Were it up to Rodney Wise, he would blend into the background of his sport, of the traveling circus that is NASCAR. He'd rather be somewhere beyond the tightrope walkers, trapeze acts, jugglers, acrobats and unicyclists. Maybe back with the clowns, or the Waltrip brothers.
But that's not possible.
He considers himself the ultimate behind-the-scenes guy with the ultimate in-front-of-the-scenes vantage point -- 20 feet above the racing surface, in a crow's nest known as the starter's stand.
As chief flagman for the Sprint Cup Series, one could make the case that on race day, Wise is the most powerful man in NASCAR.
Nothing begins until he waves the green flag.
Nothing ends until he waves the checkered flag.
Nobody goes to the restroom in between until he waves the yellow flag.
"I don't look at it like that," says Wise, 57. "It's just my job, no more important than anybody else's. It's just more visible."
But the job does have its perks. Last year, for instance, the honorary starter at Richmond was Nicole Polizzi, aka Snooki of "Jersey Shore."
OK, so perks can be overrated.
"The best thing about my job?" Wise says, repeating the question slowly and deliberately, like Robby Gordon on a qualifying lap. "The coolest thing about my job is hearing -- and feeling -- the drama.
"Whether it be the start of the race or a restart the sounds from that being so close to the fans, so close to the cars, just the sensation you get "
Wise paused. He was reliving the moment. You could almost see the little hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
He clenched his fists and a sound came from deep in his diaphragm, a sound between a sigh and a moan, a sound that says more than any words could -- a sound he sometimes makes when waving the white flag as cars flash under him, racing side by side, headed for home, not knowing what might happen when they get there.
"It's a rush," Wise said, "especially when you get that one lap to go.
"There's that drama. Drama is everywhere."
Wise, who makes his home in Magnolia, Del., in the shadow of the Monster Mile at Dover, felt the drama as a NASCAR fan before he felt it as a NASCAR employee.
While stationed at Dover Air Force Base, he was always first among the volunteer workers when NASCAR came to town, which ultimately led to a relationship with technical inspector Gary Nelson, which ultimately led to Wise getting a job in NASCAR, working with and among huge stacks of tires.
With his foot in the door, Wise made it to the starter's stand by 1994. His first race was the Pepsi 400 at Daytona.
Was he nervous?
"Yes," Wise said.
Did he drop the flag?
"No. Not on the track. But we did get one stuck in the catch fence one year at Pocono, after the start," he said.
"I waited until the cars went by, ran down, crawled up the fence and got it before the cars came back around."
As Wise recalled, it was the green flag that got caught in the fence. Good thing it wasn't the yellow, and it didn't fall on the track. That would have brought out the yellow flag when there was none.
Wise is NASCAR's chief starter; Corey Richardson his assistant. Both men are in the stand on race day. One waves the flags while the other keeps his eyes on the action, looking for a tire that might be rubbing or an engine that might be smoking or anything else that might warrant waving the yellow, or one of the other flags.
I was surprised to learn that Wise's flags are homemade, by a woman from Magnolia he calls "Mom." Her real name is Marlene Gerhard and a set of her flags usually lasts two or three racing seasons. Then she makes new ones.
Does Wise have a favorite flag? Yes. Like Jimmie Johnson, he admits being partial to the checkered one. He doesn't much care for the red flag, which means the race has been stopped, usually due to bad weather, or worse, a bad crash.
Wise hates bad crashes. He won't even say the word. He won't say they cause a red flag.
"A situation where debris compacts the racetrack and the cars can't get by," is how he puts it.
Hopefully, there won't be any red flags at today's Kobalt Tools 400. Just the green, perhaps a yellow or two, so race fans can go to the restroom. A wave of the blue flag with the yellow diagonal stripe, to warn the slower cars that the faster ones are closing fast.
Then the white and finally, the checkered flag, after which Rodney Wise will descend from the best vantage point his sport has to offer, having felt the drama once more.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.