Tag Archives: Indy Lights

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.

Alabama Grand Prix (IndyCar) the Debrief

I had an incredible time at this year’s Alabama Grand Prix.

Not really much to say other than everything about this trip has been awesome. Under the circumstances I had an absolutely awesome event! Getting sick before the trip put a little hindrance on the mood and well being, but that’s just how it goes.

Here’s some pictures from the weekend:

I was surprised to see IMSA trailers in the paddock. Then I realized that both Porsche GT3 Cup and the Mazda Prototype Challenge were participating. And since everything else was a spec series, including IndyCar’s with their identical Dallara bodies. The USF2000, the Mazda MX-5 Cup and the IndyLights. Only the Prototype Challenge offered some variety.

The Ginetta LMP3 didn’t make an appearance but there were more than one Norma’s (even if just on display).

So glad I came on Thursday during the promoter’s test day so I could snap these shots in the paddock. Otherwise there would have been no opportunities to visit pit lane/paddock during the rest of the event. We were in a perfect spot on Race Day to see the driver’s parade:

And that’s a wrap!

Would love to come back another year for another awesome experience at Barber Motorsports Park!

Thank You Scott Lucas and the Pit Crew for the VIP Treatment at Daytona 24, St. Pete GP & Sebring 12

I want to express my gratitude to the men and women I worked with over the past three consecutive Florida races, two of them back-to-back and especially our Chief of Pit & Grid Marshals Scott Lucas. Thank you sir!

What an incredible opportunity this has been. It’s definitely a first in my seven years of marshaling that I found a team that welcomed me as well as these folks. I am so grateful!

Needless to say I would love to be back and work with them again, and I hope they will extend more opportunities to me in the future.

What a great bunch of people to volunteer with!

I can’t say enough good things… except:

Thank you for Daytona 24 hour!

Thank you for St. Pete Grand Prix

And thank you very much for Sebring 12 hour!

See you next time….

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg the debrief

What an amazing experience this year’s Firestone Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg was. I had a blast!

I signed up to volunteer as a pit & grid marshal and spend the entire event in pit lane near pit out. Occasionally during my off time I went to spectate at Turns 2 and Turn 10 as well as do a little bit of flagging from the amazing Turn 12. My favorite events of the race weekend were everything but IndyCar but since they were the big boys in town I did enjoy spectating their time on track. We didn’t have much to do during the IndyCar sessions because that series brings their own Pit people to work the event, so instead I took some pix…

So for this event the role I was assigned was more of an observer in nature than anything else. Having worked the Indy race at Pocono Raceway with Team Pocono, the paddock at Daytona for the 24 and as pit fire at VIR for IMSA, the pit lane observer role was familiar for me. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to do where I was stationed at pit out. It seems the St. Pete GP folks contracted the event “volunteers” – a separate group from CFR SCCA folks that I was part of, to do the crowd control duties. But I noticed the people were a bit timid and didn’t really stop anyone from crowding various pit boxes, or assisting much for teams bringing cars onto the pit lane from the paddock. The time went by slow because of the lack of duties, but there couldn’t be a better spot to watch what’s happening in pit lane other than maybe watching it on TV. I enjoyed the experience.

Post race we were right in the thick of things as the winning drivers walked past us towards the podium.

As we wrapped up and walked towards our worker shuttles I noticed this little Disney jem… a Mickey Mouse race car and boy do I think it looks sooooo much better than the massive billboards the actual Indy Cars have become. I’m not a big fan of the series. To me IndyCar feels a lot like the open wheel version of NASCAR where good drivers go to retire. And I’m sure the series could be improved greatly if it aspired to be more Formula 1 rather than NASCAR. Instead of one chassis supplier Dallara, there should be more variety. Optimize the wings and things for aero more than advertising space, and things would improve. Watching the crowds at this event though I can see they are not exactly struggling, so let them ride a wave of success and ignore my difference in taste of the outward appearances.

Besides the actual event, I am absolutely in love with St. Petersburg and the Gulf Coast of Florida in general. I would totally love to move to the Tampa Bay area, Clearwater, St. Pete Beach, or even Brandenton… it’s far more laid back than South Florida/Miami area and just as exotic. I’m sure there are tourism and motorsport based businesses I could make a living at. And check out some of the murals and street graffiti around downtown St. Pete, it’s simply uplifting… I want to live here!

One final highlight of the trip. I had booked a cheap motel about 10 miles north of the track. It had horrible reviews and I was cringing at the idea of staying there. After much thought I decided to change my plans and reach out to people on CouchSurfing to host me. The fella that accepted my request turned out to be awesome and I had an absolute blast staying there… just a few blocks from the track. Before heading back to Daytona after the race I offered to buy my host dinner for his troubles and he chose a really tasty option, burgers at Engine 9 downtown. It was a great experience!

