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Tracy Frank, Published August 02 2010

It's my job: Working as race flagman the right call for Barnesville man

Don Wacker has a coveted job.

While it is fun, he said it can also be stressful.

“When 24 cars are coming, it’s pretty awesome to see all of them coming at you,” he said. “It’s a rush.”

Wacker, of Barnesville, Minn., is the flagman at the Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo.

It’s a part-time position he works Wednesdays and Fridays from May through mid-September or October.

“Everybody thinks it’s pretty cool,” Wacker said. “It is fun. It’s a good time.”

Wacker, whose regular job is a parts specialist for RDO Truck Centers in Fargo, said racing is a family-oriented pastime. His dad used to take him to the races all the time, he said.

Q: How did you get started as a flagman?

A: It started, I want to say, five or six years ago up in Ada (Minn.).

One of my customers was the head flagman there, and he asked me to help him out, and everything just kind of rolled together.

I’m still the flagman up in Ada, and I got on here three years ago.

Have you always been interested in racing?

Yeah. I raced for six years, have been around it all my life, and still wanted to be a part of it.

What did you race?

Mod 4s.

What are your responsibilities as the flagman?

I control the other officials. I’m nothing if I don’t have good people.

I have corner guys the assistant and I oversee. We talk to make sure the right call is made. I start and end the race.

If there’s a yellow (caution flag, which requires drivers to slow down), if there’s a car spun or an accident on the track, I throw the yellow (flag).

I can talk to the drivers through a radio. As soon as there’s an accident and we’re going to go yellow, I key the mic and tell them where the yellow is so they’re not barreling into a corner and there’s a car.

It’s a little bit stressful sometimes.

What do you like about it?

Still being around dirt track racing. Generally all the guys are great guys.

Race car drivers generally, they’re awesome.

Every once in a while, they’ll get a bad call, and they’ll go off the handle, which I understand. They’ve got a ton of money in their cars.

We just try our best to make the right calls.

What kinds of calls do you make?

Say if two cars are going around a corner and the guy behind gets into him and spins him out, the guy who spun the other driver out goes to the end of the pack.

When there are 24 cars on the track, it’s hard to catch every one, and then sometimes you’ve just got to make a judgment call, and hopefully we get it right.

We’re not always going to get it, but I would say 97 to 98 percent of the time, we get the calls right.

What is it like for you when you have a really close race?

It’s taken care of now because we have transponders, so that tells you who won the race. It takes away the human error at the finish line.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

To submit an idea for “It’s My Job,” e-mail businessnews@forumcomm.com.