“SCCA, it’s a lifestyle.” Ain’t it the truth!
Childhood is special when one never grows up, but accrues all the wisdom and experience of adulthood, tempered with a child’s reverent wonder.
SCCA membership can foster that.
And that never-ending childhood is particularly wonderful when you can engage in a pastime as a relatively young person — and rapturously fall in love with it… And then carry it on, and on, and on — as long as you can walk, talk and think.
SCCA can definitely enable that.
And even if you get torn asunder from this passionate activity for 20 years through an inevitable passage through the harsh realities of adulthood… Only to revert back, with that patented childlike glee — but this time truly fortified with an adult’s wisdom, well, that’s akin to perfection.
As strange as it sounds, it’s true — because it’s exactly what I’ve experienced. And as you might’ve figured, the SCCA was an integral part. Ancient history is always relevant because 1) it should’ve taught us lessons and 2) it’s the foundation on which we currently rest.
Thank God SCCA is part of my good ole days.
My racing history started in 1960 at what we today call “Thompson 2” — though back then it was a veritable field of dreams, woods and swamps surrounding a rubber-smeared streak of asphalt. That instilled in me a love of sports cars and road racing and their people that even a 30-year career in NASCAR couldn’t fray. How could it, when NASCAR was responsible for carrying me to such iconic venues as Riverside, Sears Point, Mosport and Mid-Ohio, not to mention many re-visits to Watkins Glen. But before I even thought about NASCAR, I had to join the SCCA.
I had just begun my professional career as a sports writer when, in 1979, I went to Lime Rock with a media pass and ended up joining my younger brother Matt on a corner for the day. I was absolutely, instantly hooked — probably in large part because back then, you didn’t even have to join the club to participate. I did my whole first season, more than 30 days including Pro car and motorcycle races, on a “log book” that simply registered my participation. Once I figured out I wanted to join, since membership then was based on a calendar year, I waited until January of 1980.
And it was on! Over the next 17 years I worked dozens and dozens of SCCA events, including 15 Runoffs, as well as nearly 50 professional events including Formula 1, IndyCar, Pro Atlantic, Trans-Am, Can-Am and more than two dozen IMSA Camel GT weekends. After working most of the 1984 NASCAR Winston Cup season as a writer/photographer for the late, lamented weekly racing trade paper Speedway Scene, I went to work in the PR Department at Daytona International Speedway, moving to Florida in the process. I became a dual-region SCCA member — my beloved NER and Central Florida — and continued to rock-and-roll.
In 1997 I switched from International Speedway Corporation — Daytona’s parent company — to NASCAR.com, back to writing and photographing. But as much as that position was a dream gig, it put another dreamlike existence on hold. Traveling from 25 to 30 weekends a year made it difficult to justify going “to another race” on an off-weekend. So I let my SCCA membership lapse. And yeah, it certainly eroded the spirit a bit. How much? Well, I moved to Northern Virginia — 50 miles from Summit Point — in December 2014 after my NASCAR career petered-out. But it took me until September 2016 before I ever got there. Can you say “brain dead?” Actually, having dropped out of the club in 1996 I had just gotten out of the habit of even thinking about it. Not even a wonderful weekend at Thompson’s 2nd annual VRG event in June 2016 was enough to rouse me from my coma-like doldrums. But it definitely planted a seed.
And what occurred next, the veritable “rest of the story,” explains why SCCA is as much of a special place today as it always was and why getting involved — and I’m talking up-to-your-elbows in hands-on — is as easy as just showing up.
My two SCCA-member brothers of mine and I had literally grown up at Thompson. So with “Thompson 4” thriving in the summer of 2016 and yours truly having officially retired in June of ’16, we decided to put the band back together again at the July NERRC round. Now mind you, my plan was to drive up from Virginia to help Bruce with his Caracal Formula Vee, drink beer and soak-in what I thought was a long-lost atmosphere. But since my flagging gear was tucked in the corner of a closet, I threw it in my car. Good thinking, that was… because I was in the middle of an eight-hour trip from Northern Va when Bruce called me… “You got your gear?” he asked. “Jessie needs you to work a corner.”
Now, I figured “Jessie” — Jessie Honigs, the leader of a merry band of freebooters known as the “NER Flag Mob,” knew what she was doing, so I said “I’m in.” Boy, did she ever! I was quickly signed-up as a weekend member, given a 5-minute refresher course and out to a corner I went. By the end of the day I was completely re-enthralled with an activity that puts you as up-close-and-personal as you could want to get with motor racing, in the company of a great bunch of people who share the same bordering-on-insanity dedication to fun and involvement. I was hooked all over again. Went back to Virginia, contacted the DC Region flag chiefs, did another weekend membership and worked a 3-day double-regional at Summit Point. That made it easy to decide to rejoin, which I did for half-price thanks to my two weekends of volunteering.
And oh yeah, how cool is it to do this in 2018? Well, I worked 13 days in my comeback year, 2016, but that was just a warmup. In 2017 I worked 58 days for seven SCCA regions, four of which actually compensate you for flagging. I’m not even talking about feeding and swilling you with plenty of cold beverages — everyone does that, now. They give you money in varied forms! This year I believe I’ll eclipse that by far since, along with being committed to the SCCA, I’m a contract flagger for Thompson, Summit Point and VIR, along with participating with an independent contract flagging group that works events at Summit’s three independent tracks. Whew!
I’m not saying you have to go as overboard as me — sheesh, I put 26,000 miles on my car in a year — but getting involved is as easy as making a phone call or showing up at an event. Trust me, you won’t regret it. And who knows where it might lead. As I write this I’m sitting in Norfolk, Va., preparing to assemble what I hope will be my very own Formula Vee.
But that’s another story…