Written by Chris Milton-Hall

Over the years, at Registration for an event, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “Thank you for your donation to the workers’ fund.” I’m not a big spender but I usually add $50.00 to show my appreciation. I’ve often thought well, that’s nice – to be thanked. But I’ve also often noticed that it sounds as if the person saying it to me is surprised. So, this last weekend at Palmer I finally asked the person registering me whether it was not pretty standard for all or most of the drivers to contribute. I was told “no”. Well, I have to admit, that is disappointing.

I think we all know that these events would not happen – WE would not get to race – if it was not for the lengthy, hard, sometimes strenuous and occasionally dangerous work these unpaid volunteers do: From Registration to Tech to Grid, F&C to Sound Control (Boo) to Pits to Timing to Stewarding – to many others.

Before I raced (and occasionally when unable to race) I was a flagger. I started in the late ’60s at Watkins Glen and flagged Formula Ones, TransAms, CanAms, Nationals and Regionals there and at Mosport and once at Road Atlanta. I even flagged a snowmobile race once at Watkins Glen (they used the short course – thank God). I’ve flagged at New Hampshire, Palmer and Lime Rock more recently.

Photo by Turtles Way Racing Photography

I’ve had a ton of fun doing this. I saw some great racing and some great drivers: Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, David Hobbs, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, James Hunt, Nicki Lauda, Mark Donahue, Sam Posey, George Folmer, Paul Newman and many highly competent regional and national SCCA and IMSA drivers. I have also seen some great cars being pushed to their absolute limits (and sometimes beyond): Ferraris, Brabhams, Williams, Tyrells (including the infamous six-wheeler), Lotuses (Loti?) Mclarens, the Penske Sunoco Porsches, Mini Coopers and Vees beyond count.

Volunteering for SCCA was its own reward BUT, the days were exhausting. No one paid for my gas or for my lodging – usually in a tent. (F1s at Watkins Glen were always in October – my wife and I woke up in our tent one night to find ice had frozen the sleeping bag to the floor of the tent.) None of us expected to be paid – but a thank you wave from a driver at the end of a race was always appreciated.

NER does a great job of taking care of the workers. The Saturday dinners to which all are invited. The raffles at those dinners for the workers. Small gifts of NER merchandise or gas cards in exchange for TIPS cards which are issued for each event worked. But the region could do more for our volunteers if WE, the drivers who benefit from all this work, kicked in a small amount each time we raced. MotorsportReg.com makes this very simple when we sign up. There is a box for “Workers’ Appreciation Fund” and you can check off $5 increments. For example, 10 increments is $50.00. A fraction of the amount I spend to race on any given weekend.

If you are regularly contributing to the fund each time you race, then thank you. You know our volunteers appreciate it. If you’ve overlooked the fund in the past, please take a moment more in registration to check off some number of increments equivalent to the value you think these workers add to our lives. I promise you, it’s painless and it will be both appreciated and well-used.