… another Florida event is next on my calendar: Sebring 12 hour!

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!

Grand Prix of St. Pete, IndyCar Season Opener – Streets of St. Petersburg

What an outstanding weekend on the streets of beautiful St Pete on the Gulf Coast of Florida waving flags for the season opener of the IndyCar racing series and all the supporting classes that run with it.

This post will act as a debrief for the event and some of the things I liked and disliked about my first GP of St Peterstburg weekend.

First, the things I really liked. The drive down to Florida was pretty freaking awesome. I had just flown home from Texas doing the PWC season opener at COTA which was fine… but the fact that I was being cheap about travel didn’t help with the road trip. I spent almost two days traveling from TX to NJ leaving Austin around 7pm for Dallas by bus and departing to NYC via Houston at 6am the next morning. By the time I got home I was shot. Very early the next morning, at 4am, I was on the road driving South. The drive took me two days because I felt like spending a night of rest about half way. So a good 13 hours after leaving home I arrived at my motel in Columbia, South Carolina to rest. Early the next morning, another 4am departure I was ready for the final leg, which instead of taking me 7 hours to complete actually took about an hour and a half longer for some reason. I wasn’t stuck in any traffic and didn’t take any detours but it took me longer than expected to arrive in St. Pete to make registration and to go out on track to marshal the first half day of the event.

Along the way on my Road Trip I kept track of my fuel mileage and noticed some interesting things. Fuel seems to be better quality up north than it is further south. I got much better gas mileage on my first two fill ups than the following ones. But instead of following my previous strategy of limiting the amount of stops to optimise my timing, I ended up stopping more than I planned as my fuel stops didn’t align with my food stops and pee stops. Long story short, I stopped too many times because the places I wanted to eat weren’t the places I wanted to fill up. All in all I got 36mpg early on, which dropped to 35mpg later on and down to 31mpg towards the end of the drive. The only other factor that I think significantly contributed to the pitiful fuel mileage was that I increased my speed once the roads got better. Leaving NJ and PA where I was putting along at 60 to 65mph I started keeping up with the speed limit in VA and further south doing 70 to 80mph. I think increasing speed really killed the gas mileage. But this was still the good thing.

The bad thing was, in large part, the schedule of the event. There was no breaks allotted for us to do anything other than be ready for the next support track activity or the feature track activity. I took advantage of our first half day delays to snap some pictures in the support paddock, and those are the only pictures I got from the event. There was no opportunity to visit the paddock or pit lane throughout the weekend, which kind of sucks. I hope the event organisers consider that volunteers are also fans.

Back to the good things… my station assignments were awesome. And best of all I was paired with a local guy that really made my time at the event enjoyable. Dave told me off the bat that he wasn’t interested in blue flagging which made me like him right away. And from that first moment forward we worked together really well, looking out for each other’s safety as well as BS’ing enough to make the time go by really quickly. On the first day Dave even made the local paper waving the flag for the USF2000’s first time on track. It was really an awesome experience and I’m surprised to see in practice how one positive person can make such a big difference between having a good event and having a miserable time like the last time I worked Daytona and got booted off my station.

The racing was fairly good, more or less. This being a street circuit had it’s typical incidents of cars running out of room to pass resulting in some interesting incidents. Few of them happened within sight of our station, which was nice to have. Turn 8 was especially busy and that meant I got to wave a lot of green flag. As far as blue goes it was difficult to see, so that flag had minimal use.

I think the highlight of the event was the Stadium Super Trucks “race” or exhibition, whatever is the appropriate term to use. We had ramps set up directly across from our station meaning we could see the jumps closer than anyone else really, right from our station. The crowds behind us grew as soon as SST’s were about to come out, much more so than they were present for IndyCar or PWC events, which makes me wonder… why bother holding an IndyCar race when they could just hold an event for Robbie Gordon’s SST’s?

The crowd loved these things:

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And while I adhered to the rules of not taking pictures with cars on track, since our participation was very limited for SST’s I took a few snaps… and our CFR SCCA buddy Dave Green caught me in action by taking his pro shots from across the track from our station:

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Image by Dave Green from flagtoflagphotography.com 

And finally, the last really awesome thing about this event was the fact that I couldn’t find cheap accommodation while looking for hotels to book for this race. Everything was either booked solid or really expensive. And even at the cheap places prices were thru the roof, I can’t imagine paying over $100+/night for a Motel 6 or Rodeway Inn, but that’s the type of prices I was dealing with. So instead I chose to pay nothing and relied completely on CouchSurfing.org My host lives less than 2 miles from the track and it was a very convenient place to stay for the event with the trip taking me just under 10 minutes to complete (from house to the morning meeting). Probably the closest place I’ve ever stayed to the temp circuit for a street race.

