Think pace car drivers have a cool job? Well, you’re absolutely right! Take Ed Wentz, the Pace Car Chief for this weekend’s Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA® Super Tour at VIRginia International Raceway. Wentz gets to cruise around the 18-turn, 3.27-mile VIR circuit in a brand new Nissan GT-R with a lot of bells and whistles.
“I think the corner workers see us and think we’re driving around the track on a comfy sofa that goes really fast and has air conditioning,” joked Wentz, who joined the SCCA in 1998 and has been a member of the Club’s North Carolina Region the entire time. “But it’s not so easy. After you’re done being the pace car for a race, you immediately become the safety car. You can go from intense boredom to high anxiety at the snap of a finger.”
Al Holbert Racing is where Wentz began his involvement in motorsports. He then joined the Sports Car Club of America® and started working in Tech. After a few years, he began flagging at races. That lead to driving in Improved Touring classes for about a decade. Today, you can still find Wentz at the front of the field, but in a different role.
“My job as Pace Car Chief is to manage the pace car drivers and communicators,” Wentz said. “I make sure we have sufficient people and sufficient pace cars. For this weekend at VIR, we actually have three pace cars, one of which is a Nissan GT-R.”
According to Wentz, pace car drivers need to essentially be doing three jobs all at once while behind the wheel of a car. First, drivers need to think quick. Next, they’ve got to be able to effectively communicate with others. And of course, they should be able to drive well. But for the stress that comes with the job, there are also lesser-known perks, such as having the chance to introduce others to sports car racing with a few on-track laps in a pace car.
“For whatever reason you can’t be in the seat of a racecar, joining the SCCA is a great way to still get up close to racing,” Wentz concluded. “If you like action, you’ll get a lot of that.”
Hopefully, Wentz won’t get a lot of track time this weekend during the VIR Hoosier Super Tour. Follow all the action with live timing and scoring, lap notes, live video, Super Tour Radio presented by Hoosier Racing Tire and more via the SCCA® Pit Board available through www.scca.com/live.