Tag Archives: Pocono Raceway

Marshaling NASCAR

Whenever I travel to volunteer overseas most people enquire not about our American sports car or open wheel racing series… but instead about NASCAR. More often than not people ask about how they too could come to America and work a NASCAR event… and often times I have to give them the bad news that marshals (volunteers like us) aren’t actually used by the series on ovals.

I have worked NASCAR events on a road course for many years, in fact NASCAR at Watkins Glen International is one of my favorite trips Upstate New York year after year. I even go to the Motorsport Safety Seminar put on by NASCAR and Race Services, Inc. at Watkins Glen to get properly trained to work NASCAR events.

So imagine my surprise when reviewing my calendar for events I wish to participate in this season (2017) the majority of the events I wish to work are NASCAR events. How in the world?

Will I actually work all those events I have pencilled in?

Probably not, but wouldn’t it be cool?

I have begun a habit of making notes (memo’s) of events I wish to do in order to inspire myself to follow through with those plans. So I’ll list the events below in order to reflect back at a later time to see how many of those races I actually participated in:

Completed Events:

April 1-2: Watkins Glen International – MSS (w/ RSI)

 May 19-21: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – Pinty’s Series – Can Am 200 (w/ MMS)

 

Future Events:

June 9-11: Pocono Raceway – Monster Enegery / Xfinity / ARCA – Pocono 400 (w/ Team Pocono)

July 28-30: Pocono Raceway – Monster Energy / Camping World Trucks / ARCA – Pennsylvania 400 (w/ Team Pocono)

August 3-6: Watkins Glen International – Monster Energy / Xfinity / K&N Pro East – Zippo 355 (w/ RSI)

August 11-13: Mid Ohio Sports Car Course – Xfinity Series – Mid Ohio 200 (w/ Lake Erie Communicators)

September 1-3: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – Camping World Trucks / Pinty’s Series – Chevrolet Silverado 250 (w/ MMS)

September 16: New Jersey Motorsports Park – K&N Pro East – Just Drive 125 (w/ NJMP)

 

I’m very excited about the possibility of any of these events… we’ll see how many I can actually participate in…!

IndyCar at Pocono Raceway’s Tricky Triangle Volunteering in Pit Lane with Team Pocono

What is Team Pocono?

It’s a group of volunteer spectator marshals that work major events at Pocono Raceway. From my understanding they do both of the NASCAR appearances on the Tricky Triangle including Sprint Cup and NASCAR Truck series as well as IndyCar series which is what I joined them to do for the first time and absolutely enjoyed my experience.

The event was meant to last the weekend but due to rain it had spilled over into Monday which is the first time I’ve ever had that kind of thing happen to me at a Motorsport event I was volunteering. Good thing I live only 98 miles away because as soon as it started pouring with rain on Sunday I headed home and spent the night in my own bed instead of swimming around in a tent on the infield.

Monday the weather cleared up perfectly and I was pretty surprised with the crowd that showed up. Although despite the good number of people, the event felt more like a club race rather than a major US Motorsport event, especially when compared to other IndyCar event’s I’ve done this year including St. Pete, Long Beach, Barber and Detroit Belle Isle.

This time I was right in the mix of things, although other than telling people what to do I didn’t really have any hands on safety function. I did get to holler at a firefighter to get over a very smoky generator, but the Holmatro IndyCar crew responded to it quicker. I got to sweep the pit lane getting spectators off the grid just before the start of the race, and for the end I was manning one of the gates letting the correct people into victory circle. It was fun most of the time. I was impressed with home much some spectators would try to trick you or try to pull a fast one on you. I even got snubbed by Mr. Roger Penske himself. Go figure.

But I enjoyed myself, and since we weren’t allowed to take any pictures of the IndyCars I took a few shots of me in my Miata which was parked in the infield.

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The camping was right along the inner track.

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for the drive home I put the top down, and it was perfect weather for it… I think this was the first two hour trip I took in the convertible topless and I loved it!

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I have yet to do NASCAR truck series, so maybe I’ll be invited back…

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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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!

