Meet Don Drennon, the 2023 F&C Worker of the Year

Don Drennon first spectated at Road Atlanta at a Can-Am race in 1974. In 1987, while spectating at the SCCA® National Championship Runoffs®, he heard a recruiting pitch that was often repeated over the PA system: “Want to get involved? See what it’s like on the other side of the fence and join us as an SCCA corner worker.” He met some corner workers at the grandstands behind Turn 11, and, as he explains it, “two weeks later, I was flagging my first race. I only wish I had done so years earlier.”

Drennon, an Atlanta Region member, has been flagging ever since that 1987 weekend, and at the 2023 National Championship Runoffs, his dedication to the specialty was recognized when he was presented with the Flagging & Communications Worker of the Year Award, presented by Mazda.

“Serving as a volunteer seemed a good way to deepen my involvement with motorsports without the financial commitment of trying to actually race,” he says of those early days holding a flag. “I rather enjoyed how the happy band of flaggers travelled around and reunited at different tracks, and I liked the sense of pride in belonging to such a remarkable group of people. Being on a really tight Flagging & Communications crew permits me to join with a group of people from widely disparate backgrounds who are united for a weekend in their passion for motorsports.”

This is a constant theme with Drennon: Workers in SCCA become one’s extended family.

“It’s not to be around race cars, it’s to be around my extended family,” he says. “All the SCCA literature says, ‘I came for the race cars, and I stayed for the people.’ It is so true, because these are the people who I’ve built up relationships with over the years. We’re a scattered little tribe, and we assemble in these various venues and have our weekend party of motorsports. It’s very endearing, and you become quite close to one another even though you only see each other 10 or 15 or 20 days a year. You’re not around these people all the time, so maybe because our time is limited, you’re focused and intense – we cherish our time together more.”

Drennon also loves the Runoffs. “Being at the Runoffs is the coolest thing we do,” he explains. “It’s our biggest stage. It means the world to me.”

He once told SCCA President and CEO Mike Cobb, for whom he has the highest respect, “I love [the Runoffs]; I love these people.” He has gotten the call to give the toast at the Runoffs banquet, and he always starts it with: “The Runoffs are about tradition and family.” It sets the tone for the rest of the toast.

When asked why he started flagging and why he continues, he says, “Flagging is the coolest job. Flaggers are the best-looking workers; they’re the sexiest,” he chuckles, but adds, “It’s the specialty that gives you the best proximity to cars at speed. We say we stay for the people, but racing cars brought us here. If you’re not in the cockpit, the second-best seat in the house is on the corner. I will not lie to you, the increased danger that, by necessity, goes with the activity was, and is, a factor. It tends to focus your energies really well.”

But the job is changing. As workers age, finding young people to replace them is difficult. And when sanctioning bodies decided not to allow corner workers to respond to incidents on track, he was angry, but he now agrees that they have a point. In fact, when he wrote an online training module for the SCCA about Flagging & Communications, he added several criteria about when you should go to a damaged race car.

Yes, Drennon has considered trying other specialties, but he intends to stick with working corners. Why would he not? “It’s amazing what we get done,” he says. “I don’t think most people have any idea just how complicated the activity can be.”

For those thinking about flagging: Just try it. Like Drennon, you might end up sticking around for a while.

Learn more about volunteering with the SCCA.

Photo by Jon Krolewicz