NASA Arizona Wraps Up, 6/13, Firebird East Raceway
There comes a time in a person’s life where everything is put into perspective. I tend to think that those who put things into perspective, live more fulfilling lives and are more thankful for what they have (there’s actually a point to me saying all this). For example, while most have never bungee jumped, I imagine staring over the egde of that bridge, looking down at the rocky greeting below, a person has a moment where everything good in their life has flashed before their eyes and they really ponder the thought of, “Is this really worth it?” I would like to call that brief lapse of time, a Moment of Truth. Or as Samuel L. Jackson put it, a Moment of Clarity. For a little over one-hundred Phoenicians on June 13th, 2009, that Moment of Clarity came at about 3:45am when the alarm clocks went off around The Valley as people woke up, briefly thought to themselves, “Am I really doing this?”, which was quickly followed by a, “Duhh.. of course I am”, then hurried out the door and headed to Firebird International Raceway. Larry Bobbe’s Moment of Clarity started at a quarter to three when he stepped out the door from his house in Wittman and departed for the track!
The perspective bit comes into play when despite the pain that comes from waking up several hours before the sun graces us with its presence, everyone in Arizona realizes that through the innovation brought forth from NASA’s previous director Jason Boles, and continuous refinement from Tage and Adina Evanson, NASA Arizona is at the track year-round. And of course, the added perspective that no, it wasn’t 115deg outside, despite what all the east-coast skeptics might say (Max temp on Saturday was high 80s–no different than any other region this time of year). The early-morning schedules of the NASA-Arizona summer months give everyone in Arizona a chance to stay in tune with their driving and in addition, drive the challenging courses of Firebird East and Firebird West (August event).
Time Trial Program Heats Up
When I say “Heats Up”, it’s not a reference to the ambient temperature, or perhaps a light stab or trash-talk towards someone’s car that was overheating. No, it’s simply a reference to the eight (out of nine possible classes) track records that were blown out of the water, as TT competitors took advantage of the few remaining events before NASA Nationals in Utah. Running as a combined group between racers and TT drivers, a few race group drivers switched over to TT for the day in attempt to steal some track records.
Of the successful ones, and perhaps the most impresssive, were Clay Koevary’s TTU time of 0:58.66, making him the only sub-1:00 driver in TT, and Doug Evans’s TTC time of 1:04.35, beating the record set last year by over a second and a half. Nearly 30 drivers took to the track in TT on Saturday, which is a large ratio and not seemingly conducive to clear track time needed for TT, but thanks to clear direction from Jeremy Renshaw and Robert Rose, as well as perfect attendance in the download sessions, drivers in the group managed to work together and make it happen.
Time Attack Round #6
Taking to the track as the last run session of the day, ten drivers lined up on the grid for the sixth round of the UMS Time Attack series. Previous to this event, the five events have been held primarly at Phoenix Intl. Raceway, with one event under the lights on April 11th at Firebird Main. June 13th added some diversity to the mix with the new (to the UMS TA series) layout of Firebird East. On the other end of the spectrum, and in a non-diverse sort of way, nine out of ten drivers were signed up in the TA-A class, which has a power to weight limit of 14:1.
Nolan Whitenack bested the TA-A group, taking first place with a time of 1:08.213. Following closely in second place was newcomer Dave McCombs in his Honda S2000 with a 1:08.791, followed by Craig Durkee, turning in a lap of 1:08.824. Four new drivers took part in the Time Attack series as well, which was a nice welcome and added spice to the series. Results for the Time Attack and complete season standings are listed here.
The key to making this event work do to the short schedule was clear communication on behalf of everyone–instructors, group leaders and competitors alike. With the short distance and narrow width of Firebird East, HPDE groups 3 & 4 which have more liberal rules for passing, had the opportunity to put on clean run sessions throughout the day, provided everyone was on the same page and willing to work together (ie. watch their mirrors!). The fact that aside from a couple spin-outs, zero significant issues were reported, lends credability to the willingness people were giving in order make the full run groups work, given the short track and condensed morning time schedule.
A unique feature about Firebird’s East course is the fact that technically there are four straight sections. The significance of this is relatevant for the HPDE2 group, which was granted permission to pass on any of the four straights, safely, and with point-bys. Drivers in the HPDE2 group enjoyed a break from the norm (ie. PIR’s passing zones) and the chance to pass in several different places around the track. The abundance of safe passing zones for HPDE2 made the entire track day more enjoyable, as drivers weren’t forced to parade behind one slower car for an entire lap during sessions–a problem often seen at Firebird’s Main course and PIR.
June 13th was successful due to awareness on behalf of everyone; awareness of the daily schedule, awareness of who’s on track behind you, and the general mentality that things are “in fast forward” relative to NASA Arizona’s Fall and Spring events, made the difference. By staying on top of the schedule, and through Tage’s innovative paddock layout located outside the FIR East gate, run sessions were continuously starting and stopping with very little breaks, and very little lag as all drivers were on time for grid, ready to go. The execution put forth by everyone on June 13th looks to make the next event at Firebird West on August 8th, run equally as smooth.
August 8th Preview
As mentioned in the paragraph above, the next event for NASA Arizona will be held on August 8th, at Firebird’s West course. As with the June event, the event will start early with a driver’s meeting at (gasp!), 5:40am, with the first car out at 6:00am and the last car in at approximately 10:45am. Registration for the August 8th event is located here. Full details, conversation, and room for suggestions regarding the August event are located here.
Thank you for reading this month’s NASA Arizona Wrap Up!