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Corner Worker Viewpoint

By: Patty Poupart
    I consider myself a big race fan.  I not only participate in the sport as a driver and crew member, but also enjoy being a spectator.  It's just as much fun traveling around the country to attend professional races as it is being a spectator at the local amateur level races.  But no matter where I am, I always find myself drawn to the corner workers and the safety crews.  They are fascinating to watch, actually.  They have their own set of hand signals and ways to communicate with each other as well as the drivers.  Some workers are not racers themselves, but travel around the country just to work the races.  They are crucial to each race.  Without these valuable workers, the races could not be run.  These people are all volunteers.  They do it for the love of the sport.

    I recently had the opportunity to work one of the stations at No Problem Raceway ("NPR").  I was fortunate enough to be paired up with Brian Johnson, a licensed SCCA F&C (Flagging & Communications) worker.  Brian's regular station is at Turn 8 which is located on the short back straight.  For a first timer, this may have been one of the best stations to work.  Not only was I closer to the track than in any of the spectator areas, but I could see almost the entire track.  I was now in the middle of the action.  Turns 13 & 14, those closest to the spectator/pit area, were too far for me to see and I could not see between the walls of the dragstrip which line the front straight.  Working one of the stations at NPR gives you an insider's view into the race action that none of the spectators would ever see.  Don't get the idea that the corner workers just stand there and watch the cars go by.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

    I learned that it takes at least 2 people to adequately man a worker station.  Brian taught me the proper use of various flags, some hand signals, and proper radio communication.  He even let me wear his headset so that I could listen to all the radio talk.  We stood facing each other so that we could see each other's facial expressions while taking turns watching opposite directions of the track.  I would hold the "passing" flag while watching the approaching traffic.  If I could see a car moving through the field in the previous turns, I had to be prepared to show the passing flag to the slower cars.  Meanwhile, Brian watched the cars as they passed our station until they got through the next couple of turns.  If an incident were to occur, he would throw the "yellow" flag to warn the approaching cars of impending trouble.

    At the start of the race, each station shows "double yellow" flags to let the drivers know to continue at pace lap speed.  At this particular track, the field is to be formed up by the time they get to the back straight.  This is where the lights on the pace car go out and the pace car races ahead to safely exit the track.  Our station would radio to the starter and advise whether or not the start would be a "go."  I even got to show the "meatball" flag to a formula car that had a loose part hanging.  That's the black flag with the big orange circle in the middle. 

    Although there were a few incidents where cars went off the track, none of them were serious and no one was injured.  We didn't have to respond to any serious incidents, but it is good to know that the "guys in white" are out there to respond to the needs of each driver and protect them in the case of an incident.  The corner workers are the ones who control race traffic to make sure that any car on or off the track is not subject to more danger.  They are also there to respond to fire or injury and coordinate appropriate rescue operations.  I've seen these guys save lives at pro races.

    I think the best part of each race is the lap after the checker flag is shown when the drivers wave to the corner workers to show their appreciation.  They wave, honk horns, flip headlights on and off (if they have them), and make you feel good about being there for them. There are many different types of events that take place on the road course at NPR which require corner workers.  You don't have to be licensed to work at NPR, but if you are an SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) member, you can become a licensed F&C worker which allows you to work at other tracks around the country.  The demand is high for workers at NPR and there are usually extra bonuses for the corner workers.

     I enjoyed the experience and look forward to "donning my whites" and working again.  I learned quite a lot and would like to encourage anyone who is a race fan to volunteer and give it a try.  I did.  What about you?
Members of the Corner Krewe at Station 13, No Problem Raceway
Tom Miller (left) and Stanley Fussell (waving yellow flag)
Patty Poupart Photo

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