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Auto Racing is the Pits!

High Bank at Daytona International Raceway
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Porsche at Sebring 12 Hour I went to my first 12 hours of Sebring race in 1976. It was a 3 day event and we camped at the track in an area coined "The Zoo". I got hooked on racing. Jeanie and I were always fans of motor sports and Sundays were Racedays. NASCAR, IMSA, Drags, MotoX, any kind of racing. It was the TV, recliner, munchies, and surround sound racing. In the 90's my friend Brian Wade and I were fortunate to know professional drivers like Preston Henn and Rick Haberson as friends. We went to the 12 hour events with "Crew" credentials allowing us into hot areas we otherwise couldn't go. We took pictures.
Jeanie's sister Mandy and her husband Sam Bass had been involved with the Central Florida Region of the Sports Car Club America for a few years and in 1992 introduced us to the grass roots of the sport. We were invited to attend a race called the Turkey Trot at Sebring. An event is a whole weekend. We didn't really know what to expect but we went as visitors and left as club members
Sam and Mandy were Pit Marshals. Their responsibility was anything that happened in the Pits and on Pit Road. When the track is hot (cars on track) there's never a dull moment.
SCCA National at Sebring
It takes a lot of talented people to run a race and there are a lot of different positions to work (for a list of specialties click here)! Jeanie and I decided on the Pits. We started with a Regional (R) License. The R license allows you to learn to work at a specialty position in that region and it's not a short learning curve. The next license is a Divisional (D) license. When the chief of a specialty thinks you are competent enough at your position you will be upgraded to a D license. This shows you are qualified to work that position at any SCCA event nationwide. Pit Road Daytona Paul Newman
Mary Jean Wesche The Chief of any specialty holds a National license and is qualified to "chief" that position at any event sanctioned by SCCA. The Central Florida Region Chief of Pits was Mary Jean Wesche. Mary Jean trained pit workers for about 8 years and also worked as a Managing Editor for several magazines including Super Ford, Mustang Monthly, and 5.0 Mustang. Sam and Mandy Bass had each earned a National license so when Mary Jean retired, Sam became the Chief. Chief Sam Bass
CFR Chief Mandy Bass Two years later Mandy was elected to be Chief of Pits. Her main focus was to be sure that every worker in the pits was qualified to work in any position. Pit road is a dangerous place. Cars can come in too fast, without brakes, and sometimes on fire so training was very important. As a workers gained more skill their responsibilities grew. Under Mandy and Sam's guidance those with a Div license that were schooled in fire, communications, and emergency medical training learned to chief at regional events. It took Jeanie and I six years of training to earn our National license. We worked nearly every event including drivers schools and pro races and we took every class offered. We were really into it.
We stayed active in the club and in the Pits for 10 years. Trying to balance race dates with business obligations was tricky. Both of our careers required a lot of travel and usually in different cities. Often we would fly home, catch 5 hours of sleep and head to the track. Sometimes, we'd just fly to the track.
Jeanie owned her own corporate events company called Spectre Management. She and her photographer Kevin Smith, also an SCCA Marshal, traveled the U.S. on concert tours with the Cranberries, Collective Soul, and others for Ford Motor Company and J. Walter Thompson. Ford and Rolling Stone Magazine sponsored the concerts for the Susan G. Coleman Foundation Race for the Cure.
CFR hosts two national events during the year, the January race at Sebring and the May race at Daytona. The race at Daytona usually falls on my birthday and I usually chief that event. We stayed at the Holiday Inn down at the beach. We usually stay close to the track because we have to be there so early in the morning.
Jeanie Lombardi cover of RollingStone
Pit Marshals at Daytona Beach. Jeanie and Kevin were in the middle of a tour for Ford and Rolling Stone magazine. They had just arrived the evening before the race and needed to relax before taking off again on Monday. She needed some down time at the beach so the next morning Kevin, Sam and I went to the track and Jeanie and Mandy stayed at the hotel on beach Patrol.

