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Post Card from IndyCar at Pocono Raceway, The Tricky Triangle

Greetings from Day 2 of IndyCar at the Pocono Raceway… on the Tricky Triangle. What Turn 4?

So this time I’m doing something different, while still volunteering for a Motorsport event, it’s not quite marshaling. But I’m in pit lane, there are race cars around me, I’m happy!

A few weeks ago I worked with a guy from Pennsylvania at Watkins Glen who invited me to come volunteer IndyCar at Pocono… What? I didn’t know we could do that… I thought marshals weren’t needed on ovals… err… triovals.

They are not, but volunteers are always needed. I filled out my application… got a typical cryptic response that made me wonder if I was in or out, and tickets for the event showed up in my mail box a few days before the race. Cool!

The role for this event was: “Customer Service” with Team Pocono. Some would call it a security role, but there were actual security at the event that were hired help and were getting paid for their service. We worked for free, and we were the only ones in pit lane, where you know… it’s actually dangerous.

Our role was to check wristbands and paper tickets of spectators and VIP’s that were roaming around pit lane during all sessions of the event. I didn’t think this was even possible because typically the pits are off limits to spectators at other events I volunteer at. IMSA and F1 have a special Pit Walk for the spectators which is a watered down experience that lasts for about an hour or so primarily designed for spectators to take some close up pictures of cars in pieces and maybe grab an autograph from their favorite driver. Here, the pit lane was open to anyone who was willing to spend the extra money for this pit pass, and it wasn’t that pricey.

In many ways this activity is where IndyCar is most similar to NASCAR rather than other series like IMSA or F1. The other similarity was running the oval which meant there wasn’t to be any racing as soon as the rain hit the forecast. That combined with a time-certain TV schedule meant that despite the scheduled race for today, the feature activity of the weekend, the actual race got moved to Monday because of the rain (even though as usual the morning was nice and sunny with some overcast)… This was the first time I’ve ever had a race postponed to the next day of the week.

The actual role of customer service was really neat. I got to interact with a bunch of spectators, several crew / team members of the pits I was responsible for, and got to see several drivers up close. The first day of my participation I was absolutely rubbish. There was a person smoking nearby who I missed completely, which was one of my responsibilities. People kept on sneaking up towards the pit wall every time I would turn my back, which wasn’t meant to happen. Someone walked in with a beer, which again was a big no no… Someone brought their young kids in, again this wasn’t good. But on the second day I got the hang of it.

As usual we were not allowed to take any pictures of the cars, but I snuck a few selfies in.

indycar at pocono raceway 1

Only British flags were flying on communication antennas in pit lane to commemorate the one year anniversary of Justin Wilson’s death which happened at this event last year sadly.

indycar at pocono raceway 5

First day I worked the “South” pits watching over Alexander Rossi and Tony Kanaan pits. While second day I got bumped to the North pits looking out for Marco Andretti and Takumo Sato. Second day we really had nothing to do. (because of the rain)

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indycar at pocono raceway 10

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I was most impressed with the whole registration process at Pocono. Things were well organized, people were knowledgeable and things went very smoothly. Camping was provided right on the inner course where I had driven once when I volunteered as F&C during an SCCA event.

indycar at pocono raceway 3

Chits for food were provided both days, and food was tasty!

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For the second day there was a car show with some interesting things on display like these Jaguars.

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For support event we had Vintage IndyCar organized by USAC.

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There were also lots of stock cars and dirt track cars on display very popular in Pennsylvania and among the crowd who were naturally mostly NASCAR fans. The whole weekend had a very low key feel to it, almost like a club event. Not too many people in attendance which made the event feel very open and drivers super accessible.

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The days on post were quite long and my feet were burning by the end. Luckily I had enough wet weather gear with me to stay dry when the skies opened up on Sunday.

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As a keepsake we got a pin for participation and a program. Which is more than we normally get while volunteering for F&C.

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All in all I had a hell of a time and even though I left the track when the rain started because I was not going to camp in the bog that the water created, I’m very much looking forward to the 98 mile drive back there on Monday to finish what I started/signed-up to do.

It was a fantastic experience to be sure!

Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix 2016 the debrief

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!

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 4 turn 11

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 5 turn 11

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 6 turn 11

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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!

detroit grand prix 2016 belle isle indycar imsa trans am 2

detroit grand prix 2016 belle isle indycar imsa trans am 1

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:

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 13 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat
detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 12 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat
detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 11 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat
detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 14 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat Not a lot of wiggle room where we stand to flag from. All the personnel on our post was essential, blue and yellow flaggers faced each other while the communicator relayed race control traffic and the captain served as a safety to respond to incidents (which technically we weren’t allowed to do because Holmatro Safety Team was there)

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 10 holmatro safety team

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.

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 15 pit lane sunoco official fuel of indycar

Every night Detroit SCCA Region treated us to a tasty dinner, which was so appreciated!

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 8 detroit region scca dinner

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 9 detroit region scca dinner

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!

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Believe it or not, this is Detroit!

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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?

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 7 michigan state police

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!

Post Card from Belle Isle Detroit, Pre-Grand Prix Paddock Tour

Knowing full well how stringent the organizers get giving us (volunteers) paddock and pit access during the event, I went a day early to walk around and get some shots of the unpacking in progress.

I had to sneak onto the island. Our credentials were not to be distributed until later on in the afternoon and since dinner was provided by Detroit Region SCCA it was unlikely that I’d return to Belle Isle Park or even more unlikely that I’d actually see anything there. So having arrived for the event a day early and getting some much needed rest at my friend’s house I ventured down to Detroit downtown bright and early. First stop was visiting the GM Renaissance Center, something I always wanted to do… there on the second floor I found the Detroit Grand Prix offices, with big glass windows showing you what’s going on behind the scenes with all the maps and track plans on display to anyone that walks by.

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I also spotted a cool looking Chevy Caprice Detroit PD car… on the way back to my car I managed to snap a few shots… turns out these cars (about 100 of them) were donated to the city of Detroit, and therefore sport a cool wrap of the city skyline.

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 26 chevy caprice detroit pd

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 27 chevy caprice detroit pd

It was a very beautiful day and an awesome chance to walk along the waterfront of the Detroit River, checking out the views of Windsor, Ontario on the other side. Next Stop: Belle Isle Park.

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I managed to get into the parking lot that I obviously had no legitimate access to, but as security was slack, I got away with it.

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I’ve always been fascinated by the old-school look of Michigan statie’s cars, like this Ford Explorer Police Interceptor.

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 25 we love detroit

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 24 team penske

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 3 aj foyt

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 10 alexander rossi

And then I spotted a Miata a fellow marshal owns it from Canada eh?

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Lots of Chevy’s everywhere…

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 5 camaro

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 7 chevy ss

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 8 chevy camaro

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 9 chevy corvette

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 22 chevy silverado

And then my favorite… the SpeedSource Mazda Prototype Team:

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detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 13 mazda lola lmp2

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 14 mazda lola lmp2

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detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 16 mazda lola lmp2

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 17 mazda lola lmp2

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 18 mazda lola lmp2

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 19 turner bmw

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 20 turner bmw

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 21 lambo huracan

detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 11 michael shank racing

More from the event soon…