressed with the views of Turn 11 and I had a great time working with all the people on there, but honestly I’d prefer a different view, and left it at that.
During dinner the flag chief asked one of the corner captains if he wouldn’t mind trading people, he agreed… and I found out I’m going to work Turn 1 for the rest of the weekend… Holly Fucking Batman! Turn 1!!!! WHOA… that was very surprising and not at all expected.
I couldn’t wait to come back Saturday and Sunday because I knew Turn 1 would be awesome… the switch totally made my day!
The team on Turn 1 welcomed me even if they probably thought I was a jerk for even requesting this move. I can’t say I was terribly concerned what other people thought, I noticed that as long as I look out for my own interest, I have a great time. But we all had an amazing time working together. I tried to share with the team what I learned working a few IndyCar, IMSA and Trans Am events this year… possibly even too much info. But I thought it was helpful. We had a great rotation, I got to do what I wanted. I even said it would be a nice thing to have an incident at Turn 1 so we could all learn from it, and sure enough we had quite a tangle on the very first lap of the IndyCar race on Sunday. Nobody got hurt except some pride maybe, but we learned a lot… Especially from our Holmatro Safety Team crew that scolded us for blocking their exit with the truck. Sadly, their exit coincided with our escape route in case an incident such as this happened. So no matter how much they think they’re doing Godly work with their God-like attitude towards the volunteers who stand between a moving concrete barrier and the swing of their open door as they rush out to the scene. I wouldn’t have changed anything about the way we reacted to the multi-car crash that moved our station a few inches in making the truck exit hole even smaller.
Post race we had a great photo op with the cars that couldn’t continue:
The views from Turn 1 were pretty awesome, we could see almost everything that went on in that part of Pit Lane, including penalties and all vehicles exiting onto the track. Prior to the IndyCar incident we had a few scuffles and spins in Trans Am, while IMSA was pretty well behaved and civil through our corner.
Every night Detroit SCCA Region treated us to a tasty dinner, which was so appreciated!
The food was excellent, from sign-on/registration throughout the event… I especially like the Thursday night welcome party at Sindbads, for all the bad things being said about Detroit, this was an excellent view of what Detroit is really like, and that there are multiple experiences to be had in the D, not just bad ones like people assume every time. Sindbads is great!
Believe it or not, this is Detroit!
The other thing I’m a big fan of is the Michigan State Police cars with their traditional light bubble and the stop sign on the hood… What in the world is that still all about?
Anyway I had such a great time I can’t wait to return again and again! I will marshal another Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix if I have the money to do it. Next time I’ll rent a car though!