It was a hot one at Firebird West and the last of the Summer events of the 2010 season. As it was during our event in June, nearly everyone awoke only a few hours after Friday ended to the so-called “cool” of the summer morning with a hint of race gas looming in the air. With the overhead lights shining above the pits attracting countless flying desert insects, the gates swung open for us at 4am rolling out a full schedule of Race Group, Time Trial, HPDE and Time Attack sessions. Our condensed summer schedule always means plenty of nonstop back-to-back excitement. Lets take look at the highlights from this event along with a few safety reminders and some helpful information for those of you going to NASA Nationals at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.
Let’s take a poll… how many of you were sticking to your seats by the end of the day? Raise your hand. Okay, that pretty much makes all of you. We must be serious drivers (or a little crazy) driving in 100+ degree heat, right? Take a whiff of that expensive helmet. That’s the odor of pure commitment. There comes a time when one must ask why we endure such extreme temperatures, wakeup at unreasonable hours (or get no sleep at all) when we could opt to laze about in the air conditioned indoors while nursing a chilled beer. I like to think we exert such effort because NASA-AZ offers unique camaraderie combined with the element of competition that we naturally assemble together during and after the events.
What was new?
Our event organizers took note of things that went well and not so well the last time we ran FIR West back in March, and made some changes for this event. The new grid layout ultimately made the day run much smoother for those controlling traffic. It increased safety for spectators by keeping them out of a potentially dangerous impact zone, and allowed groups to safely enter the track while the last cars from the previous run exited. This allotted us 30-40 minutes of additional overall track time which is why we were lucky to enjoy four separate HPDE run groups, along with split TT and Race Groups!
NASA-AZ also has a new face representing our Time Trial program. Effective immediately, Eric Jacobsen will assume the role of TT Director along with Jeremy Renshaw. Eric is a regular Time Trial competitor, well known for his TTE Ford Taurus that was nicknamed “The Pumpkin”, but is now found tracking a silver Ford Focus. Eric’s positive and professional attitude, rules expertise and all around “nice guy” demeanor made him a perfect fit and an obvious choice.
Jacobsen will be filling the shoes of Brady Dohrmann (TT Director) as he opted to “retire” from the sport we all love (and sometimes hate). After 12+ years of track driving, all of us in NASA-AZ express our gratitude for Brady’s leadership, rules expertise, tech support, download skills, and event write-ups, not to mention a significant amount of general admin support. We sincerely wish all the best to Brady and hope that he becomes as competitive in his “ironman” quest (or whatever else his new hobby becomes) as he was in a race car.
Sound Testing for AMP
In anticipation of the grand re-opening of AMP, sound meter testing and logging took place at FIR West to get a gauge on how “loud” we really are. AMP will be under strict sound regulations and will not allow for any car to run there until its peak sound levels have been “properly documented”. Needless to say the loudest of the bunch will need to make modifications to their cars to reduce the associated noise pollution. AMP has indicated that the sound limitation will be set at 92dB per car with a 99dB track limit. The latest information can be found on the NASA-AZ forum: http://forums.www.nasaaz.com/showthread.php?t=4198
Rules! Rules! Rules!
Let’s face it; rules are there for the safety of all drivers, workers and spectators. I’ll be politically correct here: we all need to remember that drivers that deliberately push the limits of these rules or blatantly break them WILL receive appropriate sanction or penalty that is prescribed in the CCRs or worse, as determined by NASA-AZ leadership.
Watch your Speed.
You’ve heard it from Tage in the morning drivers meetings, but I will remind us all here: “keep it slow in the pits.” Remember when you were a little boy (or girl) and your crazy neighbor with the hot rod ran over your beloved puppy? Let’s not let this happen… or worse yet… to your children! Keep speeds at 5mph for the safety of everyone.
Did you see that flagger?
If it takes a couple of laps for you to realize that a flag has been thrown or thrown AT you and you don’t see it, don’t be surprised if you get the attention of an official when you exit your vehicle after the session. Flags are put into use for the safety of all; they facilitate communication between corner workers and the driver to anticipate track conditions or to make drivers aware of their behavior. It’s important to remember what the flags mean. Keep an eye out for them.