The following pictures are from May 6-7 2000. There was a Lot of sun but it wasn't too hot. We met Sam and Mandy on Friday night for registration at the track. We usually hang out at registration for a while and visit because it's a good chance to visit with the "race family". Jeanie and I have made a lot of friends and of all the hobbies we've had this was the most exciting!

 

Daytona - May 6-7 2000 - SCCA National Race

GT Class Grid at Daytona SCCA GT Class on False Grid Daytona

Here are the GT class cars lined up on the false grid. It's called the "false" grid because they are not actually on the track or Pit Road. Pit road and any area of the track that there is racing or fuel are considered "hot" areas.


Michael Lombardi and Kevin Smith Daytona Pit wall
We were "light" on marshals this weekend. Kevin Smith was working at Pit In when a Spec Racer came in totally in flames. Kevin, a chef in real life, kept the flames off of the driver long enough for him to get out of the car. The Daytona fire marshals came to Kevin's back up and the fire was put out without injury to anyone. I am sitting here debriefing Kevin after the fire.
CFR SCCA Spec Racers at Daytona
These are Spec Racers on the grid getting ready to race. They are called "Spec" racers because they are all prepared the same. This type of racing stresses driver skill rather than relying on exotic and expensive solutions for speed.

In our club the term "Age before beauty" is a term of respect. These are some of the brain trust of out region and all of SCCA. We are lucky to have them. Some of these folks have been racing 40+ years. Most come from other regions of the country to live in Florida and we love to listen to stories from the "old days" of racing. Everyone knew each other in "those days" and nobody was famous.

Bill Cannons and Jeanie Lombardi at Daytona
This is Jeanie and Bill Cannons. Bill has been involved with Daytona since Bill France Sr.decided to build it. He and Bill were old friends.
SCCA Stewards
The neat thing about working Pit Central is we are the only place on Pit Road with any shade. All the big guys - Ara Dube,

SCCA Chief Russ Smith
Here is the "Big Guy" Russ Smith. Russ was the Chief Steward for this weekends race. He is ever watchful of the Spec Racers habit to bump draft. No Bump Drafting!!
CFR SCCA Marshals and Stewards
Fritz and Bill in race discussion

Daytona SCCA Pace Car Driver Jack
During the race there is ONE driver that we
all have to watch out for - JACK!!! Jack drives the pace car.
Lady Marshals at Daytona
Everyone knows that in the manley sport of auto racing it's the ladies that really run the show!

After the cars have run for qualifying times the grid marshals place them in their proper position on the grid. A pit marshal will consult with the driver on the pole position as to which side of the track (inside or outside) he wants to start. The marshal is working a position called a "Splitter". The cars will enter the hot pits from the grid in single file headed towards the splitter The splitter is responsible for maintaining the grid order while dividing the cars into two rows. If the pole driver requested "drivers left" then the next car will line up to his right and so on...
Splitting Cars on Pit Road
Mandy splitting cars
SCCA Marshal splitting racec ars
Jeanie splitting cars

CFR Splitter
We like to involve (recruit) as many folks as we can to work on pit road. This is our "Guest Splitter" Susan. Susan's husband is driving in the race. We are looking forward to working with her again.
Pit Road Daytona
This is our Race Board Chairman Jo. I think that she is taking down the names of everybody that sat with their legs on the wrong side of the pit wall. Doh! Here comes that pesky marshal!

CFR Marshals disagree
Sometimes Mandy gets all uppity. I have to remind her that I am the chief this weekend. She usually settles down after a while.
May 2000 CFR Chief of Pits Michael Lombardi
Yea, yea, yea.

Think you'd like to do this? A weekend of racing is tough work. It's physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging. Working Pit road, you'd better eat your Wheaties. In the summer time at Daytona and Sebring the tarmac will reach 135 degrees. When cars are on the track Pit workers are on the tarmac. By the way, there's no shade. At the end of a weekend you will be exhausted and muscles will ache. You also have an indescribable sense of satisfaction and it lasts for days. Here's a link to the CFR SCCA web site.
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