Tag Archives: faynisha

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.

Is SCCA Membership Still Worth Keeping to Volunteer as a Marshal?

Is SCCA still relevant in 2017 for those of us wanting to volunteer PRO events? Is it worth paying the membership fee to volunteer? Are there alternatives that don’t require this costly option?

Let’s find out…

For the past few years I’ve been seriously debating whether it’s worth it or not to renew my expensive SCCA membership. This year, as of March the price has gone up another $5 dollars. And this season SCCA PRO lost several series they used to sanction. Among the most notable are the Global MX-5 Cup which is now weirdly sanctioned by IndyCar and Pirelli World Challenge which is now sanctioned by USAC (among several other lesser “pro” series, including those on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder).

So why pay $70 bux a year to volunteer maybe one or two remaining SCCA PRO events that now only include Trans Am and Formula 4?

Doesn’t seem like it’s worth it.

In addition, a number of circuits now no longer require SCCA membership for volunteers to participate in their PRO events. Circuit of the Americas (COTA) has had this policy of welcoming non-SCCA members for several years now. Many of them flag for COTA as employees for track rentals and such. But many show up just for the big events and work directly with the more experienced SCCA members who complain how inexperienced those people are. Lime Rock Park is another example that recently changed it’s policy of requiring SCCA licensed marshals to work their events. Now only SCCA-equivalent training is required, but not necessarily a current license. In addition Lime Rock Park pays $50/day for participation. New Jersey Motorsports Park relies solely on employees to staff their events, however it is possible to “volunteer” some of the bigger races there. I’ve had experience where they let me volunteer and others where they actually paid me for my participation. The Moto America event at NJMP gets you a $300 check in the mail a few weeks later. I’ve already talked extensively about volunteering at Watkins Glen where SCCA membership isn’t required, but the local club that organizes marshals requires you to join them at $15/year fee, which I must add is very reasonable. USAC at Indianapolis Motor Speedway charges upwards of $30 per event to volunteer with them. A discount was offered for multiple events the last time I worked with them in 2013. Similarly ACIND in Montreal, Canada charges you $30 CDN to play with them for F1. Many Motorcycle events organized by Flagging by Faynisha pay you for participation, while the bike race at Laguna Seca requires you to pay to join the USARM club which only staffs bike events at Laguna Seca.

There are however events still, very old-school/old-fashioned, that will force you to join SCCA even if it’s the lesser $30/weekend license fee or whatever they call it. Central Florida Region is a stickler for those, ironically they have the most PRO events out there, especially early in the season when the big events don’t clash with any other.

I put together a list of 46 and 1 practice 2017 PRO Event on the Calendar, and my speculation on which of them require SCCA membership, as well as those that don’t…. I even listed those that by my experience either pay you for your participation or charge you a fee to play with them:

Date Event Name Series Location SCCA required? Marshal Organizer Participation?
Jan 6-8 Roar before the 24 IMSA Daytona YES CFR SCCA volunteer
Jan 26-29 Rolex 24 Daytona IMSA Daytona YES CFR SCCA volunteer
Mar 10-12 St. Pete GP IRL/PWC St. Pete YES CFR SCCA volunteer
Mar 15-18 Sebring 12 hour IMSA Sebring YES CFR SCCA volunteer
Apr 7-8 Long Beach GP IRL/IMSA/PWC Long Beach YES CalClub SCCA volunteer
Apr 23 GP of Alabama IRL Barber Mtsp NO Flagging by Faynisha get paid
Apr 21-23 MotoGP/Moto America MotoGP COTA NO COTA volunteer
Apr 27-30 PWC VIR PWC VIR NO VIR get paid
Apr 28-30 MotoAmerica Road Atlanta MotoAmerica Road Atlanta NO Flagging by Faynisha get paid
May 4-6 Sportscar Showdown IMSA COTA NO COTA/Lone Star SCCA volunteer
May 12-13 MotoAmerica VIR MotoAmerica VIR NO VIR get paid
May 13 Indycar GP IRL Indianapolis NO USAC pay to join
May 19-21 PWC CTMP PWC CTMP NO MMS Mosport volunteer
May 26-27 PWC Lime Rock PWC Lime Rock NO Lime Rock Park get paid
Jun 2-3 Detroit Belle Isle GP IMSA Detroit YES Detroit SCCA volunteer
Jun 2-4 MotoAmerica Road America MotoAmerica Road America MAYBE Road America volunteer
Jun 9-11 GP Canada F1 F1 Montreal NO ACIND pay to participate
Jun 10-11 Pocono 400 NASCAR Pocono NO Team Pocono volunteer
Jul 15-16 ePrix New York Formula E Brooklyn MAYBE NY SCCA/NJ SCCA volunteer
Jun 23-25 Kohler GP IRL/PWC Road America YES SCCA Road America volunteer
Jun 29-Jul 2 Sahlen’s 6 hour IMSA Watkins Glen NO RSI Watkins Glen pay to join
Jul 7-9 Sportscar GP IMSA CTMP NO MMS Mosport volunteer
Jul 7-9 MotoAmerica Laguna Seca MotoAmerica Laguna Seca NO USARM pay to join
Jul 16 Indy Toronto IRL Toronto NO MMS volunteer
Jul 21-22 Northeast GP IMSA Lime Rock NO Lime Rock Park get paid
Jul 28-30 Indy 200 Mid O IRL/PWC Mid Ohio YES Lake Erie Communicators volunteer
Jul 29-30 ePrix Montreal Formula E Montreal NO ACIND pay to participate
Jul 30 Pennsylvania 400 NASCAR Pocono NO Team Pocono volunteer
Aug 3-6 Road Race Showcase IMSA Road America YES SCCA Road America volunteer
Aug 5-6 Watkins Glen 355 NASCAR Watkins Glen NO RSI Watkins Glen pay to join
Aug 11-13 Utah PWC PWC Utah Mtsp NO Utah Mtsp employment
Aug 11-13 MotoAmerica Sonoma MotoAmerica Sonoma MAYBE Sonoma employment
Aug 12 Mid Ohio 200 NASCAR Mid Ohio YES Lake Erie Communicators volunteer
Aug 20 ABC Supply 500 IRL Pocono NO Team Pocono volunteer
Aug 25-27 GT Challenge IMSA VIR NO VIR get paid
Aug 25-27 MotoAmerica Pittsburg MotoAmerica Pittsburg MAYBE Pittsburg volunteer
Aug 27 Road America 180 NASCAR Road America YES SCCA Road America volunteer
Sep 1-3 PWC COTA PWC COTA NO COTA/Lone Star SCCA volunteer
Sep 3 IndyCar WGI IRL Watkins Glen NO RSI Watkins Glen pay to join
Sep 3 Chevy Silverado 250 NASCAR CTMP NO MMS Mosport volunteer
Sep 8-10 MotoAmerica NJMP MotoAmerica NJMP NO NJMP get paid
Sep 15-17 Sonoma GP IRL/PWC Sonoma NO Sonoma/SFR employment
Sep 15-17 MotoAmerica Barber MotoAmerica Barber Mtsp NO Flagging by Faynisha get paid
Sep 22-24 Monterey GP IMSA Laguna Seca YES SFR SCCA volunteer
Oct 4-7 Petit Le Mans IMSA Road Atlanta YES Atlanta SCCA volunteer
Oct 13-15 PWC Laguna Seca PWC Laguna Seca YES SFR SCCA volunteer
Oct 20-22 US GP F1 F1 COTA NO COTA/Lone Star SCCA volunteer

