Driving The Cleveland Track ... In A Truck
At this year's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland, I had the unique opportunity to drive one of the SCCA support
trucks, a Chevy 4x4 Silverado, for the weekend. What did this mean? It meant whenever the corner workers needed to be
transported to or from their stations, when they needed lunch and water delivered, or in the case of this year's
event, when they had to be evacuated due to lightning, I and my fellow transport drivers got to drive on the track.
Sure, it wasn't a Champ Car, or for that matter even a Barber Dodge car, but it was still thrilling in its
own right. For starters, there is no possible way to fully appreciate how wide this course is until you are
actually on it. The Cleveland track is huge! I'm surprised they don't lose a driver or two every year
looking for his way around the vast expanses of the runways.
The lack of markers and other means to know where your braking points are and when the corners are coming up is
also apparent when you are on the track. There are brake markers and cones erected, but it still must be
difficult for the drivers.
Luckily for us, we weren't hammering the course, though we sometimes did open it up a tad bit especially when
nobody was in the back of the truck. Which brings me to another interesting observation. When transporting the
workers around, they would sit in the back, exposed to the world. Yet, their total confidence in us drivers was
startling. Or perhaps they simply hid their fear very well...
Nonetheless, they all knew we were national competition licensed drivers, and were not about to do something
that would make the SCCA look bad. In fact, there was an interesting relationship between CART and the SCCA. Kind
of like a shotgun wedding -- they need us to supply workers and help organize portions of the event, but they just
as soon be able to do it all themselves ... if they could.
However, we have to give credit where credit is due. CART did praise us for our quick work clearing the course
during the thunderstorms and then promptly returning the workers to their posts. That was certainly quite
interesting, and somewhat comical. Every time we had the workers back at the SCCA trailer, the lightning had
stopped, and we had to head back to the track. By the third time, the workers were joking, "Gee, do you think we
could actually get out of the truck this time?" Then there was the guy who refused to get into the truck,
preferring to hide out in the porty potty.
Speaking of corner workers, they are an amazing bunch. I already knew this having been involved in the SCCA
for around 23 years and racing for 18 of them. Yet, every time I see them up close and in action, I'm always awed
at just how remarkable they are. To stay out on the course, sometimes up to 12 hours a day, in searing heat, heavy
rain, or blustery cold -- all three for this past weekend -- shows a dedication unequal in any sport.
They do, however, sometimes get lonely. When we dropped off food at Station 2, one of the female workers asked
us to pass along a message to her fiance on Station 3. She wanted him to come down and pay her a visit.
One of the observations many of us drivers made was the logistical nightmare it is to put on one of these
events. Just our portion of it -- transporting the workers, picking up the lunches and drinks from the food
trailer, making sure they all get delivered properly, etc. -- is hard enough. Then to think that this sort of
thing is going on in seemingly infinite other areas throughout the venue, it is amazing they can pull this off
It certainly was a unique way to view a CART weekend. And enjoyable as well, except for the time that the
CART Safety Team chastised us like little school children for parking our trucks 590 feet away from the first
turn instead of 600 feet, or something silly like that. It appears the arrogance that many people accuse CART also
permeates the Safety Team with their "We are God" attitude.
I also offer an apology for those in the paddock when we came barging through honking our horns demanding we
make our through. We didn't mean to be obnoxious, but when the weekend schedule depended heavily on us getting
out on the track and doing our thing, we had to be a little forceful.
Copyright © 2001 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.