I have been involved for over 30 years with racing of some sort, everything from fan, driver, owner, crew chief, and now as a writer, I have had some of my best times in life( not counting when my children were born) at race tracks. Now with that being said let me share with you my experiences of Saturday night at North Ga. Speedway.
As a writer I try and follow all of the events and excitement I can, and I have found that if I position myself at the start finish line, next to the wall, I can get to most of the track pretty easy, plus I get some really good shots there. And it is easy to call the finishing order into my little digital voice recorder I have come to rely on. Well Saturday night I was at my normal spot at the start finish line and I hear some one hollering “hey dr.” I look up since my friend Steve the flagman has on occasion asked me to run get him a drink, and the flagman is motioning for me to come to the flag stand, so I head over to the opening in the wall and looked up, he is motioning for me to cross the track, well since he has the flags in his hands I head across, feeling pretty strange, crossing the track…..I get to the outside wall, and he tells me to “come on up” so I go to the ladder to the flag stand and make my way up the ladder, once at the top, Steve hands me the yellow flag, “ here hand this to me after I wave the green!”… was he on drugs? He smiled and asked me “ you ever been up here before?” I was stunned, yeah I had been in a flag stand before, but it was when a midget I was driving flipped and landed there, never had I walked up the ladder to get there….. Steve and I talked for a few he showed me the switches that control the lights yellow and green and red. I looked at the flags sitting neatly in their holders, I looked and cars were coming down the front straight toward the flag stand, I watched in amazement as they drove under Steve and I. All I could think of was “WOW” …. Steve told me “you now got the best seat in the house!” and I could not agree more. The limited late models were lining up and I watched as each car took it’s place. I couldn’t imagine watching a race from here, But I was about to.
The cars started making laps around the track getting into position to start the race, I watched as Steve reached for the light switches and he turned the yellow off as the cars rolled by, once the cars were in turn one, Steve flipped the switch for the green on and off a few times letting the drivers know they were coming to the green, with one hand on the switch and one hand holding the Green flag high above his head, the cars rolled into turn 3, my heart was beating about 400mph, I watched almost as if the cars were moving in slow motion, when the front row of Brian Jackson and Leon Brindle rolled thru the middle of 3 and 4 I saw them pick up the pace and then it happened, the green came on the flag started waving madly, just as I was soaking that up 16 limited late models came roaring at me at over 100mph, I got to tell you that even now, the next day I still get chill bumps thinking about the feeling of watching all those race cars roar by me at my feet!
I was snapped out of my trance as I realized that I had a flag in my hand! I quickly handed the yellow to Steve and took the green, again I was almost in a trance as I realized I was holding the very flag that had just started this race!.but as the cars roared by once more, I quickly put the green in its holder, and I thought to myself what can I do to really help instead of just standing here looking like a goof? I reached down and grabbed the move over flag, and got it ready to had it to Steve, and good thing too, because Brian Jackson was on a rail, and in just 6 short laps he was coming up on lapped cars, when Steve turned to get the move over flag I placed it in his hand, he smiled, seemed like he was glad to have an extra set of hands helping .I quickly made myself familiar with the order the flags were in, and tried to become Steve’s second set of eyes looking for spins and crashes, it didn’t take long and I was tapping Steve pointing to a spin, it all seemed to come so natural, as I got settled in. I watched as the race wore on lap by lap and soon I looked up and there was 2 laps to go, so I reached for the white ready to hand it off, soon as I did , I grabbed the checkered getting ready for the last lap, a certain pride swelled up in me when I grabbed that checkered flag, it is really hard to put into words, and lots of people would not understand, for years I had chased that very flag, from down on the track, and now , I had it in my hand, but that was short lived as Brian Jackson came roaring off of turn 4 as Steve waved the checkered, I was glad that a very dear friend of mine Brian Jackson had just won….it was great to see him win, and knowing that I had handed Steve the checkered made it that much more special.
I stayed in the flag stand the rest of the night helping when I could and watching when I couldn’t, learning and soaking up the thrill of being in the flag stand.
I think it was one of those special moments in life, where you come to realize that there is another side to a coin, one where you get to see it first hand and know that you are a small part of history. I will never ever forget last night, and the joy it brought me. The thrill, the rush, it was a very special night.
I want to thank Steve for the chance to experience it first hand, and I am ready and willing to do it all over again! Except next time I am bringing my goggles!!!