It looks simple on race night: line the cars up, wave the green flag and let ‘em race.
Nothing could be further from the truth. From seven hours before the green flag until at least two hours after the checkered flag, there is a core group of indispensable, under-appreciated individuals who make the evening go as smoothly and equally as possible. From inspectors to scorers to flagmen and more, this group toils away more for the love of the sport than money.
“I think the average fan, even the average competitor doesn’t have a clue how important xxxx is, how hard they work and how much flack they take at times,” said Cathy Rice, general manager at South Boston Speedway. “There is absolutely no way we could ever put on a race without them. They keep things moving in the pits and on the track.
“They work so hard to make sure we have a level playing field and everyone is treated fairly in every division. It’s hot. There’s a lot of pressure. The hours are long. But every week, they show up and quietly go about their business. I’m always amazed at how hard the group we have works and how well they work together.”
That core crew of indispensable officials at South Boston Speedway is headed up by Jeff Bomar, the track’s head technical inspector. He works in the infield every event alongside Bruce Barksdale, Bear Clark, Speedy Austin, Michael Crews, Jimmy Davis, Matthew Halloren and Ken Utt. Tracey Sage and Connie Glass handle scoring while Hunter Rose is the flagman.
Generally, the group begins work around noon on race day and finish up around midnight … if they are lucky.
They begin the day in a group meeting with Rice and Bomar.
“We like to make sure everyone is on the same page and to go over anything new we may have going on for the week,” said Bomar.
Then they scatter to their respective areas.
Clark and Crews oversee tires, making sure the barcodes of all tires have been scanned and recorded to the appropriate car in a data base. They also help roll the tires out of the tire shed.
Barksdale and Austin work with the Late Model teams, Utt and Davis with the Limited teams and Halloren works with the Pure Stocks and the Hornets. The officials are there to make sure things go smoothly, rules are followed, that the schedule runs on time and to answer any questions teams may have.
“We like for the same guys to stay with the same division from week to week. We like for the teams to become familiar with them, so they know who to go to if they have a question,” said Bomar.
When their respective division is on track, inspectors keep a close eye on the action on the track and cars coming into the pits. At other times, when other divisions are on track, they are busy wherever they may be needed.
Everyone is cross trained also. For instance, when Clark is finished working with tires, he serves as the stop-and-go official at the end of pit road during the races. Similarly, Crews moves to the spotters stand to help answer questions and maintain order there.
Post-race all are busy making sure cars get through the scales and on to technical inspection.
“The top five go through the scales and we check first, second and third close. Each week we check something different. It may be engines one week; rear ends the next. We try to change it up every week to keep everyone honest,” said Bomar.
The 2020 South Boston Speedway season kicks off on March 21 when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour visits for a 150-lap race. There will also be twin 75-lap NASCAR Late Model Stock races.
With Christmas approaching rapidly, remember, South Boston Speedway gift certificates make great Christmas presents. They may be purchased by calling 877.440.1540, toll free, Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.