NASCAR Track Services On-Site Training

Following some thirty (30) self-paced online training modules hosted by NASCAR & IMSA Track Services this is the final, on-site module: Motorsport Safety Seminar at Watkins Glen International.

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Why is this such a big deal?

Because, since I started marshaling in the US back in 2012, this was my first opportunity for some proper classroom training. I had gone through a very similar set of modules over a course of a few months in Singapore back in 2011, in preparation for the Singapore GP but as far as I knew nothing of this sort was available here in the states, and I was vocally critical of the lack of such training. Turns out I was wrong. RSI, WGI and NASCAR have been hosting this MSS event at Watkins Glen for the past twenty-seven (27) years.

I couldn’t be more wrong. To be fair I didn’t know where to look. People mentioned MSS to me as early as 2012 when I first volunteered with RSI at Watkins Glen, but I didn’t know what “MSS” meant. And frankly I was busy scheduling events to volunteer, so when the MSS was hosted I was elsewhere, being trackside flagging an event. Not this time. And I can say with some confidence that I will give this training priority in years to come because it really is important.

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What did I learn from the MSS?

Much of the theory behind subjects covered in the actual seminar were already covered in the online training modules. However, some things were new, especially those presented by fellow volunteers with the RSI. My favorite were the videos that Jimmy Wheeler showed the room full of people while doing a mock Race Control call with Terry. Jim did an excellent job of capturing some real incidents over the past year (or possibly more) using his GoPro. And having those videos in this learning environment proved their worth because quite a few videos showed incidents that Wow’d the crowd. From simple spins to actual impacts. From sports cars to open wheelers. Incidents happen in all forms of racing. And its out job to deal with them. Seeing the video allows people to learn a lesson that they would only otherwise learn when being at that incident themselves. I believe in videos so much more than just telling stories and making people imagine an incident, because hardly ever are incidents just like what you picture in your head, whereas the video shows exactly what actually happens.

The presentation on OSHA compliance was an eye opener for me because it explained a lot of things. Many things that people badmouth WGI about, but when it comes to OSHA compliance the track has done an excellent job of doing the right thing. And I totally commend them for it. Most importantly the crucial role of Communication was repeated over and over again, and that to me was the most important part of the training.

Our training concluded with a thorough description of fire extinguisher capabilities, the types of fires and how to fight them (as well as knowing your limits, knowing when to back off, and importance of calling for help immediately before making the decision to fight the fire). The fire chief that made the presentation was perfectly clear in his message and engaging with the audience. I thought it was very valuable. But the hands on training was the highlight of my entire trip. I wrote a separate post about it, but I’ll say it again that after five years of marshaling it felt good pulling a pin on the bottle and spraying the fire because it felt quite different from what I thought it would feel like.

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I want to take this opportunity again to thank Race Services, Inc., and Watkins Glen International for facilitating this training. And to NASCAR for providing training materials and props for us to learn from. I appreciate this training and can only wish it was offered to all marshals that volunteer around the US. Knowledge of how to do things properly wouldn’t hurt anyone. In fact it would save lives!

 

Fire Training Completed Thank You RSI, WGI & NASCAR!

I’m wholeheartedly thankful to the good people at Race Services Inc. Watkins Glen International and NASCAR for providing me with fire training. In my five years of volunteering this was the first time I got an opportunity to pull a pin on a fire extinguisher, I was so excited I did it a few times. I learned a few things that I will share in this post.

Obviously over the years I’ve read plenty of manuals, marshal hand books and watched quite a few training videos on how to handle a fire bottle. I’ve been on station where there was a car fire, one incident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway involved a Porsche 911 driving to the nearest cutout near our station and backing up all the way to our station on the access road with it’s tail end on fire. Of course at that moment I was on Comms and one of my colleagues got the privilege to actually squirt it with powder, but until the fire training seminar at WGI I haven’t actually handled an extinguisher.

