I think the only person that had more fun than I did at this weekend’s NASCAR races at Watkins Glen International was Joey Logano who won both the Xfinity Series race on Saturday and the Sprint Cup race on Sunday. Well, maybe he had more fun, his lengthy burn-out at the end of the race almost burned the racecar down. But I got to watch the whole thing while marshaling, and that was neat!
The coolest thing about working with RSI at WGI is you get rotate stations every day you volunteer, so that’s three opportunities to check out different views every day. I got to work Station 9 short on Friday for the K&N race, Station 6 on Saturday for the Xfinity race, and be one of the flaggers at Station 16 for the Srpint Cup race on Sunday.
Friday I was a bit unprepared, forgot my lucky orange hat at home, and my bandana did a horrible job protecting my face from the sun. I got a very unique tan line for the rest of the weekend as a result.
We had plenty of shade on Saturday, but I still managed to make a goofy mistake. It is RSI protocol to call “heads-up” from Station 6 to Station 7 for any car that decides to skip the bus stop. While working Station 9 the previous day I heard race control mention that heads-up weren’t necessary because there were so many of them. So I assumed that was the case for Saturday. I was wrong. My buddy Pat worked Station 7 and said he would have liked a few heads up because they nearly missed their calls when the cars blew the stop as required before rejoining the track after the bus stop. Oops!
Not much really happened on Sunday. But since we had a grand stand directly behind us (the Jackie Stewart Grand Stand) we had a big jumbotron directly in front of us. So we got to watch the entire race which included seeing the run-away wheel that rolled from pit lane all the way down the track and back up towards the Esses stopping after Station 2. And the car that caught on fire after Joey Logano celebrated with a huge burnout winning his second race of the weekend. We saw the car ahead of him run out of fuel directly in front of us, that was neat. To my surprise the race finished under Green which seems pretty unusual for NASCAR because at times the Green, White, Checkered is almost manufactured…
Most of the pictures came out pretty dark because the sun was really bright and any pictures in the shade resulted in dark faces.
As far as best station assignment for the weekend, each one offered a unique perspective. I loved watching the cars run beyond track limits full speed at station 9, they came out right by us often spraying us with grass and other small debris.
For the K&N Pro Series race I noticed a cool sticker job on one of the old Toyotas… the Kobe Toyopet dealership was listed as a sponsor. I had no idea that NASCAR was big in Japan!
From Station 6 the views were probably the best! We didn’t really get to use the “Loop Closed” sign, but both Blue and Yellow flags got a work out that’s for sure. I had to rush to get Red out also, once.
The racing line was right under our noses, with the station designed to put us over and close to the track behind the catch fence. Meanwhile station 16 was re-designed recently which eliminated the necessary cutout for the flagger to stand in, and instead they covered it with larger catch fencing and a small hole cut out for us.
Most of my day on Sunday I spend volunteering at the entry to pit lane. We helped work the crossings so that spectators and some die hard NASCAR fans among them could cross the actual track from Gate 5 towards the Bog. Many of them wandered into the pit lane, and most wanted to take a picture with our checkered or yellow flags. I worked with Pat and Beth who I spend a lot of time with this weekend, and it was a very enjoyable experience. NASCAR fans are some of the most devoted fans I’ve come across, something akin to the European endurance racing fans you meet at Le Mans. Some were, and would happily admit to being rednecks, but not all fans were necessarily in that category, I saw them as die hard racing fans who really celebrated their favorite drivers. For the littlelest fans in that group we had some real NASCAR lug nuts that Dave the pit lane chief scooped up for us the day before, and we were handing them out to the small kids walking through our crossing. I think that really gave them a kick and an experience they weren’t expecting.
The crossing job went on right to the point of other marshals getting delivered to their stations. So we went straight to our posts skipping the morning meeting, etc. I went to Station 16 while Pat and Beth worked Station 17 which is the last turn before Start/Finish.
I was hungry as ever, luckily there was this nice food stand at the bottom of Jackie Stewart grand stand and for $9 bux I had an enjoyable meal before the race.
As I mentioned previously the race ended pretty quickly and under Green flag conditions, so it was back to the RSI campsite to pack up. One of my favorite sights at the campsite was this OFF sticker on a few cars, the “Old Farts Flagging” Society. And it’s a sticker I had nothing to do with it’s creating. But I think it’s very funny.
I am very much looking forward to my next trip to WGI! What an amazing experience this NASCAR weekend was.
BTW. there’s an interesting observation about NASCAR. Friday I used the wrong blue flag to work the race. I was always under the impression that the Blue flag with a Yellow stripe was an official NASCAR flag because you can clearly see it on most ISC circuit logos like Daytona for example. But it turns out that was not the case. For Saturday and Sunday I learned that the solid Blue flag must be used. Not only that, much like the FIA, NASCAR uses all waved flags on stations, and we got to wave the Blue, the Yellow and the Red. It’s ironic that typically in the US all flags are displayed stationary, but it seems when it comes to road courses NASCAR is much like the FIA!