NASA-X Returns to Arizona

Firebird East Raceway – October 25, 2009

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After a long drought from NASA-X (NASA’s version of autocross) events in the valley, the series returned to Arizona on October 25th as 88 entrants came out to Firebird East for the first event in over five years.  Since NASA-X is relatively new to Arizona, this event was in the planning stages for many months in effort to adapt NASA’s classing system to the already solid foundation of autocrossers in the state, and of course, familiarize the NASA staff which has been handling racing and HPDE events for several years.  Thanks to years of veteran experience on behalf of the organizers and supporters, along with the positive outlook from the competitors, the event went off without a hitch and provided some excellent feedback to the NASA crew for future events.  Oh, and the competitors had heck of a lot of fun on Firebird East as well!

The Basics

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The front straight at FIR East was used for the grid area at the NASA-X event.

For those of you that did not attend the NASA-X event, covering the basics are essential so the remainder of this wrap up makes sense!  NASA-X, or “NASA Cross” is NASA’s format for autocross competition.  NASA-X can take place on a skidpad, or in this case, Firebird East’s roadcourse.  Due to NASA’s experience and infrastructure for holding track-oriented events, having the NASA-X event on the FIR East course, which allows higher speeds and a longer distance, was easy enough for the NASA crew.

The rules are simply a modified set of the Time Trial or Performance Touring rules.  Rather than having Performance Touring B (PTB), or Time Trial B (TTB), a NASA-X competitor would participate in NASA-X B (NXB).  The points system for classing remains intact, but there are a few minor differences in car classing, points assessments and rules in order to make the vehicle buildup process make sense for an autocross type of course design.  Just as an example, all aero mods are free (no points) in NASA-X, with the thought that the lower speeds of autocross won’t result in the same gain you’d see on a higher speed road course.  Of course, that simply means some people are willing to take full advantage of the free mods list to save every tenth, as seen below!

Many people run higher downforce setups for NASA-X to help with grip at lower speeds

Many people run higher downforce setups for NASA-X to help with grip at lower speeds

Lastly, NASA-X events involve cones–big rubber orange ones!  In the spirit of the autocrossing concept, cones (or pylons) are placed throughout the racing surface, be it a parking lot or road course, for several reasons.  The first being to make the driving actually difficult, by introducing slaloms, Chicago Boxes, gates, kinks, pointer cones, etc.  Secondly, it’s to help slow the cars down to a more common speed seen in autocross events, which targets highway speeds or less.  Surely there are exceptions, but by introducing features and corners with cones, the course is essentially different everytime, which is inline with the spirit of autocrossing.

The Business

Of course, the big question with any competitive event–especially autocross–is how the classing system shakes out.  Is it fair?  Does it even make any sense?  Road racers and time trialers from NASA have had the benefit of a large sampling size nationwide, as well as five years to shake out and perfect the TT and PT rules.  While the NASA-X rules are constantly being updated and maintained like TT and PT, the latest version has never been implemented, tested or used in a competitive format in Arizona.  Seeing as Arizona has fielded multiple national champion caliber autocrossers, many of which attended the NASA-X event, a baseline example for which direction people need to go with their vehicle selection and builds was set on October 25th.

A NXE Toyota Celica lines up for a quick run, which spanned just under a full lap of Firebird East

A NXE Toyota Celica lines up for a quick run, which spanned just under a full lap of Firebird East

One factor that has to be considered is the course layout.  While TT and PT take place on road courses, NASA-X can vary from a road course layout as seen here, to a parking lot layout.  Both formats will possibly require different setups and the points assessment from NASA will possibly make more sense on one layout compared to another.  One example would be, the +3 points for a final drive modification, which can be more or less influential depending on the course size and design.  Again, that’s what provides some excitement to the NASA-X events as competitors have to weight their options for how to use those points carefully.

Richard Vela turns the last corner before the finish.

Richard Vela turns the last corner before the finish.

One interesting note is that four of the nine classes were won on street tires (NXB, NXD, NXE, NXF)–something that would rarely happen in other autocross organizations, with the exception of the classes that only allow street tires obviously.  A multiple-time autocross National champion took 3rd place in NXR, behind a shifter kart and a home-built autocross “machine” which utilizes a CVT transmission.  I guess when they say NXR is open rules, they really mean it!