Race Groups – Big Bore and Small Bore
All race groups enjoyed a good turn out of participants this event, with full practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday and split races on Sunday. The biggest run group was of course 944 Spec, but few classes ran with less than four drivers. It was also noted that the green flag race start was difficult or impossible to see for those gridded up on the “outside”. NASA-AZ will address this for future races at FIR West. Here’s a closer look what took place on track and the results when the checkers fell.
No doubt the narrow features of FIR West make it interesting for a pack of fast cars. Starting with Qualifying Tage took the pole in ST-2, bringing home the fastest lap in this group in one lap, then exited the track. I am guessing he had to return to his Director duties… stat! In PT-A David Leyvas qualified first, followed by Jeremy Renshaw leading PT-B.
The race on Sunday had to have been one of the more entertaining races I’ve watched in awhile, nothing short of off track excursions, mechanical issues and slick track conditions which ultimately sorted out the field. Starting with ST-2, Ron Ballard took the win, bumping Tage Evanson to second a few laps after race start and keeping him mid-field for the remainder of the race. It does appear that the man piloting Casper the Friendly Civic is a “one lap kind of guy”. His excuse? “I didn’t want to beat ‘the customer’. Sort of like how you don’t beat a client at a friendly round of golf.” I fully expect Tage to make a full come back in the next race. But, as the saying goes by famous Golfer Raymond Floyd, “They call it golf because all of the other four-letter words were taken.” Race also happens to be a four-letter word!
Moving on to PT-B, Jeremy Renshaw held his place finishing first with Marty Saltzman placing second. Brian Turner brought out good stuff to the track, starting the race in fourth but ultimately taking the win in PT-A, with David Leyvas not far behind placing second.
Here are the top finishers for Big Bore:
ST-2 – Ron Ballard #93
PT-A – Brian Turner # 524
PT-B – Jeremy Renshaw #12
944 Spec dominated FIR West with a lot of circumstances that certainly rearranged our drivers in all sorts of directions. Beginning with qualifying, Austin Newmark took center stage with a quick lap that placed him in the pole position, with Rich Geisler and Norm Hamden not far behind. For the qualifying session we also enjoyed the company of our #8 Spec Miata, driven by Charles Jackson.
The Small Bore race started with slick and dusty conditions… with dusty incidents taking place on the first lap. Newmark was quickly sent to the back of the pack, left sitting still in the entry of the carousel turn. It became evident he was determined to regain his position, battling his way towards the front after each lap. Newmark dominated 944 Spec this weekend; starting first, bumped to last, then back to first – all within a 25-minute sprint race. Rich Geisler maintained his pace finishing second, followed by Kent Buckley finishing third in front of Joe Palush. For Buckley, this race proved to be a great personal achievement. When I asked Buckley his thoughts about the race, he replied “… that was one of my best races! I’ve never been able to beat Joe in a toe to toe battle, will remember that for a while! Forgot to hook up the camera, dammit!!” As an aspiring racer myself, I extend a round of applause to Kent in achieving this on-track milestone!
We had another driver join Small Bore on Sunday, Mike Halpin in #4 Spec Miata. While the 944 Spec racers showed little love on track for their Mazda counterparts, Halpin and Jackson found themselves in an all-out two car Spec Miata battle. Halpin saved the best for last, ultimately finishing first in the Spec Miata class.
Top three finishers from 944 Spec:
1 – #47x Austin Newmark
2 – #03 Rich Geisler
3 – #11 Kent Buckley
Top finishers from Spec Miata:
1 – #4 Michael Halpin
2 – #8 Charles Jackson
Time Trial Groups
It was a slow weekend for everyone; with Time Trial drivers doing everything they could to overcome very hot and slick track conditions. Everyone enjoyed split run groups this event, with combined sessions at the end of the day. Taking a look at the results there were no new track records. Clearly the summer weather was not helping anyone shave off those extra tenths. Congratulations to everyone for enduring the heat during your hot laps!
Matt MacIntyre led the pack this weekend with the fastest laps in Small Bore, running a rather quick 1:04.63 in his TTB BMW M3. David Schotz in his 1989 Chevy Cameo took TTC with a 1:06.24, and TTD was led by Robert Rose running a 1:07 flat. Another Miata joined the fun in TTE on Saturday; Brad Lundahl and Geri Amani enjoyed a good Mazda chase around the track on Saturday, with Amani finding the fastest TTE lap on Sunday with a 1:10.13. TTF was represented by Eric Jacobsen in his Ford Focus running a 1:13.63.
