Attending a live NASCAR Sprint Cup race is a dream come true for many people. It is the pinnacle of anticipation, the culmination of a goal, Christmas morning and your birthday all wrapped up in one glorious day.
Acres of trailers hawking drivers’ gear, concessions selling track favorites, and a congregation of fans come to worship the teams they root for week in and out.
Nothing else compares to the sights, sounds or feel of a Cup event. For one day you transcend the commonplace and replace it with the extraordinary.
Time is divided into Before the NASCAR race (BNR) and After the NASCAR race (ANR). It becomes all encompassing and you lose yourself in the world of NASCAR.
For one day.
But there are scores of others who work for days, weeks and even months to prepare for that race. They are the “behind the scenes” people who are all-important to the event going off without a hitch. They weave through race day traffic and create the magic that is a Cup race.
Over the weekend I was fortunate to spend time at Pocono Raceway. Unlike when the NASCAR contingency is there, it was quiet and vast. No teeming crowds, no wait at the restrooms, and the freedom to roam around without passes.
My husband was the chair of the event held at the track for the Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA). The turnout was modest but the entrants were the cream of the crop. We had an excellent time racing the north course for endless hours both days.
No matter the size, there are certain details that must be met in order to race at Pocono. Permission is obviously the first part, with all of the paperwork, fees, and insurance that goes with it. In addition, with cars on track you need corner workers. In some of our events corner workers are volunteers but at Pocono we acquired professionals.
The crew from Cars on Course run by Pat Leone arrived Saturday morning in their crisp white uniforms. As the drivers’ meeting got under way, Rick the flagger refreshed the memories of the VSCCA drivers as to what each flag meant. Regardless, we still had some drivers ignore the checkered flag and take an extra lap or two!
For the VSCCA corner workers are vitally important just like a NASCAR race. Flag stations are set up in different parts of the course to relay the information of the action on the track. If an incident occurs, the flagger radios control and action is taken swiftly.
For our event we had seven corner workers, several staff members from Pocono itself, firemen and security. Just for the 30 or so people who came for the VSCCA races we garnered that many personnel.
Leone and his staff, George, Kelley, Carol, Joe, Rich, and Rick, were the ultimate authority. They took their jobs seriously and conducted themselves professionally.
In turn, when we dined with a majority of the group, we found they had the best personalities, too. Our table was cackling and squeaking with laughter that rattled the windows. Leone had spent the whole day with me at pit in/pit out but was still my gracious dinner companion, making me laugh uproariously.
Upon deeper discussions I learned that Leone, George, and Kelley do work the NASCAR events when they come to Pocono. They don’t use their flagging know-how; instead, they work with Operations patrolling the grandstands.
You see, it takes an entire community of people to converge on the track, who know their jobs inside and out, and work seamlessly through the crowds to give the fans an outstanding day.
Leone arrives eight days before the race weekend to prepare for the throngs of people who will be arriving. He has much to do including training some 2500 volunteers. After the races he stays another several days to put everything back into order so the next group, like the VSCCA, will have their own stellar experience at Pocono.
Other employees like Brendon and Harry who are employed by the track itself work year-round to keep Pocono humming. Their jobs are also unsung by the NASCAR crowds (or other clubs that use the track) but are the reason the facility is so fabulous.
I understand the Cup drivers, crew chiefs, and team owners are the celebrities whom most come to catch a glimpse.
I get that being on Speed’s pre- and post-race coverage is a goal of many. It doesn’t escape me that watching the race live, hearing the motors roar to life, vibrating in your chest and fumes filling your nostrils are the intoxicating part of racing.
Just remember, without people like Leone and the other men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes to create a perfect experience, it would just be a car show. These people allow us to watch racing!