Hail to the Weekend Warriors
Robin Smith Meiser
I have spent most of the past decade as a Weekend Warrior at Charlotte County Speedway. My definition of a Weekend Warrior is a person who works another job during the week and then spends their Saturdays at a local short track as an official, public relations person, 50/50 person, concession help, or any of the myriad of jobs it takes to put on a race show.
Being a Weekend Warrior is mostly a thankless job. The staff who work at the track during the week sometimes resent you because they work hard all week long at the track as their full-time job and then we come along on Saturday nights, undoing a lot of what they have done during the week. The management looks at you as basically a necessity they would rather do without and a financial drain on them. The drivers and crews sometimes think it is within their rights to curse you and mistreat you because you "work" at the track. The fans take their animosity out on you because they have paid an admission fee and you are the closest available body that is connected with the track.
Add into the mix, the dreaded words "track politics". All you have to do is read the KARNAC message board to understand what that means. All over the state stock car tracks have been bought and sold like junk at a flea market in the past few years. Every time this happens, Weekend Warriors have to worry about losing the jobs they love, just like the full time staff. Unfortunately, the Weekend Warriors do not qualify for unemployment but they have every bit as much of a vested interest in what happens as the full time staff, maybe even more because they are there for the sheer love of the racing community and the sport.
Anybody sitting out there who thinks Weekend Warriors work because of the money involved is sadly mistaken. Most Weekend Warriors average about $50 a week before taxes. Of course, with a check this small, there is usually no income tax taken out so most Weekend Warriors have extra money taken out each week to compensate. I personally had an extra $5 taken out per week.
Many Weekend Warriors travel a long distance to get to their track, I personally had almost a 100 mile round trip each Saturday night. Because most of us are salaried employees we don't get to claim mileage on our taxes either. So figuring at the Florida state rate of 29 cents a mile for travel, I incurred almost $29 a week in travel expenses.
Our track allows each employee to bring one guest into the track, luckily when my children were young the past management allowed me to bring all three of them in as guests or I never could have afforded to work at what I loved. We also receive our drinks and one food item for free. This does not take into account the fact that many track personnel such as ticket sellers, scorers, pit stewards, and tech people are at the track at 2 p.m. and many stay until well past midnight. One food item does not go a long way in ten hours of work. Again, luckily, we had many wonderful race friends who brought us pizza, cookies, and homemade candy to help us get through Saturday nights.
Rainouts are Weekend Warriors worst nightmare. We must dedicate each Saturday to racing but when Mother Nature intervenes and we have to cancel the show, the Weekend Warriors suffer too. Yes, the track owners lose money but Weekend Warriors are lucky to walk away with $10 for gas money unless we are able to get a few heat races in, then we get half pay. Worse yet, is Weekend Warriors don't know what to do with themselves on Saturday nights when there is a rainout. We complain all year about having to be there every week but let it rain and we are at a total loss about how to spend the rest of the long evening.
I am not bringing this out into the open to try to shame track owners. They too have thankless jobs. Most try to treat their employees fairly but they must do so within their financial means. Most local short track employe between 30-50 Weekend Warriors which works out to a payroll of at least $2500 per week, probably more because I am very bad at math. At the end of most race nights, the track owner at Charlotte County Speedway is there offering to buy you a beer or a hot dog, realizing what a long day and night it has been for his employees.
What I am trying to do by saying all this is that all of you race fans, drivers, pit crew members, full time track staff and track management need to open your eyes and look around at the dedicated groups of Weekend Warriors who keep our race tracks going. Don't take them for granted or belittle them or make them feel worthless. You never know, you may wake up one Saturday and not be able to put on a race show because your crew of Weekend Warriors decides enough is enough. Pat him or her on the back once in a while and tell them "Good Job!" instead of pointing out every small error or bad call they make.
It has been my privilege to spend the past six racing seasons with a wonderful group of Weekend Warriors who remain professionals, despite all of the above. They are my second family and I love them dearly. My hat is off to you all and I say thank you for all you do. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your family and may you have a wonderful 2001 season.
HAIL TO THE WEEKEND WARRIORS!
Editors note: I recieved the rough draft on this article on 1-21 several days before Robins resignation from CCS
Florida Stock Car Racing
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