NXC shook out as expected, with national champion autocrossers Brian Peters and Doug Rowse taking first and second place in a BMW 330i, which used many of its points on tire size and choice alone.  Clint Child took the win in NXB in an Mistubishi EVO on street tires, 0.3sec ahead of Tage Evanson in a supercharged Mazda Miata on race tires.  If that doesn’t scream diversity, and capture the spirit of NASA-X, then I don’t know what does!  NXE was the largest group with 17 people in class, and the top three cars were a BMW 325i, a Toyota Celica and a Mazda Miata.  If anything is strikingly similar to the Time Trial and Race results from NASA, it’s the variance in vehicle makes/models throughout the results.

So how did the time spread look for the winners among the nine classes?  Let’s take a look:

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As mentioned above, the competition course was a little less than the full length of Firebird East, with the start being on the front straight and the finish ending up just before pit exit.  Each driver was allowed a parade lap (slow speed) at the beginning of the run session, with four competition runs that counted towards the overall results.

The Best

Two autocross national champions shared this BMW 330 and took 1st and 2nd in NXB

Two autocross national champions shared this BMW 330 and took 1st and 2nd in NXC

Unlike other forms of autocross where there are an excessive number of classes with just a few cars in each, as usual, NASA’s system with nine classes means all 88 competitors would have plenty of people to measure up to!  The car counts were as follows:  NXR – 7, NXS – 6, NXU – 6, NXA – 5, NXB – 12, NXC – 14, NXD – 11, NXE – 17, NXF – 7.  And what you’ve all been waiting for, the winners of each class:

NXR

  1. Mark Eddy – 63.820 – KGB Spy 125 Kart
  2. Dan Hawrylkiw – 64.998 – Zink Z-19
  3. Mark Huffman – 65.324 – Lotus Elan

NXU

  1. David Schotz – 69.101 – Chevy Corvette
  2. Larry Petrucci – 70.763 – Pontiac Firebird
  3. Joel Schotz – 73.022 – Chevy Corvette

NXS

  1. Steve Eymann – 69.695 – Porsche GT3
  2. Ted Lewis – 72.763 – Lotus Elan
  3. Travis Barnes – 77.082 – Subaru WRX

NXA

  1. Dave Young – 74.186 – BMW M3
  2. Chris Black – 77.225 – Pontiac Trans Am
  3. Hector Espiriti – 79.519 – Chevy Corvette

NXB

  1. Clint Child – 72.793 – Mitsubishi Evo
  2. Tage Evanson – 73.116 – Mazda Miata
  3. Ben Clement – 74.080 – Mitsubishi Evo

NXC

  1. Brian Peters – 71.084 – BMW 330i
  2. Doug Rowse – 72.590 – BMW 330i
  3. Brian Weikert – 74.749 – BMW M3

NXD

  1. Jay Balducci – 74.074 – Mazda Miata
  2. Robert Rose – 75.234 – Mazda Miata
  3. George Sklyarevsky – 76.589 – Mazda RX8

NXE

  1. Elliot Speidell – 73.671 – BMW 325i
  2. David Rock – 75.489 – Toyota Celica
  3. Matt Soeffner – 76.227 – Mazda Miata

NXF

  1. Manfred Reysser – 77.429 – Toyota Celica
  2. Travis Gianelli – 78.518 – VW Jetta
  3. Jason Miller – 78.579 – Honda Accord

Full results are located here

Dan Hawrylkiw's Zink Z-19 that took second place in NXR

Dan Hawrylkiw's Zink Z-19 that took second place in NXR

Looking Forward

Perhaps the second best part about the NASA-X event (first being, the driving!), is the fact that no one was required to work.  Of course, this meant that NASA had to hire corner workers to shag cones all day, which all of them were more than happy to do.  Perhaps the biggest problem of the day arose when the organizers realized just a few more workers would keep things flowing just a little quicker, or there would be less delay, thus resulting in more driving.  The result of that is well, more workers of course, but also a possible multi-level system for registration that NASA guarantees is much more simple than the classing system!  (Note the sarcasm!)

Between run sessions, many drivers put their cars on the scales to check competition weight

Between run sessions, many drivers put their cars on the scales to check competition weight

Potentially, when and if there are future NASA-X events, there will be three options for registration:

  1. NASA Member Pricing – Discounted from the highest price due to the existing NASA membership.
  2. Non-NASA Member Pricing – Slightly more, yet still extremely competitive with any other non-member autocross entry.
  3. Worker Pricing – If you are willing to work for a run group, you get a discount on entry fee.  Plain and simple.  Hard efforts shall be rewarded!

