Invisible People

Episode 155

April 2, 2017

Invisible People

After the  meeting of the Northern Maine Karting Association last week, my topic for this week was cemented. For a race to happen many things must occur behind the scenes for a safe and fun event to transpire. We spent much of the meeting getting the workers needed to put on a races throughout the Friday Night Kart Series hosted by Spud Speedway.

Invisible people became visible to me when I thought of those people who make everyday life work. One example was the nurses and staff at the nursing home where racing legend Erny “The Flying Frenchman” Levesque lived out his last days.

I realize those folks are paid to do a job. What I experienced was that those who interacted with Erny were going beyond the call of duty in the performance of their tasks. They were dedicated to insuring the dignity of the elderly and treated them with respect.

My parents and life experience has taught me to be polite and to say “thank you” to those who have helped me. Something like “treat others as you would like them to treat you”. Sound familiar?


Woodland native Jason Griffeth, Daytona International Speedway Head of Grounds is an example of “Invisible People” whose handiwork may be noticed but their name may not. Photo courtesy Daytona International Speedway.

Weeks ago, I planned to write about “invisible people”  in a future blog. Yesterday I received the May 2017 Road & Track magazine in the mail. On pages 56-61, writer Preston Lerner and photographer Richard Pardon told the stories of typical invisible people in his article “Hidden Figures”, stories of workers, volunteers, and staff that help make a 24 hour race work.

IMSA Inspectors at Daytona checking to see that this race car conforms to race rules. These folks will typically not be headline material. HTF Motorsports

Lerner briefly mentioned the fueler for the #33 AMG a car and team I featured in an earlier episode when I also was at the 24 Hours of Daytona. He also highlighted the safety car driver, IMSA pit-lane marshal, race announcer, race control directors, flagger, and spotter were also interviewed.

After the NMKA meeting and reading Lerner’s piece, I want to help make the invisible more visible in some small way.

How many times have I gone to race tracks when I overlooked those folks who made my experience positive? I would like to use my experience at a major event in 2016, the Oxford 250.

Entering the pit area, I approached the ticket window where two ladies handled the transaction. They were pleasant despite the large crowd that was lined up to enter the race track. They chose to be pleasant which certainly made my experience more enjoyable.

When I went to the restroom, I thought of the tough job that fell upon someone to keep up with hundreds of patrons. On a side note, I rank the restrooms at Indianapolis Raceway Park in Claremont, Indiana number one of any race track I have visited.

The tech persons who make the tough calls which determine the legality of race cars are often maligned by competitors, crews, and race fans. I have often wondered what drives those folks to do that task?

The corner flaggers who display the caution flag when there has been an on-track incident must gather some satisfaction from a safe race and being close to the action. Why else would they potentially risk life and limb to slow down speeding race cars and endure extended length races with little chance to visit the infield restroom, which more than likely is a smelly port-a-potty doesn’t make sense to the average person.

Think of the scorers whose job has been made easier with electronic timing and scoring, provide the human touch allowing racers to line up properly after a caution. I remember races from the past at various tracks where I may have questioned the positioning of cars after a caution. Spend some time in a timing and scoring tower and you will develop a new respect for the difficulty of that job.

As a radio DJ, I pay attention to race announcers. Do they hold the attention of the fans? Do they know some behind the scenes facts about the racers or teams? Are they easy to understand?

This job requires technical skills as well as artistic prowess to be done properly. Try announcing sometime and I suspect you will quickly recognize the talent needed to be a good announcer.

Enjoy food? Do you have a favorite track food? What makes you want the crisp French fries that you get at the local track? How about that extra touch that makes the track hamburger worth coming back for?

Try cooking for a hungry crowd. Think of the skills that person must possess under the pressure of large hungry crowds that appear between heat races or before the feature. Glad it is not me.

I looked back at my extensive photo files and guess what; I could not find a single photo of the folks who make the race possible. Loads of drivers crews, and cars but none of the folks checking IDs, or cooking the food, or making sure the race went off without a hitch.

