As the Daytona 24 approaches, we figured we’d share another racing story with you. This one happens to be my daughter’s favorite, and anytime we’re swapping stories, she asks me to share this one:
Although I’ve been fighting my poorly-formed feet and Charcot-Marie-Tooth since I was 12 y/o, there was a time when I could strap my feet into a quality pair of hiking boots and get around pretty well! It was during this time, the year 2000 when I was 19, that I worked my first Daytona 24 as a Course Marshal.
I was assigned to Turn 1 and worked most of the weekend at Pit Road Exit, where you stand on a large concrete block that acts as an anchor to the end of the catch fence. You’re so close to the cars coming out of the pits, that you could easily tap the drivers on their heads with the end of your flag. You literally hang over them with the flag to give them an indication of what track conditions they’re exiting in to, and you’re the first flag station that drivers see after start. It’s busy, and you have multiple lanes of travel you have to watch to stay safe.
It was the Friday before the race and teams were in practice mode. I was on break, so I was sitting on the edge of the aforementioned concrete block, having a snack and watching the action. There was a Porsche coming down the front straight, and as it passed under the starter’s stand, it blew a rear tire. I had some time to see where she was headed, and I didn’t want to just run blindly and put myself in a more dangerous situation so I stayed where I was for a moment. As it turned out, the car was headed straight toward me and not scrubbing off much speed. My options were the thin interior concrete wall of pit road to my right or the metal armco to my left, so I opted to duck behind the substantial concrete block I was already sitting on. The car hit just ahead of the block and threw parts in every direction. I can remember hearing bits and pieces hit the ground behind me, but I knew that pad wasn’t going anywhere.
When I stood up, the car was a mangled mess sitting about 15 feet to the left of me and the pad. Because I was on break, I didn’t jump into action. Workers have a very well thought out system of who responds, where, and how, and I didn’t want to get in the way: Nothing was on fire, and the driver’s cage was intact so no one was panicking. Thankfully, the driver, an older gentleman who looked to be in his sixtires, was fine. He was very clearly dismayed by the carnage, but he didn’t appear to be injured. My fellow workers directed him to move behind the wall, and after crossing the armco, he came to stand next to me.
I asked the driver if he was OK, and knew to keep an eye on him: Drivers sometimes pass out after their adrenaline drops following a wreck. We were standing together watching the oil dry start to go down and pieces of his car be picked up, while we waited on the ambulance. We didn’t talk much: I mean what do you say to someone whose $300k+ car just turned in to a 500 piece puzzle?! I asked if he wanted water or if he wanted to sit down. He just shook his head, so I kind of shrugged, held out one of my Oreos, and said, “Do you want a cookie?” at which point he burst out laughing. He rubbed a hand over his head and said, “No, but Thank you.” I figured the least I could do was offer him some chocolate. I mean, I wasn’t doing anything else. The ambulance arrived and the driver gave me a smile and a wave before thanking me again and saying goodbye.
I wonder if he remembers that. As for me, I make sure we have Oreos in the race trailer every weekend. 🙂
If you haven’t worked as a Course Marshal yet (aka. F&C, “Flagging and Communications), you’re missing out! I highly recommend it! -Becca