That is just one such idea for a pricing structure to keep NASA’s event progressive, flexible, and aligned with other NASA HPDE and Racing events.  Speaking of events, currently there are a minimum of two NASA-X events planned for 2010 already.  Given the pilot event was just held on October 25th, the NASA crew has already secured two possible dates for NASA-X events.  Given NASA’s ability to safely hold road-course based events, look for the majority of the NASA-X events to be held on Firebird’s courses.

Lastly, a big thanks goes out to all the NASA workers, drivers and spectators who came out to make this event a huge success.  Putting together what is essentially the first event of its kind wasn’t an easy task by any means, but aside from the minor hiccups along the way, NASA Arizona is thankful to have so many dedicated drivers and workers willing to put on and support these events.  Thanks for reading the NASA Arizona Wrap Up!

October 3-4 Wraps Up

NASA Arizona Wraps Up, 10/3-10/4, Phoenix Intl. Raceway

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October 3-4 weekend marked the second event of the fall season, and what many who went to NASA Nationals call, “The Return to PIR”.  Typically this weekend is reserved for the BMW Car Club of America—more specifically, fielding their large race groups of BMWs and MINIs—with NASA Arizona piggybacking onto their event.  Due to circumstances which are no doubt unfortunate and used far too often these days, the BMWCCA club race group cancelled for the weekend.  (Ok, I’ll just say it:  Economic circumstances)  Remaining after that were the usual NASA HPDE, Time Trial and Race groups, along with sessions of drivers coming over from the BMWCCA group:  A beginner’s school, and driving groups using a similar structure to NASA’s HPDE program.  All said, everyone was glad to welcome the nice weather, finally, after a long streak of hot events.  Perhaps October 3-4, 2009 had come full circle, with the last cool-weather Phoenix Intl. Raceway event being the last BMWCCA weekend on March 6-7.

Nationals Competitors Return

GTS5 National Champion Chad Nelson returned to PIR in October

GTS5 National Champion Chad Nelson returned to PIR in October

With the NASA Championships being held on the same weekend as the previous NASA Arizona event, many of the regular drivers in TT and Race group were reappearing at PIR for the first time since May.  Perhaps the excitement of Nationals was still in everyone’s system, or the sight of such fierce competition caused everyone to raise their game just a little more on the local level for the remainder of the 2009 season.  If you were to have a conversation with many people who attended the NASA Championships, perhaps the word “perspective” would be mentioned a few times, or even a mention of the word “humbling”.  One of the common thoughts among the racers and TT drivers was that given the massive amount of meetings, run sessions, schedule changes and sheer mass of the paddock and entrants at Nationals, being back in Phoenix among the local crowd, if anything, seemed a little easier to navigate after the circus up at Miller Motorsports Park.  Less effort spent on logistics simply meant more concentration put into driving.  In many cases, the results on October 3-4 weekend were reflective of that.

Time Trial

One of the more anticipated run sessions from the weekend was the Big Bore time trial group.  Chris Rado—driving the World Racing Scion tC—made the trip from California to participate on Saturday in the TTR run group.  “It’s tough to find a setup for PIR.  In the infield, we’re making just over 400hp.  On the straights, up to 750hp.  Despite the huge front tires and a delicate right foot on the gas pedal, it’s hard to put power down here”, said Chris.  Despite virtually zero setup time beforehand, the World Racing Scion tC crossed the line turning a 1:03.62—the fastest lap time ever for a FWD car at Phoenix International Raceway.  Tage Evanson, the previous overall FWD record holder at PIR stepped up his game and bested his previous record, turning a 1:04.87 in TTU trim with the Honda Civic.

Chris Rado's World Racing Scion tC

Chris Rado's Scion tC uses a massive front wing to keep the front tires from spinning at high speeds.

Hot from the TTC race at Nationals, where the lead changed virtually every session, Doug Evans brought his best stuff and beat the TTC track record, turning a 1:09.02 in his Lotus Elise.  Rick Johnson couldn’t take the thought of having his Mini bested by Doug’s Elise, so he signed up in TTC as well and chased Doug throughout the weekend.  All said and done, Doug’s record from Saturday stood as the top time, with Rick following in shortly behind at a 1:09.26, 0.5sec better than his previous best at PIR.  Simon Pavlick (TTE Acura Integra), Brett Lengel (TTD 300ZX) and Mark Algers (TTR Dodge Viper) all turned personal best lap times during the weekend.

All time trial results are located here.