The interesting thing, at least to me, was the fact that it didn’t quite work the way I thought it would. By the time I got my hands on the bottle several other people had used the extinguisher already so it wasn’t as charged as it should. I went to spray the propane fire on our NASCAR prop car and the powder wouldn’t actually reach the car, there was powder coming out but the pressure was weak. This was a good reminder for a real world scenario, knowing that there’s only so much you can do with a single bottle. I was given a freshly charged extinguisher after that and quickly put out the fire with one swift squeeze on the trigger. Or so I thought… the fire wasn’t completely put out and the propane quickly reignited shooting over the hood of the car. This time I squeezed the trigger a little longer moving the nozzle side to side to cover the whole base of the fire. It was so cool! It also demonstrated that you don’t have to be an inch from the car to effectively put out a fire. WGI used a wooden structure to simulate the height of a typical ARMCO around the track, and the car was a good six feet away, which again simulates a realistic scenario that a car stops on track, some distance from the ARMCO and is on fire. The fully charged fire extinguisher had no propblem putting out a small fire from the location and distance the WGI crew simulated. There was no need to go trackside to do the same job, and more importantly as is procedure when working with RSI our first priority would be to call Race Control to advise them of the fire and actually fighting the fire would be of secondary priority as the Fire Truck would be dispatched quickly, followed by the tow vehicle and other rescue services that typically respond to a vehicle that must be towed off the track anyway after the incident.

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Fire demo by one of the Watkins Glen International Chiefs

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I was so excited to handle the bottle, after the rest of the F&C team took their turns, I went again. As with anything else, practice using the extinguisher. Directing the flow of the powder or chemical mixture. The smell of it, and all the particles that fly in the air. The change of wind direction, etc. It was really educational to finally experience it hands on.

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So thank you again Race Services, Inc. and Watkins Glen International for hosting this event. And thanks to NASCAR for providing the props and standardized training, both online and on-site which I found to be very useful and could only wish it was offered to all volunteers that marshal around the US. This marshal education certainly wouldn’t hurt anyone, and only benefit people in case they are faced with a situation they haven’t faced before.

Because of this experience I will make a commitment this year to come back to Watkins Glen at least once more and try to volunteer for IMSA and/or NASCAR events. Well worth the effort, and I would invite anyone else to join me. The Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is amazing in the summer time, Seneca Lake, downtown Watkins Glen, NY and especially WGI, it is a world class facility.

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Motorsport Tourism NYC

According to Entrepreneur.com “Adventure Club,” “Adventure Travel Agent,” “Community Tour Guide,” and “Specialty Travel” are the buzz words in today’s HOT customized & personalized Travel Industry. And thanks to their collective wisdom I’d like to offer a service some die-hard Motorsport enthusiasts may find valuable.

Introducing Motorsport Tourism NYC

I am conveniently located in the New York City Metropolitan area. There is a variety of Motorsport events on the calendar to satisfy everyone’s needs, from Club and Sports Car Racing to IndyCar and NASCAR, to Moto events and private track rentals.

I offer Consulting, Concierge and Chauffeur Services which I will explain in detail below. Service rates are reasonable and competitively priced so don’t hesitate to contact me for a quote.

Services:

  • Organize Itinerary
  • Optimize Frequent Flyer/Hotel Loyalty Program benefits
  • Event Tickets and VIP passes
  • Accommodation Booking
  • Rental Car/RV/Sports Car/Exotic Car Booking
  • Airport Meet & Greet Service
  • Transportation Services
  • Entertainment & Foodie Experience Planning
  • Circuit/Paddock Tour Guide Service
  • NYC Sightseeing

Ports of Entry:

  • JFK – John F Kennedy International Airport (NY)
  • LGA – LaGuardia Airport (NY)
  • EWR – Newark Liberty International Airport (NJ)
  • TEB – Teterboro Regional Airport (NJ)
  • HNP – Westchester County Airport (NY)
  • SWF – Newburgh International Airport (NY)
  • NYC – New York Penn Station
  • NWK – Newark Penn Station
  • New York Cruise Terminal
  • Bayonne Cruise Ship Terminal

Chauffeur Services:

  • Mazda Miata MX-5 Roadster (1 pax)
  • Lincoln Town Car L-series (4 pax)
  • Chevrolet Suburban SUV (6 pax)
  • Ford Econoline Club Wagon (10 pax)
  • Royale Lincoln Town Car Stretch Limousine (8 pax)

Circuits & Racetracks

Travel Packages

  • Airport Meet & Greet
  • Transfer to and from the Circuit
  • Circuit/Paddock Tour Guide Services
  • NYC Sightseeing Services

Rates

Packages are competitively priced and completely customizable  based on the client’s needs.