Top Drivers from Saturday:
TTB – Matt McIntyre #31 / 1997 BMW M3: 1:04.84
TTC – Dave Schotz #175 / 1989 Chevy Camaro: 1:06.70
TTD – Robert Rose #16 / 1993 Mazda Miata: 1:07.00
TTE – Brad Lundahl #12 / 1995 Mazda Miata: 1:10.32
TTF – Eric Jacobsen #97 / 2003 Ford Focus: 1:14.06
Top Drivers from Sunday:
TTB – Matt McIntyre #31 / 1997 BMW M3: 1:04.63
TTC – Dave Schotz #175 / 1989 Chevy Camaro: 1:06.24
TTD – Robert Rose #16 / 1993 Mazda Miata: 1:07.18
TTE – Geri Amani #34 / 1991 Mazda Miata: 10.13
TTF – Eric Jacobsen #97 / 2003 Ford Focus: 1:13.63
The faster bunch of Time Trialers brought good stuff to the track, with Wayne McKeen taking the lead yet again on both days with his fastest lap being a 1:01.48 in his TTR Corvette. Tony Szirka ran the fastest TTU lap for the weekend with a 1:04.00, Darrell Rayburn driving his TTS Corvette found a quick 1:02.91, and TTA Porsche 997 driven by David Leyvas ran a 1:06 flat.
Top Drivers from Saturday:
TTR – Wayne McKeen #7 / 2002 Corvette: 1:01.48
TTU – John Bianchi #5 / 2006 Z06 Corvette: 1:04.12
TTS – Darrell Rayburn #421 / 2007 Corvette: 1:03.60
TTA – David Leyvas #997 / 2006 Porsche 997: 1:06.00
Top Drivers from Sunday:
TTR – Wayne McKeen #7 / 2002 Corvette: 1:01.50
TTU – Tony Szirka #11 / 2003 EVO 8: 1:04.12
TTS – Darrell Rayburn #421 / 2007 Corvette: 1:02.91
TTA – Brian Turner #524 / 1978 Porsche 911: 1:06.18
There was plenty of fun for everyone running HPDE this event, enjoying separate sessions for every group. It’s always great to see some familiar and new faces along with the latest upgrades that they’ve made to their car… and the last minute fixes that took place the night before. That’s what Redbull is for, right?! Everyone seemed genuinely excited about running on this track. After all, it’s been nearly two months since the last event and everyone had the chance to put rubber to the road.
A few drivers always seem to arrive at the track in an especially cheerful mood, and as the saying goes, attitude is everything! Leland Forbes, corner worker and HPDE3 driver, expressed his love for motorsports with custom rattle-can paint on his Acura Integra.
Some of our drivers travel a very long distance to reach the Phoenix area, one of which is Michelle Abbate from Las Vegas. A tip of the helmet goes to Michelle for making such a long journey just to join us on track!
A few folks moved up in the HPDE ladder, including Sergio Perez in white E46 and appeared to be really working it in HPDE4. Brian McCormick in his Kronik Energy M3 is considering preparations for Race Group, while others are looking to move into TT.
The HPDE program is a fun and safe environment to learn the limits of yourself and your car, offering all there is to know about getting a start in motorsports. With four different levels in HPDE, our instructors can help you find a faster line, increase driver skills, and increase awareness. For those of you interested in competition driving, be sure to speak with our TT and Race Directors for information on how you can participate.
Another great turnout for the UMS Tuning Time Attack event, where 24 drivers took to the track in three classes. Gabe Ortega took the win in TA-A, running a brisk 1:06.89 (also continuing his streak of TA-A class wins this year). Brian McCormick took over TA-B with 1:06.76, and Tony Szirka ran a 1:04.13, which secured his win for TA-C.
