By Jim Burton
Marketing Communications Director
Most nights they sit inside those distinctively decorated trucks, waiting and watching and ready to move at a moment’s notice. Some nights they’re needed in emergency situations, but most nights members of the Rocky Mountain Raceways safety team never do get to put their lifesaving training to use.
And that’s just fine with them.
Safety Director Tom Pyles is the first to admit that a slow night is often a good night. Whether the action is on the motocross course, the Young Kia Drag Strip or the American First Credit Union Super Oval – sometimes all three at the same time –RMR’s safety team is there to make sure all the proper precautions are taken. On busy nights they’re called upon to respond to crashes, assess injuries and make critical decisions as to what sort of care is needed. Because wrecked race cars, dragsters and dirt bikes sometimes leave debris and fluid in their wake, Tom and his team are responsible for a timely and thorough clean up so the racing can resume.
It’s easy to see how a quiet night for the safety crew adds up to a safe and relatively drama-free night for RMR’s racers and riders.
On Oct. 3, Tom invited me to ride along with the safety team during RMR’s final race of the season, the Utah State Oval Championships, an event that included 10 classes and 90 cars.
Given those numbers, I figured it might be one of those busy nights for the safety team. And even if that didn’t mean an emergency, I was sure there would be a number of wrecks and subsequent cleanups.
Turns out I was wrong.
Not only were there no emergencies (thankfully!), there were very few wrecks or even cleanup situations.
Although it was a rather uneventful night for the Tom and his people, I certainly did have a fun time riding along with them.
Shortly after the flag ceremony and the National Anthem, I hoped aboard the truck known as Rescue One. There I rode in the front with Tom and team member Julie Ford.
Other team members that night included Kristyne Showell, George Penny, TJ Johnson, Dana Jones, TJ Butcher, Curtis Sanchez and JT Thomas.
Just because it was a fairly slow night by most standards, doesn’t mean it was boring. First of all, we were sitting inside the oval, where we had a great view of all the racing action. There’s nothing boring about that. Secondly, even without the racing it was a hoot just hanging out with Tom’s team.
Yes, they’re well trained and well prepared to handle emergencies. But beyond that, they form a very tight, fun-loving group.
Long before my ride along I could see just how close they were. However, after riding aboard Rescue One, I gained an even better appreciation of how they’re really a family out there.
Just as it is with most families, there is a lot of kidding that goes on. Nobody is above getting teased in a good-natured way, which is exactly how it should be. On the other hand, there’s a fierce loyalty that exists with most family, and the safety team has that, too.
Plain and simple, they have each other’s backs. That’s a common theme among first responders of all kinds. The business of rescuing and protecting is indeed a serious undertaking. During down times there is playfulness and joking, but as I saw from my spot inside Rescue One, the mood can change in an instant when there’s work to be done.
It really is an amazing thing to see. One minute team members can be laughing about something someone said or did, but as soon as the radio crackles to life and there’s a call to respond, the laughter stops instantly. That’s when those distinctively designed trucks move forward and the crew springs into action, each member doing his or her job with seriousness and precision.
It’s definitely good to have people like that watching and waiting to help.
A Whole New World
By Jim Burton
Rocky Mountain Raceways Marketing Communications Director
Whoa, are you kidding me?
That … was … awesome!
In just two sentences, that pretty much sums up my experience in my new job as Rocky Mountain Raceways’ Marketing Communications Director. I started back in April and during the past five-plus months I feel like I’ve been baptized in nitro methane.
See, I’ve worked in the sports world for more than a quarter of a century, mostly as a journalist, covering what my new racing buddies call, “stick-and-ball” sports. From 1991 until the spring of this year I worked at the Standard-Examiner in Ogden. There I covered pretty much every “stick-and-ball” sport you can imagine, from University of Utah basketball under big Rick Majerus, to BYU football under LaVell Edwards, to nearly a decade on the Utah Jazz/NBA beat. I also spent a lot of time writing about minor league baseball, golf and even hockey, but precious little about drag racing, oval racing or motocross.
So, why am I here? Well, in late 2014 I saw that RMR was looking for someone to do public relations. Although I didn’t know a lot about racing, I knew a ton about covering sports and I had a good working relationship with most of the Salt Lake-area media market.
And I also knew RMR General Manager Mike Eames from my days working at the Standard-Examiner.
I liked the idea of a new challenge and I welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the racing world, so I interviewed with the good folks here at RMR and eventually landed the job.
In case anyone is wondering, I love it out here.
From the very beginning I found all the new sights, sounds and even the smells (most of them anyway) completely exhillerating. I hadn’t been on the job more than a few weeks when we had our first dual Test & Tune of the season. Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of work done that day. Instead I found myself walking around track taking in the speed and jaw-dropping excitement of the Young Kia Drag Strip and the thunderous horsepower of the America First Credit Union Super Oval.
And on the other side of the facility I discovered the high-flying excitement of motocross. It was cool watching the savvy veteran riders make all the jumps and take all the turns, and it was a hoot watching the little kids bravely test themselves on the same course.
In fact, the same thing applies to drag strip and the oval. Because I wasn’t really familiar with such things, I was amazed – delighted, even – to see kids participate in Jr. Dragster and Quarter Midget events.
Earlier, I mentioned that first duel Test & Tune of the season and how much fun I had taking it all in. One of my fondest memories will be standing on top of the berm looking, north to the oval and south to the strip. One minute I was watching Maverik Modifieds barreling around Turns 1 and 2, the next I was watching dragsters rumble to life before blasting off on the quarter-mile.
And the noise, oh baby! As I stood there I could feel the roar reverberating from the bottoms of my shoes to the top of my head.
I’m actually glad it was so loud, otherwise the people around me would have heard the new guy giggling like a little kid on his first trip to Disneyland. And they probably would have heard my shouting, “Whoa, are you kidding me? That … was … awesome!”