Written by James Ray
Volunteer grid worker Greg Holt is a great example of someone whose passion for race cars started early in life. He shares an old family photo showing him sitting in the cockpit of an older cousin’s micro midget sprint car. Greg’s father, Henry, can be seen holding onto the roll bar, like he is worried Greg might take off! Another more recent family photo shows Greg as a young father and playing with oldest son Eric’s slot car racing set. Many of us catch the fever young in life and it never leaves us. We just want to have #FunWithCars!
For those unfamiliar with grid workers, they are the ones wearing white helping position the race cars in starting order before each on-track session. Volunteer grid workers provide valuable service by checking driver safety gear and verifying each car displays a current-event tech inspection sticker. They look at driver harness belts and HANS straps to ensure they are fastened, check that helmet and gloves are on, window nets are up, and (for open cockpit cars) that the driver is wearing arm restraints. As race cars pull away from the false grid, a grid worker gives that final reminder to drivers without eye protection to lower their visor.
Greg is a native and current resident of Danbury, CT. He has lived there all of his sixty eight years and works as a Maintenance Mechanic for the Danbury Housing Authority. Greg and his wife Betty raised three sons: Eric, Jay, and Danny. During Jay and Danny’s high school years, the couple fostered two boys. All four kids attended school and played Pop Warner football together until they all went off to college. One can only imagine how hyper-active and crazy hungry these growing boys must have been. It’s been said foster parents have big families and bigger hearts! Unfortunately, their youngest son Danny died in 2010 while attending college, a victim of cancer. In the years after losing Danny to this horrible disease, Greg has organized benefits to help raise money for StupidCancer.org, a 501(c)3 nonprofit geared toward ending isolation and building community for those touched by young adult cancer.
Greg with his wife Betty.
Greg and Betty have always enjoyed watching the races at Lime Rock Park (LRP). Once their kids were grown, the couple joined LRP’s RightHanders volunteer group. In the beginning, RightHanders were unpaid volunteers who helped primarily at LRP’s big spectator weekends. RightHanders escort guests on paddock tours, facilitate driver autograph sessions, help with various pre-race festivities, and assist at the media center and in the winner’s circle. At first Greg and Betty were assigned to sell event programs from a crowded booth, but that quickly became boring. Betty subsequently opted out, but at future events Greg helped by hanging banners around the track and shuttling guests around by golf cart. He remembers the best part of the job was carrying guests who had never before visited LRP. Greg offered new guests a quick tour, and occasionally was asked to be shown the best places around the track for spectating. Greg explains how it was fun driving over the bridge, coming to a stop, and pausing just long enough for a big pack of thundering race cars to drive under the bridge. Greg says, “Young kids, especially, got so excited when they hear the car’s loud exhausts coming and feel the air vibrate and bridge rumble as speeding cars raced underneath them.”
While volunteering at LRP, Greg noticed the people out on track wearing white uniforms and asked others, “Who are they and what are they doing?” Other RightHanders told Greg about the SCCA corner workers and suggested he join the club if he wanted to get closer to the action. Greg recalls his cousin Leslie, who years earlier introduced Greg to sports car racing at LRP, was a SCCA corner worker flagging at area tracks for more than a decade. Greg surfed the internet and joined the club online at scca.com.
Greg working grid at Lime Rock for an IMSA race.
After joining the club Greg says he started volunteering, with training by Ed Capullo to work in the pits. Over the course of numerous events, Greg tried different jobs: helping with timing and scoring, assisting the starter up in the start/finish station, and working corners flagging at a couple of events. He noticed those guys in Grid seem to be having an awful lot of fun. Greg says, “I just naturally drifted into Grid and man it’s like wow, I’ve finally found my home.” In addition to doing the grid worker’s safety checks, he appreciates getting a close look at the race cars, talking with the drivers, and usually after the cars go out on track, there is time for a short break before the next run group starts forming up.
I first met Greg several years ago when he was working Grid at LRP. I was busy snapping photos of the cars as they pulled away from the false grid when Greg assertively said, “Take a picture of me too!” Greg explained how photographers are always taking pictures of drivers and their cars, but they never want to see the workers doing what they do! I acknowledged the legitimacy of Greg’s comment and have since then done a better job of taking pictures of our club’s volunteer workers, not just the race cars, their drivers and crew.
The grid crew working an event at Thompson, from left to right, top to bottom: Sydnia Czarnecki, Laura Villaume (Blossom), Jenn Ferreira, Ed Hallabeck, Greg Holt, and Karen Petersen.
After posting more than fifty thousand race photos on Flickr resulting in more than two million views, I’m now confident Greg is correct about the importance of taking pictures of workers. Unfortunately, we have recently lost too many club members to COVID, cancer, accidental deaths, and simply old age, so I appreciate having digital photos of those lost to help with our memories. The older the photo, the more interesting it is to see the people pictured, not just the car!
Speaking of cars, Greg says his first car was a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle. He says, “Back in the day, people like to soup them up with big tires and special headers and muffler.” Lots of time has passed between then and now. Greg currently drives an Audi A3 and wife Betty drives a practical Subaru Forrester. Not exactly a sports car, but Greg claims the best car he has ever driven is a Jeep Cherokee, saying at one time there were three Cherokees in the family at the same time. Greg and Betty’s weekend have-fun sports car is a beautiful green 1999 Mazda Miata convertible with white stripes. It’s been upgraded with sportier wheels and tires, roll bar, racing seat, harness belts, and Mark Gregory installed a removable steering wheel for him. The one engine mod is an after-market cold-air intake, which Greg says, “Makes the Miata sounds cool.” Greg believes the Miata is a wonderful track car and has driven it on several tracks as part of SCCA’s Track Night In America, Sports Car Driving Association’s, and Hooked On Driving’s high performance driving education events. LRP and Thompson Speedway are Greg’s two favorite tracks. He mentions the mountainous terrain at Palmer is more challenging and he doesn’t have enough experience yet at New Hampshire to feel comfortable.
Working the false grid at Lime Rock Park.
Masked up at Thompson in 2020.
When asked what advice he would give others considering volunteering at road racing events, Greg advises, “Try all the specialties: flagging, grid, pit, timing and scoring, starter, do whatever is available and needs help. Go more than once to give yourself an opportunity to make a fair decision as to where you might best fit. Go in with an open mind, and trust your gut to help you discover what you like the best.”
Greg has settled in as a licensed grid worker because his passion was for getting hands on and eyes close to the race cars, talking with drivers, and helping keep them safe. He remembers Laura Villaume (aka Blossum) and Karen Petersen were great teachers. He learned a lot by just following, watching and listening to them work the grid. When asked about the benefits of volunteering Greg is quick to say, “The best thing is making new friends and having fun.” He mentions close friend Ken Pallant, with whom he enjoys working at many SCCA events. Greg goes on to explain once you’ve gained the experience, you’ll learn about new opportunities to visit tracks all over the country. He smiles when remembering working grid at LRP for Pirelli World Challenge and at Watkins Glen for IMSA and the Trans Am cars.
The next time you see Greg strutting his stuff in the false grid, give him a big thumbs up!