Contact

Click here to discuss your travel needs in detail with Russ Golyak 

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About Russ Golyak

Russ is a passionate Motorsport enthusiast and a volunteer safety marshal. While currently based in NYC he has lived in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore while pursuing his Motorsport hobby. Currently he has volunteered in 13 countries and more than 30 circuits for everything from F1 to MotoGP. Russ is also an avid traveler and a foodie and constantly seeks new experiences around the world, especially when they work hand in hand with his Motorsport hobby.

Day Trip to the Poconos

Wasn’t even sure how to title this post… “Post Card from Pocono Raceway” or “My 34th Track” or, well you can see it: “Day Trip to the Poconos” because it is exactly what it was.

It’s not often that there are events at the Pocono Raceway that take place on Friday’s. Not ones that use volunteers anyway. Although the track is quite famous with NASCAR and IndyCar, marshals aren’t used on the Tri-Oval. The inner track that is carved into this triangle has recently been repaved and improved. So it was nice not only to see how cars (this time from SCCA) run on it, but also to drive it myself at the end of the day.

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I must say that at 98 mile drive from my home in New Jersey it is by far the closest circuit to me. And by-far I mean some 8 miles closer than Lime Rock which I consider my home track. Or 45 miles closer than New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) in South Jersey. The neat thing about this track is it’s location. Right off of I80 which means it’s the most direct track to me, without the necessity of snaking along on small country roads which are oh so prone to traffic.

With that out of the way I shall give my first impression of the circuit. And as one would imagine a typical NASCAR oval/tri-oval inner track to be, it is flat and fairly bland. I don’t think much impressed me from the get go. It is in a sense similar to the inner track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway or Daytona International Speedway. I couldn’t fall asleep the night before, so instead of tossing and turning I took a quick shower and hit the road at 2am. Arrived at the main entrance of the track just after 3:40am and took a nap there. It was chilly! But I didn’t feel too tired once I was on the inside. The track sort of reminded me of a visit to Manfeild in New Zealand, kind of a farm feel to it. Lots of wooden structures, barn like garages, etc.

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I was stationed at Turn 1 for the practice that Friday morning with one of the local volunteers who normally works for the track manning the gate for big events. She was on comms, I was on flag and we were bored together for the day. It was a good experience overall, and I truly wish there was more happening at this track so I can visit more often. If for nothing else than the convenience of it’s location.

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SCCA at Pocono vs. NASCAR at Watkins Glen

Which one would you choose?

I’ve presented the idea of a conflict in scheduling before, but that was for major events like the Australian F1 Grand Prix vs. Sebring 12 hour in Florida. It was and always is tough to decide which events to apply for as a volunteer. But what would you do when you can’t even volunteer for a race day because of work commitments but could only work a Friday practice day… What kind of trip is worth the drive? Go to a track 1 hour away, 2 hours, 5 hours, etc.

That’s the dilemma I have next week. I’ve been rather busy at work though I still only have two meaningful days of employment which fall on the weekend. This makes my volunteering practically impossible as most racing events take place over Saturday and/or Sunday. Now I want to volunteer, but what is reasonable to do… drive 5 hours each way to Watkins Glen for a major event like NASCAR or drive 2 hours away for a club event with the SCCA? Ironically I pass through the Poconos every time I drive to Watkins Glen in Pennsylvania. Pretty hard to decide.

licence platesOne interesting thing to consider is that I have never worked at Pocono Raceway before. I’ve been very tempted to check it out and add it to the list of tracks I’ve marshaled, it would be track #35.

What doesn’t help is watching other marshals sharing their experiences on Flag Marshals of the World facebook group, which does nothing else but makes me jealous.

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Opinions are most welcome!

Check out the Flag Marshals of the World group, here: ding!

Create your own international license plate on:  www.licenseplates.tv/platemaker.php You can also purchase an actual license plate on the site.