BMWCCA Groups at PIR for Second Time in 2009

The BMWCCA run sessions were full to capacity all weekend.

The BMWCCA run sessions were full to capacity all weekend.

As mentioned above, the race groups for the BMWCCA group were put on hold for the month of October.  Without any hesitation, however, the HPDE groups and the BMWCCA driver’s school went to full capacity as BMW owners and enthusiasts from the southwest came to PIR for a weekend of driving.  Many of the familiar faces from the NASA driver’s school and HPDE program, put on their true colors and volunteered for BMWCCA and put forth hard effort to making their program a success.  BMWCCA fielded three levels of HPDE throughout the weekend and ran incident-free both days.  All BMWCCA drivers and friends hung out afterwards for the NASA Saturday Night BBQ and left with smiles on their faces Sunday afternoon.

BMWCCA instructors mingling in the pit lane between run sessions.

BMWCCA instructors mingling in the pit lane between run sessions.

Passengers for HPDE Groups

One of the easiest ways to lure friends into coming out to NASA events, or perhaps enticing them to drive themselves through the ranks of the HPDE program, is to throw them in the passenger seat for some high-G loading laps around the track.

Melissa Tellez gives a racing fan a spin around PIR on October 3rd.

Melissa Tellez gives a racing fan a spin around PIR on October 3rd.

Of course, the number one priority at all NASA events is safety, while having fun comes in at a close second.  Since the question, “How can I take a passenger?” comes up quite often, here’s a quick recap of the details covered at the driver’s meeting on the October 3-4 weekend:

  • Passengers are only allowed in the following groups: HPDE3, HPDE4, Time Trial
  • All passengers must sign the “passenger waiver” at registration and receive a wrist band (different from the main gate waiver).
  • All drivers wishing to carry a passenger, must get approval from the HPDE or TT group leader, in advance.
  • Similar to download cards, a passenger must get a Passenger Card from the respective group leader, to submit before entering grid.
  • In the case of the Time Trial group, lap times will not be counted during the session in which a passenger is in the car.

NASA Barbeque

All sorts of fun activities happen after hours at PIR!  Tage does his best Cru Jones impression.

All sorts of fun activities happen after hours at PIR! Tage does his best Cru Jones impression.

Sure, while this isn’t an actual driving event, the NASA social continues to be a favorite part of the weekend for most of the NASA participants.  Gordon Levy and his crew spent the evening working behind the grills, while NASA competitors, drivers, friends and family all came out for free food, music, drinks and of course, the antics that follow.  With the track going cold around 5pm, the BBQ was fired up almost instantly and people were “happy” within the hour.  NASA Arizona looks forward to keeping this event a regular part of the event weekends.

UMS Time Attack Series

The UMS Time Attack series was out in force on both days of the October 3-4 weekend.  Seven competitors signed up for Saturday, with eleven on Sunday.  Phil Robles continued his chase for the AMB transponder as he turned the fastest overall lap on both days in his Honda Civic and took a commanding 85 point lead in the series standings.  Gabe Ortega competed in TA-A on Saturday, then changed his setup and ran TA-B on Sunday, and took the class win.  Complete UMS Time Attack series results and standings can be found here.

Race Group News

I see a pattern developing here..

I see a pattern developing here..

CCR Review – Of course everyone has read the NASA CCRs (Club Codes and Regulations).  Right?  RIGHT?  Just kidding.  Given the sure enormity of the NASA CCRs, a quick recap and review of the codes and regulations is something that should be done on a yearly basis.  With the month and a half before the final event of the 2009 season, take an evening to skim through the CCRs which are free to download and read and refresh your memory.  CCRs can be located here.

Incident Review Board – From time to time there are incidents in the race group that’s the nature of the game.  However, resolving such incidents in a timely manner is imperative as the outcome can often affect the results (DQs, etc).  Going forward, NASA Arizona will be assembling an Incident Review Board (IRB) to examine any incidents within the NASA race groups.

Led by Gary Felton, along with a small staff of NASA members, the IRB will identify any and all racing incidents as soon as they happen on track, or as soon as they possibly can afterwards.  Following the conclusion of a race, all incidents and the involved parties will be addressed in impound with a conclusion being reached before cars/drivers leave impound.  The purpose of this of course is to add in any changes to results in terms of DQs, loss of position and so on, so the correct, official results can be issued and finalized as soon as possible.

Kelly Olohan came out for both days to race at PIR and support BMWCCA.

