The purpose of a FLAG DRILL

TopGearTech

VRO Principal
Staff member
-taken from the NASA FB group page:

55

The purpose of a FLAG DRILL

This weekend we had a pretty big racing incident. A crash. Nobody was hurt and several cars were involved. The purpose of this post is to help people understand what happens when a racing incident occurs. It is my hope that after reading this you'll not only become a better and safer driver but you'll have a better understanding about what you can do to help and support these situations. We are a learning organization. Let's learn from this.

At T9 on Sunday (T11 to you old school MId-O drivers) a driver spun just up and over the entrance to Thunder Valley. This was in the middle of dicing and rockin' and as drivers approached 9/11 a yellow flag was waving frantically. Many of you know that this is a blind corner and one of the worst places to have a stalled car. Racecars nose to tail and in a big line saw this yellow and instantly a driver wonders about what is ahead but not yet in their line of sight. Everyone lifts or brakes gently as so many cars are nearby that huge braking will result in contact. Cars juke right and left to dodge. Some are lucky enough to see what's ahead. A few make it through. A few do not. Those that did not make it past are just as good of drivers and those that did. Unlucky. Left instead of right. Wrong place wrong time. That's racing as they say.

Several cars were involved and in a blink on an eye the T9 corner workers radio'd to control. Crashed drivers fear that others might be coming over the crest and they might be hit again. Some wave hands in hopes that they will be seen a microsecond earlier and not get hit again. Those involved make an assessment of their bodies and cars. Those with radios tell their crew they have been hit or done the hitting and they are ok. Other's are hit like a sledge hammer as the realization of their hard earned monies spent on a car is now toast. Everyone is numb for various reasons. This all happens in an instant.

At the same time Race Control goes into action and orders to throw a red flag hit all corner station radios. Red comes out only seconds after T9/T11 report the incident. Tow trucks, safety, ambulances and flatbeds roll as these folks wait in these vehicles to respond ASAP. These folks are trained to jump into action. They come to the track to provide their talents. They've been sitting in their vehicles ready to roll into action and provide years of experience. Many have extensive experience working NASCAR, IMSA and even Formula 1 events. They live for this stuff. They also are the people that pull wrecks out when the track is hot and we drive near them at speed---some of you too fast and too close. These are the same folks that tell race control that the red mustang or the blue miata was driving too fast near their site of the extraction or tow. These folks are here to save you and demand respect and slower speed and wide births when they help others. Think about that for a second.

Our seasoned and rookie driver's training kicks in and everyone pulls over at first sight of single red flag. Anyone approaching T9/T11 has hopefully spotted the flag station under the Honda bridge and in the direct line of sight straight ahead and they slow down thus avoiding more potential injury and bent metal.

Those drivers that made it through with radios tell their radio spotters or crew in madness or in pit lane that there was a big wreck. Some driver's yet to arrive ask their radio crew what happened. Spectators watching from Madness or wherever look for their best friend or spouse or racer dad, son or daughter. Everyone wonders who was involved and if it was bad. Ambulances and safety quickly make their way to the scene and everyone hopes someone is not hurt. Info slowly trickles in. Some drivers with radios offer that Joe or Larry or whoever has been in a crash.

Word can travel fast and my phone is hit with a picture taken by a NASA official who knew the value of privately sharing this info. NASA radios some alive and the GL staff goes into action. Some staff go to medical. Some go to the NASA trailer. Many radio and inquire. Knowledgable Grid workers quickly know that it's going to be a while and but wait for intel from Control. All staff listen to their radios and updates are shared. I head to impound as I know this is where vehicles are likely to end up. I find a new rookie driver involved in a hit that same race and remind him that he needs to be checked out in medical. This is a mandatory requirement for anyone involved in a car to car or car to object hit. We walk to medical and 5 minutes later he comes out and all is good. There is no cost for this. It is required per the CCR and health insurance is not required either. If this happens to you make your way there. Seasoned racer's family and friends know this and they've received word that their friend or driver was involved. Some head to medical which is just before T1 on the outside of the track. For each track event you go to you should know where medical is located. You should also take the time to update your NASAPRORACING.COM profile with a correct emergency point of contact. Did you know that you can add several people and numbers to this list? When was the last time you double checked your contact person's phone number is their current one? The ambulance arrives and involved drivers get out and give a thumbs up to tell everyone they are ok. They are guided into medical. A few long minutes later they exit, hug their loved ones or buddies and tell their story. All of the incident drivers ask how the other guys faired and inquire what the other cars look like.

Here are a few things that happen behind the scenes that should allow all of you to be a better friend, fellow driver and good steward of our sport.

Don't take pictures and post on social media. The driver doesn't need all his/er friends to think he is badly hurt and certainly their spouse or family doesn't need to see this. The sport doesn't need new people thinking that this is a dangerous and unsafe hobby. Go get the driver's cell phone for them and let them reach out to mom or dad or spouse or other and share all is ok. Do this right away. Give them a hug. Ask them if they are ok or just listen. Be a friend. If you know their spouse or other go be with them. Crashing can be very traumatic to a spouse. Give them a extra hug. Remind them that the driver is ok and eveything will be ok. Racers not involved may have video to help understand what happened. In this case there was some good video provided to the Race Directors so the situation could be better understood. Instructor and racer Michael T Baldrige knew this and once out of his car he got his video and went to provide it. All races are required to have working video cameras and I can personally tell you many videos of these incidents were provided and reviewed by our skilled staff shortly after the event. If you're a racer not involved in this contact you have likely parked your car, grabbed your GoPro and are walking to NASA central or to those involved to show them what happened. This is a somewhat private moment and not to be shared to everyone. Have some respect for this. All racers feel responsible and they thoughts of would've, could've should've occupy their minds. Having intel is helping in coming to closure and telling yourself you did the best you could.

What should you take away from this story? Read the CCR and comply with safety. There is a reason why racers wear a head/neck restrain, have a fire extinguisher system and belts and seats with expiration dates. Consider spending a few extra bucks on a good cage. When you talk to these drivers about their cars after an incident all of them tell you how glad they are that they spent those extra dollars are a great cage. All of them. ALL OF THEM.

Why do we do flag drills in HPDE 1, 2, 3 and 4? So we can practice and be skilled to react quickly to events like these. Look ahead as far as you can and then learn to look a little farther. Watch every flag station every time and hope others are doing this too.

Eric Meyer, NASA GL Chief Instructor
 
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