Keeping drivers safe and the schedule on time was the charge given to me by the VRG board almost 11 years ago when I accepted the job of Chief Steward. Since then I've been making all the track calls at every VRG event except for two where I was unable to attend due to a conflict.
A lot has changed in those 11 years, larger car counts with more race groups, many new tracks (some have come and gone), the type of vintage cars has changed, but our accent on safety and mantaining our on time schedule hasn't.
A few years ago, I started to time the length of time each full course yellow was taking. It was amazing how long it took to gather up a field so tow vehicles could roll out to get a stuck or broken car. Because the drivers were complaining about all the full course yellows, I then tried a black flag all, thinking that if drivers comply, then usually by the time the last car hits the grid, we are giving the signal to start up and roll off the grid. It doesn't always happen that way, with oil, damage to track, a car more broken then a flat tow can handle or if the driver has gotten out of his car.
The VRG has a great reputation with the emergency services staff at all the tracks we visit, because our drivers behave!!!! Most of them will roll out onto the track for us earlier then they will for any other race group.
So, with the 2019 Jefferson 500 in mind, honestly my staff and I are glad it's over. It was not how we would have liked to start the season or for the 25/50 celebration. The amount of BFA's instead of local yellows was greatly increased due to the off track conditions( soft and muddy) so the tow vehicles had to stay on the track surface. Other reasons included cars facing counter race direction or stuck on the edge of the track with wheels in gravel/mud, drivers who got out of their car or multiple broken down vehicles at the same time.
All in all more than our share of perfect storms. Then add to this the missed flags and as a result, my tow operators got nervous about their safety.
By Sunday things had dried up and we were again able to execute hot pulls done under local yellows.
I know this might sound like some voodoo to those of you who have never worked a flag station or in a tower, so I'd like to offer any driver who wishes, the opportunity to come spend a session or 2 in the tower and watch what goes on behind the curtain and the thought processes it takes to get to having those Black Flag All's
Going forward, we are reviewing some changes on how our flags are used and Black Steward's roles.
For the VRG stewards,
Stephen C. Hyatt
VRG Chief Steward