Here are the top three drivers from each TA Class:
Tony Szirka – 1:04.13
Travis Barnes – 1:06.71
Robert Smithson – 1:08.23
Brian McCormick – 1:06.76
Dave McCombs – 1:07.486
Dave Evans – 1:08.50
Gabe Ortega – 1:06.8
9Leland Forbes – 1:09.44
Markos Mylonas – 1:09.66
2010 NASA National Championships
For those of your going up north to run at NASA National Championships this year, you will be pleased to know that this event will count as local points and bonus attendance points (Time Trial points event #16 and Race Group points event #13 main race only), so don’t miss your chance to ramp up your totals for the end of the 2010 season. This is NASA’s most notably challenging event of the year, which takes place at Miller Motorsports Park where competitors from all over the country show up to battle for the National Champion title in their class.
If you are planning to attend, and haven’t registered yet, be sure to do so as rates increase the longer you delay: http://www.nasaproracing.com/event/1110
Miller is a state-of-the-art road racing facility that is located just 35 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City in Tooele, Utah, and is easily accessed by major highways (I-80) and surrounding county roads. It is a relatively new track, officially opening its gates for the first time in 2006. Since then it has been considered the finest facility of its kind in North America. Miller Motorsports Park now hosts many of the world’s most significant racing series such as the American Le Mans Series, Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, Superbike World Championship, NASCAR K&N Pro Series and the new Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series. How lucky NASA is to be able to race here also!
There will be several tire vendors at MMP including Toyo, Hoosier, and Goodyear. The word is out that vendors may be backordered so be sure to place your orders well before the event. The fuel pumps at MMP are open 24-hours a day and have pay at the pump convenience for Texaco 85/91/Diesel, and Sunoco 260 GT (100 Octane, unleaded, oxygenated), Sunoco 260 GTX (98 Octane, unleaded, not oxygenated), and Sunoco 110 leaded. There are also a wide range of contingency programs for a cumulative total nearing $1-million dollars including Hawk, MAZDASPEED, Hasport, Honda Racing, Race Keeper, 986, Yokohama, just to name a few. Top runners driving eligible vehicles will have a chance to race at the season finale World Challenge event to be held at Miller Motorsports Park October 1-3, 2010.
I’ve included some general schedule information for reference, but be sure to check out the latest information and discussions regarding this event on the official NASA Forums Championship thread: http://www.nasaforums.com/viewforum.php?f=75
Full Preliminary Schedule (PDF): http://www.nasaproracing.com/racing/national/Sched_Nationals_2010.pdf
Wednesday, September 15 : Test & Tune (additional fee)
Thursday, September 16 : Warm up / Qualifying / Qualifying Races
Friday, September 17 : Warm up / Qualifying / Qualifying Races
Saturday, September 18 : Championship Races
Sunday, September 19 : Championship Races
Event Regulations (PDF): http://www.nasaproracing.com/racing/national/NationalsRegulations_2010_10.pdf
Current Entry List: http://nasaforums.com/viewtopic.php?f=75&t=34680
Per the schedule, here are the Race Directors for each group. Be sure to become familiar with them at the event should any issues arise on or off track.
Group A: Fernandez – Factory Five Racing, Camaro Mustang Challenge, CMC 2
Group B: Covini – American Iron, American Iron Xtreme, STR1, STR2
Group C: Lepper – Honda Challenge
Group D: Winkleman – Performance Touring A, Super Touring, Super Unlimited, ASC
Group E: Lang – 944Spec, SpecE30, Spec3
Group F: Johnson – Spec Miata
Group G: Anderson – Time Trial: TTA, B, C, D, E, F
Group H: Pantas – German Touring Series (1-5), BSR
Group I: Anderson – Time Trial: TTR, S, U
Group J: Rucker – Performance Touring (B, C, D, E, F), Legends
Group K: Balingit – Formula Mazda
And finally, NASA-AZ is tentatively planning a regional meet-up at Miller, details to follow.
Next Event Sneak Preview: October 2-3, 2010 (Sat & Sun)
The next regional event will take place at Phoenix International Raceway October 2-3, bringing us to our normal full schedule of HPDE, TT, Race Groups, and Time Attack. It will be nearly 5 months since we’ve last visited this track so don’t miss out on your chance to turn some fast laps in some significantly cooler weather! It should also be noted; for those of you interested in joining Race Group, October will be the time to make it official as we will be offering the annual Competition School. When registration opens you can sign up for this event here: http://nasaproracing.com/event/1093.
Article written by Geri A. Amani. Photography by Geri A. Amani and RacePhotoLabs.