By T.J. Buffenbarger
Wyoming, MI — Racing season is about to hit full speed for the entire nation in a little under a one month from today. For 2011 I have no announcing, writing, or any other odd jobs in racing other than keeping T.J. Slideways.com running at full speed. This is the first time that has occurred in several years. The realization I’m not a college student anymore and I have a family, a real job, a pile of other reasons made me want to trim some of racing duties for the upcoming season. In doing so I was reflective of the fun nature of some of the other duties I took on and some of the things that were not.
Racing officials, no matter how large or small their roll is, generally is a low or no pay job done by people that simply love the sport. Most nights the best outcome and official can hope for is going through a program without being yelled at. Quite often at the lower levels drivers, teams, other officials, track employees, and others will burn out officials at an alarming rate. To help the prevention of race official burnout I present my list of personalities that ruins the experience a race official:
1. Tin foil hat person: This personality type was the one that ground on me the most. The same time TJSlideways.com started I also started having duties in scoring towers at various race around the country. Even when just working on a story for the website my location is often next to race control, scoring, and other officials. In that 17 years I have never once seen a call where I felt favoritism was in play. At times where a mistake was made the offending call was not made in malice, it was just an honest mistake that was not meant as a way to “get someone”.
Every year I’ve been involved in motorsports as a journalist or official there are always a few people that think the racing world is out to get them. I’ve seen the accusation made at banquets, in screaming post race tirades, and during interviews. This personality trait discounts the hard work the officials do at and away from the track. Tin foil hat person can also burn out officials quickly and soon you struggle to find anyone willing to take on the “striped shirt”.
My advice to tinfoil hat person: Go stake out area 51, go find the movie set the moon landing was supposedly staged on, or ask to be one of the officials for a night and see what really transpires.
2. Will only talk to you while intoxicated guy: This person has confronted me as an official and a journalist. The main reason I don’t like said person is their breath reeks. The strongest mint on the market does nothing to cover up the fact that you smell like a whisky still while going off on our slurred rant three inches from my face. There is no use trying to explain what happened because said person won’t remember the conversation, and I have to keep cleaning your saliva off of my glasses. I’ve had this conversation with car owners, drivers, and crew members alike.
Solution for “likes to confront you after two or fifteen beers guy,”: Come back and discuss the issue calmly after your liver is no longer floating in alcohol.
3. Loudmouth parent or spouse of quiet mannered driver: Most people you deal with in the racing world are civil, well mannered people. Many times it is not the driver that causes you grief. I’ve seen obnoxious wife, husband, mother, father, uncle, step-parent, or third cousin twice removed from your sister’s brother’s husband get in an officials face while the driver could care less about it. This person is also closely related or has traits of the well known personality, “Person who tells me every chance they get that my kid/husband/relative is the next Jeff Gordon…”
Solution for loudmouth family person: Let the driver be the spokesperson for your team.
4. Likes to fight guy: Thankfully like to fight guy generally stays in cars with fenders (I know it’s a stereotype, but it’s true. Example: I was at the DeVos Place indoor late model race several years ago and officials had to break up a fight while warming up the engines before hot laps even started!), every now and then though a team has a driver or crew member that lets like to fight guy tag along. This is not hockey, you don’t need an enforcer. He will not change the official’s mind, and like to fight guy taking out vigilante justice on whomever “wronged you” only brings unwanted attention the sport and makes underpaid/under-appreciated official’s night more of a living hell than tin foil hat guy, only will talk to you while intoxicated guy, and
5. Cannot listen to instructions person: This trait can belong to one of the above mentioned personalities or on its own. It’s the person that through a detailed drivers meeting, rulebook, or individual attention cannot follow instructions. Just little things like not leaving trash in your pit area after the races to being in line on time. It just gets aggravating after a while.
Solution: Find someone on your team that is a detailed oriented person that you will listen to and can keep track of the instructions.
In theory racing should be fun. So the next time you are at the track try to make it fun for your officiating crew as well. They are human and will make mistakes. In turn try to treat them somewhat like fellow humans and bring up your concern or complaint in a civil manner. You’ll make the night more enjoyable for everyone and might keep from having new officials next season.