Kelly Olohan came out for both days to race at PIR and support BMWCCA.

Points Clarification from NASA Nationals

After some discussion and a few questions here and there, the details surrounding the points allotment from NASA Nationals are as follows:

  • Time Trial:  TT drivers at Nationals get the correct number of points that are reflective of their finishing position compared with other Arizona drivers in the same class. If an AZ driver finished 2nd in TTD, while the winner was from New York, and the 3rd place finished was from AZ, then the AZ finished are awarded 1st and 2nd place points.
  • TT drivers who stayed in Phoenix to compete, get standard points as they would in any other AZ region event.
  • Racers at Nationals get points based on their finishing position in class, compared to their other Arizona region competitors.  Local racers who stayed in Phoenix in September for the Test and Tune, get no points.
Race group lined up and ready to go for Sunday afternon's race.

Race group lined up and ready to go for Sunday afternon's race.

Next event:  November 28-89, Phoenix Intl. Raceway

Carrying on the 20+ year tradition of driving on Thanksgiving weekend, NASA Arizona will be driving at Phoenix Intl. Raceway, including a 3-hour daytime enduro on Sunday.  NASA will be back with a full schedule (i.e. NASA hosted HPDE1 & 2) as well as the usual Time Trial and Race Groups.   A rough schedule for the weekend has been posted on the NASA Arizona forum, and all questions/comments can be addressed here.

Details for the racers and time trialers are listed below:

This will be a double points event on Sunday only!  Here’s how it works:

  • Time Trial drivers will receive double points for their finishing position on Sunday.  Saturday will be a standard points day.
  • Racers participating in the enduro will get double points based on their finishing position within class.
  • All single drivers (as in, driving solo.  Not unmarried, divorced or casually-dating drivers!) will receive double points for the enduro.
  • How NASA will assess points for teams with more than one driver is still TBD, in effort to finalize a correct, fair and proper method for points allotment.

The enduro supplemental rules are posted here.  Updates on the points allotment for multi-driver teams will be posted soon.

Thank you for reading the NASA Arizona event wrap up.  See you all in November at Phoenix Intl. Raceway!<–>

Arizona Drivers at NASA Championships – Results

Below is a list of final results from all NASA Arizona drivers who participated at the NASA National Championships on September 10-13, 2009.  Over 40 drivers from Arizona attended the national championsips.  Congratulations to all participants from NASA Arizona!

Camaro/Mustang Challenge 2 (CMC2)

Dave Schotz – 1st

STR1

Mark Alger – 1st

Brent Crosser – 2nd

American Stock Car (ASC)

Dustin Dudley – 2nd

Manuel Gil De Real – 3rd

Performance Touring A  (PTA)

Dave Leyvas – 2nd

Performance Touring B (PTB)

Randy Smalley – 2nd

Greg Greenbaum – 6th

Performance Touring C (PTC)

Rick Johnson – 2nd

Sarah Cattaneo – 5th

Performance Touring D (PTD)

Jeremy Renshaw – 2nd

Super Touring 1 (ST1)

Mark Alger – 1st

Chad Nelson – 2nd

Brent Crosser – 3rd

944 Spec

James Foxx – 2nd

Norm Hamden – 3rd

Joe Paluch – 4th

Darren Griffith – 8th

Dave Hauck – 17th

Vince Vaccaro – 23rd

Jim Richard – 26th

Jeff Wojnar – 27th

Dean Schaefer – 31st

Spec Miata (SM)

Curtis Gong – 15th

Time Trial R (TTR)

Wayne McKeen – 3rd

Time Trial U (TTU)

Thomas Glenn – 2nd

John Bianchi – 7th

Ken Gerhart – 10th

Time Trial S (TTS)

Tage Evanson – 3rd

Peter Van Camp – 8th

Gary Felton – 11th

Dan Maloney – 12th

Time Trial A (TTA)

Brian Turner – 3rd

Time Trial B (TTB)

Greg Greenbaum – 1st

Time Trial C (TTC)

Brady Dohrmann – 2nd

Doug Evans – 3rd

Time Trial D (TTD)

Derek Selman – 1st

Time Trial E (TTE)

Eric Jacobsen – 2nd

GTS1

Austin Newmark – 3rd

GTS3

Rick Johnson – 3rd

Gary St. Amour – 4th

Randall Smalley – 7th

GTS4

Sarah Cattaneo – 3rd

Dave Leyvas – 6th

GTS5

Chad Nelson – 1st

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