Next stop, Sebring!

But I will spend a few more days exploring St. Pete….

Baltimore Grand Prix ALMS & Indycar

Another “Balmore” Grand Prix is in the books… and I quickly went to re-read last year’s debrief to make sure I don’t repeat the same sentiment. This year the tale of Baltimore GP consists of two experiences. First Couch Surfing. Like last year I got very lucky with the hosts even though it wasn’t through traditional channels of requesting a place to stay. Instead I posted on Facebook in the CS Baltimore forum and got invited. Sweet! Second, the race itself. It was a crashfest! No nicer way to put it… a bunch of ‘amateurs’ it seems, as people were wrecking almost on purpose in both ALMS and Indycar feature racing that had more yellow flag / caution time than green / race time.

But it was good!

I was stationed at turn 3, the amazing hair pin that didn’t get nowhere near as much action as it did last year which seemed to have shifted mostly to turn 1, 4 and 9. But we did have a number of spins, debris, and even a car on fire during the Indycar race for which I waived our fire bottle at the driver through the hole in the fence we were behind, and he promptly stopped in front of us. Of course, he stopped on the other side of the track, and after another Indycar went between him and us at speed, he proceeded to watch the smoke billow out of the car instead of attempting to run for the fire extinguisher. Luckily the safety team were quick to respond, and all ended well.

I was not terribly impressed with the level of professionalism of the drivers this weekend. In the ALMS race, the Dyson car seemed to false start repeatedly which caused the first big wreck and contributed greatly to more full course caution the second time. Similarly, turn one shinanigans for Indycar saw four consecutive full course yellows after each attempted restart. What a joke!

On Sunday night I left Baltimore for Summit Point, and the final racing of the Labor Day weekend with the DC region SCCA. Absolutely nothing happened there, completely uneventful day… though since I was stationed at turn 3, I had to run to cars that pulled off in our shortcut area to see what the issue was… both cars lost power, which was OK… the exercise I got sprinting about 300 meters in each direction was great too. I enjoyed the leisurely road trip back to New Jersey and am looking forward to fly out for the Grand-Am weekend at Laguna Seca tomorrow.

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Baltimore Grand Prix Indycar & ALMS

What an awkwardly weird experience it was, the Baltimore Grand Prix. For whatever reason nothing seemed to click and I have a bit of sour taste in my mouth as a result even though it seems everything went smoothly, with fewer issues than I think I was afraid of running into… so let me explain. I was really looking forward to this event, having gone to Summit Point several times to make sure the Washington D.C. region of SCCA would take my application into serious consideration. They did. I was confident I’d find a convenient place to stay through Couch Surfing… I did. So what’s the problem?

Its hard to put my finger on it but I think it was a combination of things. For one, the communication about the event wasn’t too forthcoming. Details of the final meeting place for credentials collection was only e-mailed about a week before. While its not the end of the world it was making me antsy while planning things to do. Once I arrived in Baltimore, sign on process was a bit demoralizing. As always volunteer marshals got little in the way of appreciation while many temporary employees of the event got nice gear upfront which seemed unfair, though that’s how it was in Detroit GP and others from memory, still put me in an unappreciated mood.

Surfing during the event I wanted to be more social with my host so I came a day early and spend a few nights hanging out with her, but it was somewhat awkward. I must remember that just because people are polite offering a couch to crash on they are not automatically friends. That too put me in a weird mood though the location was absolutely perfect, literally walking distance from my station which ironically was located on the same street as my host!!!

For the event I was assigned track marshal role at turn 1, which is a fantastic opportunity regardless what track one goes to. However as I arrived on station it was clear that there wouldn’t be much response happening as we were nicely fenced in and going on a hot track was going to be unnecessary with all the paid IMSA and INDY official marshals. It was a  bit of a downer so I made efforts to be nice to the blue flag guy so he can share his duties and thankfully he did, which totally made my day for the ALMS race.

During one of the morning meetings, the local Washington DC chief invited interested marshals to attend the MARRS club racing at Summit Point on Monday – Labor Day. Which I did and that was a fantastic experience as they were running on a skeleton crew and needed the help. The most interesting incident of the weekend actually happened at Summit Point on Monday where a driver of a Radical lost it and flipped the car after smashing it into a grassy embankment. He walked away from the incident, luckily.

Enjoy the pix on facebook:

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PS. thinking more about my feelings post event I think much of my worries came from the fact that I’ve gained some weight. Not so noticeable on a racetrack where there is plenty of room to move around, but on a street circuit working from behind the fence it makes a big deal. Climbing through a small window opening in the fence is extremely difficult when you lack flexibility or weigh too much to pull yourself up the cage. I’m worried for Singapore GP