You get my point? I would venture a guess that the so called invisible people have a love for motorsports.

My intent is not to force you say thank you to those invisible people who make it possible for you to pursue your favorite sport as a driver, crew person, or fan. Simply be more aware of their importance.

Northern Maine Karting Association (NMKA) Sets Friday Night Race Series Schedule

Northern Maine Karting Association Kids Karts at Spud Speedway 2016 season finale. NMKA photo

Members of the NMKA met last week and confirmed their 2017 Friday Night Race Series schedule to be hosted by Spud Speedway in Caribou. The season opener will be June 2 at 6:30 pm.

The teams will have their karts on display at Caribou’s Thursday Nights on Sweden Street season premiere June 8 at 6 pm. This is opening night for the popular street event held throughout the summer on the streets of downtown Caribou. Hundreds typically attend these events.

The NMKA Friday Night Kart Race series is as follows:

June 2, 9, 23

July 7, 21, 28

August 4, 11, 25

September 9

All weekly series races begin at 6:30pm. Pit gates open at 5 pm. Admission for regular races is $10 per person. Grandstand viewing is free.

NMKA regular season points race will conclude August 25. The club was pleased to announce that the Saturday September 9 race will be their first state-wide kart racing festival with extended races, prize money, and awards picnic to follow. Look for more information in a future episode.

Kids Karts (5-7-year-old), Junior Cage Karts (8-12 years) and Senior Cage Karts will headline the summer race series. Engines must be WKA Animal engines in the Junior and Senior Cage classes. The track tires are Vega yellow tire. NMKA limits karts to 4.47 – 4.7:1 for rear gears. Contact NMKA on Facebook for rule package.

Several karts are slated to compete in the Junior and Senior Cage Kart class. Racers made it known that they are itching to get back on track in 2017.

The NMKA will be hosting a track preparation day on May 27 at 10:00 am to spruce up the racing oval. Kart practice will follow clean up.

USAC Silver Crown Season Kicks Off at Terre Haute Action Track

If you have been following UpNorth Motorsports for the last couple years you know that I follow two-time USAC Silver Crown Champion Kody Swanson who resides in Zionsville, Indiana. I first met Swanson through a FFA connection and have followed his career through its ups and downs since. I met with him recently at Fast Times Indoor Karting in Indianapolis last February and talked about his plans for 2017.

Kody Swanson’s Epperson Racing sprint car ready for battle at Lawrenceburg Speedway in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Swanson finished 18th with the ill handling #2E. Photo courtesy USAC Racing

Swanson competed Saturday evening at the banked clay Lawrenceburg, Indiana speedway in the #2E Epperson racing Sprint car finishing 18th. Chris Windom won the race.

Lawrenceburg Speedway prepped and ready to host USAC Sprint cars Saturday night. Photo courtesy USAC Racing

Windom continued his winning ways Sunday evening making it two in a row at the USAC Silver Crown Sumar Classic at Terre Haute Action Track in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Green flag flies in the USAC Silver Crown season opener at Terre Haute Action Track. Collin Markle photo

Swanson started on the pole but lost the lead to Windom on lap 50. Windom held onto the lead for the remainder of the 100-lap event. JP Leary placed second with Swanson in third.

Chris Windom in the Winner’s Circle at Terre Haute Action Track. The Sumar Classic was the USAC Silver Crown season opener. Windom was the 2016 Silver Crown champion. Collin Markle photo

Safety Issues Next Week in UpNorth Motorsports

A discussion last week led me to research some safety topics in motorsports and I am ready to spout on safety whether karts or sprint cars.

Austin Theriault’s ARCA race car for Nashville Speedway. Theriault races Saturday April 8. photo courtesy Austin Theriault Racing

Don’t forget that Austin Theriault races in the ARCA race at Nashville Speedway Saturday April 8 on MAVTV. Look for results and thoughts from Austin right here at UpNorth Motorsports.

The most exciting news is that Resurrection Sunday is less than two weeks from today. The day that changed the course of history.

Let’s Go Racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine