The man of many flags – Jamie Dzencelowcz
As we do these interviews, we keep seeing great people that changed things in their personal life due to the people they met and experiences they had in southeastern motorsports. Jamie Dzencelowcz is no different. As you will read, he’s changed directions in his health and life goals due to the people he’s met in racing and is quick to thank them. While he is a divisional starter, he is also a professional driver! It’s always great to see him at the track and watch him in control and swinging those flags. (Note to all : the “Double Checker” Flag … don’t try this at home. He’s a professional and it’s a LOT harder than it looks. ) Read on and learn a bit about Jamie and his passion for motorsports!
Birthplace : Syracuse, NY (March 29th, 1973)
Home : Charlotte, NC
Family/Pets: Back in Syracuse: Parents John Sr. and Kathleen (59 & 58), Sister Kelly (33) and sister Kimberlie (30). Living with me: My brother John Jr. (41), my niece Drew (11), and our cat Mr. Kitty (meow!).
Hobbies: Besides flagging races throughout the Southeast, I enjoy horror movies as well as a good comedy or action flick. Since March I’ve been making the gym my second home and I enjoy a good crime novel or murder mystery.
Cars presently owned: 2000 Nissan Sentra
(with LOTS of racing stickers on the back).
Favorite past cars owned: 1991 Geo Storm. Despite the rust and body damage (It was a NY car), it was very sporty and very fast.
Your favorite childhood memory involving cars: Before I got big into sports cars, I grew up watching the super modifieds (Oswego Speedway) and big block modifieds at the local dirt tracks in Upstate NY (Brewerton, Fulton, Weedsport, Rolling Wheels & the NYS Fairgrounds). Every Labor Day my dad would take me to the annual race at the fairgrounds and we’d always sit on top of the family van on the back straight to watch the races (thanks dad). I also remember attending my only Syracuse (Schaffer Beer) 200 in 1986 where “Bearfoot” Bob McCredie got his first and only Super Dirt Week win. It wasn’t until I went to my first Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in 2006 that I caught the bug for sports cars. Watching the brand new Audi R10 TDI going around Sebring was mesmerizing.
What you enjoy most about motorsports: Everything! The sounds of the cars (or if it’s the Audi, the whoosh as it goes by), the people, the danger and excitement & the adrenaline rush. There’s something about a car blowing by your start stand at 180+ MPH and feeling the vibration as the stand shakes from the car’s pure speed and power that give me a big rush.
Advice to up and coming drivers, event staff and corner workers: Be patient. Come prepared. Work different circuits if you can & start out in F&C first: One of the biggest things that I regret in my 4 years of flagging is that I didn’t start out as an F&C worker first before becoming a starter. The knowledge and experience you get working a corner and learning how to handle and respond to situations on the track definitely helps you when you make the transition to being a starter. That is something I wish I had taken the time to experience for myself and appreciate. Plus people forget sometimes (including myself), that Start is like any other corner station except that we get to start and finish the races and we don’t (in most cases) respond to cars stranded or wrecked on the track. Also, as the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Don’t expect to work your first race ever at VIR then expect to have what it takes to go and work The 12 Hours of Sebring the following week. It doesn’t work that way and you will be disappointed. I worked strictly club races at several different circuits for 2 years before I attempted to work my first Petit Le Mans in 2008. Spend some time at the club level first and work as many races as you can. Get yourself a current GCR and study it religiously. The SCCA website has a free GCR download for your computer or laptop. Don’t be afraid to travel to different circuits to. Each region and circuit is different and there is much knowledge to be learned by traveling out of region. For example, where and how I start a race at VIR (with its long front straight) is much different than Road Atlanta (where Turn 12 is just before start/finish). As far as the essentials go, brings clothes for all different kinds of weather. I’ve worked races with weather ranging from 20F and windy at CMP, to monsoon rain storms at Petit Le Mans (2009), to 97F with 100% humidity at Daytona in July. Besides your worker wear, your two best friends on any race weekend (not counting beer) is sunscreen and water, water, water!!!!! I was severely dehydrated at Sebring this year and it was a scary experience!
Favorite professional driver past or present: Past: I grew up an Ayrton Senna fan. Watching his magic at Monaco racing against Nigel Mansell was mesmerizing. I still remember where I was the day he died nearly 17 years ago. Present: Simona De Silvestro and Alan McNish. Not only two awesome drivers but I got to meet both of them and they are class acts!
Favorite road to drive: There are several and it’s hard to choose. In NC, Hwy 181 headed towards Linville and Banner Elk is a blast in any car. The Foothills Parkway outside of Gatlinburg, TN as well as any section of the Blue Ridge Parkway at any speed is a joy to drive. Come to find out, speeding on the Blue Ridge Parkway is actually a federal crime. Oops! Being born and raised in Upstate NY, I’m ashamed to admit that there is one road just outside of my home city of Syracuse that I haven’t driven yet but need to. It’s Cedarvale Rd. which doesn’t sound very exciting or promising until you hear the locals refer to it as “13 Curves”. It’s about 20 minutes from where I lived yet for some reason I never seemed to make it out there. There’s even a legendary local ghost story about this road. There are several variations to the folk tale but they all speak the same tale. A bride and groom on Halloween died in a car accident on 13 curves several years ago. Ever since then there have been reports of a ghostly bride in white walking 13 Curves at night looking for her husband. In some cases, people have reported seeing this bride in the back seats of their cars as they drive 13 Curves at night (particularly on Halloween). This link will explain the legend of 13 Curves a little more clearly that I can. http://www.weirdus.com/states/new_york/road_less_traveled/bloody_bride_of_13_curves/index.php
Your future motorsports plans: 2012: besides my usual club stuff at VIR, I’ll be working the 50th Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (Turn 5), 60th Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring (Start), 15th Petit Le Mans (Start). I hope to make it to Lime Rock next year as well as the Runoffs in a few years. I would love to work the 24 Hours of Le Mans someday as well as an F1 Grand Prix and/or the Bathurst 1000 in Australia.
Anything you’d like to share about yourself or experiences: I’m usually a shy person at first and sometimes even anti-social, but doing this has been a blessing in disguise and I’ve managed to meet and work with some great people and listen to some racing stories that even go before my time. Plus it gives me an excuse to take time out of my chauffeuring job and escape for a weekend. I do have some memorable and comical experiences over my brief worker career. Starting 82 Spec Miatas the first time I worked VIR in 2007 and somehow they all made it through 1, Enjoying a “Budwich” at Summit Point right before their last 12 Hour race in 2009, Watching Eric Cruz roll his FE twice in a year and both times I started his race. Watching a river run under my start stand as well as a TDI cup car kicking up muddy Georgia clay and covering all the starters with it during the deluge at Petit in 2009, dropping my car keys into a dark port-a-jon at Petit last year (don’t ask how I got them back), falling out of my bed in Eric’s RV at the Rolex 24 last year, surviving an allergic reaction (as well as caffeine overload) after drinking a 6-Hour energy shot on the way to Daytona for the Rolex 24 in 2009, and I will never forget the Road Atlanta security guard aggressively throwing all the local starters off the stand at Petit last year so the candidate for GA governor (who is now the GA governor) could start the race.
Favorite story from your motorsports career: Working Start at Petit Le Mans 2008. It was my first real pro race week as a starter and I not only got to checker one of the Patron GT3 races, but got to do several restarts during the Petit race itself. Plus, after he wrecked his Audi R10 TDI on the warm-up lap, to watch Alan McNish come back from almost 3 laps down to win over a more dominant Peugeot was awesome to watch.
Recognition & Thank You’s: First, to all of the NC Region SCCA workers and staff, you guys are awesome! I can’t say enough how much fun it has been these last 4 years to work with you all. Our flag chiefs Eric Danielsen, David Turner, & Mark Biamonte make sure we all have a great time and Eric even provides some comic relief wearing his clown hat at our 13 Hour enduro on Halloween and doing his imitation Dracula voice at Goblins Go. Our Asst. RE Sara Snider, makes sure we get great worker gifts and we are well fed and entertained, Lynne Allen (ATL Starter) who’s been like a 2nd mother to me and is not afraid to beat me over the head with the flag when my adrenaline goes crazy, Tani Miller Corthall, who made working start at the Rolex 24 a blast despite some long, frigid overnights in the Daytona start stand, and John Krick, who after a falling out with someone that I loved dearly gave me the advise and will that I needed to move on.
“Jamie’s Top 10”: I’ve had the pleasure of traveling all over the east coast working everything from a PDX/TT at CMP, to the Watkins Glen Nationals, all the way up to the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. There are many people that I have the pleasure of meeting and working with throughout my 4 years here but there is an elite group who hold a special place in my heart for all they’ve done for me getting to races and sharing accommodations with me, their knowledge and teachings, or just being true friends:
Bruce Dover (NCR Chief Starter): There are jobs in motorsports that can test the mental of any worker, but what Bruce has to sometimes deal with when I’m there (particularly when I start talking to myself) takes insanity to a whole new level. Bruce not only was the poor soul that had to train me, but has the daunting task of keeping control of this over-enthusiastic, over-adrenalinized, double checkered flag waving crazy person that I am. He’s not afraid to issue some constructive criticism and is probably one of the most patient people I know. Between him, his goofy (and attractive) daughter Jennifer, and his British assistant James “Blendline” Buckberry, they all make the start stand at VIR a fun place to play and work.
John Brotbeck (SCR F&C): One of my best friends & travel companions. I can’t say enough of how much this man has done for me. He has provided me with transportation to and from our races (in his Mini Cooper I might add), covered the tab on several meals when I was too broke to pay for my own, and has been a great listener when I’ve needed it. He’s also not a half bad corner worker either. At our Oak Tree Double National in April, after a torrential rain storm, he along with two other workers had to pull two F500’s out of a small pond (which wasn’t there before the storm) driver’s right at Turn 3 on a hot track and pulled it off without a FCY.
Amy & Jim Brock (SCR F&C Flag Chiefs): Words cannot express the gratitude that I have for two of the most wonderful and generous people that I could ever meet. Whether it was camping in the rain at Barber in 2009, freezing in 20 degree, 25 MPH winds at Kershaw (my first race at CMP in February 2007), or surviving the deluge at Petit Le Mans in 2009, we’ve all still found a way to have fun and I’ve had a blast working with these two. They’re class acts, Corvette lovers, and have been there for me when I’ve needed them in some of my darkest times and I love them both for that.
Randy Holton (OVR Starter) and Dennis Paul (IMSA/ALMS Starter): These two are by far the undisputed tag-team champions of Start and two of my closest friends. I’ve learned so much from them and the knowledge that I’ve received from these two has helped me tremendously both at the club level as well as the pro level. They’ve got some memorable stories to such as Randy working the infamous USGP at Indy in 2005 during the Michelin boycott when only 6 cars started and Dennis having a prototype blow over under his start stand at Daytona during the 24 Hour several years ago and my personal favorite, Dennis’s “tits in the cooler” story. Sorry guys, Dennis will have to tell you that one. Randy also knows how to put on a good party as well. His welcoming party in August at KC Steakhouse in Lexington right near Mid-Ohio started with only 8 people and ended with 26 of us wild and crazy workers sharing as many adult beverages as racing stories.
Stacey and Ken Grammer (USERA/DRGP): If there was an award for the best husband and wife tandem in racing, the Duke and Duchess of Danville (VA) would have this title all sewn up. Ken and Stacey are two of the nicest people I know and their experience in motorsports can rarely be matched. One of my proudest moments was working their SRF 25th Anniversary race at Road Atlanta last year and how well they took care of me that weekend as well as putting on such a memorable event (78 SRF’s started the event). I’ve also had the pleasure of hearing some great stories from them both and Stacey’s double checkers will never be topped (although I’m still trying).
Heather Clark (NCR Asst. Flag Chief): Living proof that you can never judge a book by it’s cover. Heather may be the, goofy, giggly, and flirty blonde on the surface, but on the inside she is tough as nails, has a heart of gold, and is one of the smartest and most understanding people that I know. Heather can handle any situation that is thrown at her and is not afraid to tell it like it is even if it has to hurt someone’s feelings in order to make them a better person. My experience traveling and working with her during this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring, and the advice that she’s given me, made me take a long hard look at myself and I realized that I didn’t like the person (both physically and mentally) that I was at the time. 6 months and minus 30lbs later I feel so much better in many ways. A great friend to have when you need one.
Peter Romanowski (NCR Starter/F&C): To a man who has been flagging races since the days of the roman chariots (Ok… that might be a slight exaggeration), Pete has enough knowledge and stories of racing to fill a wing at The Smithsonian. His teachings (as well as his fatherly advice) has helped me build confidence in taking charge of a situation or start stand when nobody else can or will (Jim Stark Roebling 2011). I’ve also learned that no matter how much determination you have or how hard you try, you will NEVER beat Pete to the beer line :).
Thanks Jamie for doing the interview with us and the fun and excitement you help bring to our events. We look forward to seeing you at the next race and hope that one day, we see you on Speedvision on an early sunday morning in the starter box at a F1 venue.