So this year, I went ahead and renewed my membership. I had $45 in worker credit that I didn’t want to go to waste. However, next year I’ll have to think long and hard to decide whether it’s worth it or not. There are plenty of events out there that I could put that money towards to still have fun volunteering.

I don’t plan on doing any CLUB events this year… though as always that may change.

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…

Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas at the Circuit of the Americas the debrief

For a last minute trip, my visit to COTA for MotoGP and MotoAmerica racing was as good a trip as it gets. I’ve said this to a few people over the past few weeks of marshaling and I don’t think they can really wrap their brains around this statement so let’s break it down here.

I was set to go to Watkins Glen for the NASCAR Motorsport Safety Seminar… I chickened out when I saw snow and freezing temps on the forecast. It did indeed snow and was freezing Upstate New York but I didn’t sit around at home sulking. I booked a flight the day before my departure for Texas. Austin was expensive… of course it would be, I’m only competing with tens of thousands of spectators, teams, officials, etc. So I flew to Dallas. It cost $63 one way on American Airlines and $62 on the way back flying United.

Unlike the last trip a month ago for PWC, Megabus was pricey and the scheduling didn’t work. So I elected to try Greyhound… it still cost almost $30 bux round trip, and the experience was crazy to say the least… I was pretty surprised by the type of folks that ride Greyhound, especially those that make their journey across the whole country, but that’s a story for another time. Lucky for me the Greyhound station is very near to my friend Joaquin’s home and it was quite convenient to get a ride to and from the track there.

Joaquin had a full house so I used my tent that lives in Texas to camp at COTA which worked out very well. It was especially convenient since I told Jeanie that I’d be happy to flag, be a track marshal or deliver lunches and she snagged me to help out with track ops, where among other things I really did do deliver lunches. It was the hardest I had ever worked at a track while volunteering. I was running around so much I had to change my shirt during lunch time because it was completely soaken wet. But it was such a blast.

Probably the coolest experience for me was driving around on track delivering marshals to their stations. I got to use the Toyota Tundra to take a small group to Turn 20A and 20B, and then raced back around the track to see if more people needed rides. I also used a golf cart to run many errands driving around the inner and outer rings of the circuit as well as multiple trips to the paddock. Unlike other series, Dorna really enforced the rule of nobody but officials in pit lane and garages. Everyone got scanned in and out. And since we didn’t get the credentials the only time I got to go there was during the pit walk which we shared with spectators.

But I feel I really got my money’s worth. I was issued blue overalls and a tabard so when numbers were short Saturday morning I was the only flagger at Turn 16. Then I got another track ops person to join me. Then I got pulled off when a real flagger turned up. And as I was leaving I got to help push a striken bike onto the gator transport. It was pretty awesome. On race day I got to spectate from Turn 1 and when things went crashy I got to push another bike up on the transport while the track marshal who was working there was trying to get his hand looked on which he burned by accidentally touching the smoking hot exhaust pipe under the seat. Apparently it burned right thru the glove.

All in all it was the best time I had ever had at COTA and I wouldn’t rule it out that I would sign up again for this position for another big event like Formula 1 later this year.

motogp grand prix of the americas at cota 1

motogp grand prix of the americas at cota 10

motogp grand prix of the americas at cota 17

motogp grand prix of the americas at cota 16

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.

grand prix of alabama barber motorsports park honda indy 2 barber museum honda

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.

grand prix of alabama flagging by faynisha

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.

grand prix of alabama barber motorsports park honda indy 1

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