June 13th Event Wraps Up

NASA Arizona Wraps Up, 6/13, Firebird East Raceway

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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!

Everyone brought their significant others to the track with the promise of, "Hey, let's go watch the sunrise together!"

Everyone brought their significant others to the track, luring them in by saying, "Hey, let's go watch the sunrise together!"

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

Fastest person at the track, gets a picture in the Wrap Up.  Clay's 58.66sec lap won the spot this month.

Fastest person at the track, gets a picture in the Wrap Up. Clay's 58.66sec lap won the spot this month.

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.

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NASA Arizona TT records, taken from NASA-TT.com

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.

Between sessions of setting track records in TT, Doug Evans uses sewing as a way of relaxing.

Between sessions of setting track records in TT, Doug Evans uses sewing as a way of relaxing.

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.

Lieutenant Chief in Command Gabe Ortega ran the show for HPDE and Time Attack

Lieutenant Chief in Command, Gabe Ortega, ran the show for HPDE and Time Attack

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.

HPDE Groups

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.

Mervin Tan switched marques from Honda to BMW, and worked his hardest to convince Ryan Johnson to do the same!

Mervin Tan switched marques from Honda to BMW, and worked his hardest to convince Ryan Johnson to do the same!

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.

HPDE groups had a nice variety of vehicles, new and old, on June 13th

HPDE groups had a nice variety of vehicles, new and old, on June 13th

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!

May 2-3 Event Wraps Up

NASA Arizona Wraps Up, 5/2-5/3, Phoenix International Raceway

It’s no secret that since the start of the 2009 season, innovation has been one of the many keywords helping carry NASA Arizona and club racing through not only another strong season, but one that has been complicated by job losses, increased prices of nearly everything and overall questionable times of economic security that aren’t necessarily conducive to the hobby of motorsports.  All that aside, making NASA appealing in new and interesting ways, gives everyone a little more motivation to endure the crisis, and of course, summer’s brutal temperatures, to have a great weekend out at the track.  With the recovery from the gigantic April event just completed, the first weekend in May came and went as everyone kissed goodbye to the spring, and PIR for a few months.

944 Spec Racers Headline Weekend

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Headlining the May 2-3 weekend, without a doubt, was the appearance of roughly 20 944 Spec racers, giving what I would like to call the “944 Spectacle” (get it?  Spec-tacle? sigh..) over both days.  It’s far too often that NASA Arizona members become immune to the largest 944 Spec region in the country, or the close racing the series has to offer since they get mixed in with the Performance and Super Touring groups.  By mixing things up in Arizona and giving the 944 Spec drivers their own group, the hope was thatthe series could put on a show, introduce people to the appealing format of the group,  set labels aside and join racers from other organizations and of course, reward the 944 Spec drivers for working hard to grow the series for over seven years!

The Saturday sprint race for the 944 Spec drivers was one to remember forever!  18 drivers took the green flag and drove nose to tail for the entire 1/2 hour, with all drivers finishing on the same lap!  Norm Hamden, who has been a 944 Spec driver since the series’s inception, sat on the pole position with a 1:13.76, just a tenth quicker than local driver Rich Geisler.  The race results fared similarly, with a dramatic run out of NASCAR turn 4 by Rich, sweeping up to the side of Norm at the checkered, losing by a scant 0.026sec!!  Had the finish line been extended a mere ten feet (without doing the math), I have a feeling the results would be much different!  Here are the top five from Saturday in 944 Spec:

  1. Norm Hamden, #99
  2. Rich Geisler, #03
  3. Glen Gormley, #924
  4. Jim Foxx #12
  5. Joe Paluch, #94
The podium awaits the Sunday sprint race winners.

The podium awaits the Sunday sprint race winners.

Sunday’s qualifying results were very similar to the finishing results on Saturday, with the top five finishers, occupying the top spots for Sunday’s sprint race.  Of course, winning on Sunday had a different meaning, since there was an official podium ceremony–complete with the traditional champaign-cork-popping typically left to the professional forms of motorsports.  944 Spec drivers opted not to have the ceremony on Saturday, in effort to avoid having sticky, alcohol-smelling firesuits all day on Sunday.

944 Spec cars entering the PIR infield after taking the green flag.

944 Spec cars entering the PIR infield after taking the green flag.

Norm Hamden sat on the pole position again on Sunday, with a time just a couple tenths quicker than Saturday’s pole position lap.  Throughout the course of the race, Norm fell back a few spots to finish third overall, with Saturday’s hotshoe Rich Geisler taking the overall win!  Glen Gormley moved up from 5th to finish second.  Teenage driver Austin Newmark, fresh off his amazing last-lap pass to win finish on Saturday’s make up PT race, which was very reminiscent of Alex Zanadari’s infamous Corkscrew manuver at Laguna Seca, moved up from  sixth to finish fourth.  Joe Paluch suffered a mechanical failure, allowing Joshua Pitt to round off the top five.  Sunday top five:

  1. Rich Geisler, #03
  2. Glen Gormley, #924
  3. Norm Hamden, #99
  4. Austin Newmark, #47x
  5. Joshua Pitt, #92
Glenn, Rich and Norm are anxiously awaiting the champaign ceremony!

Glenn, Rich and Norm are anxiously awaiting the champaign ceremony!

A special thanks go out to all the 944 Spec racers from NASA and those who made the trip over from other organizations to participate in the fun all weekend!

And they're off!

And they're off!

NASA BBQ Social Kicks Off May 2nd

Everyone hung around for the Saturday evening social event.

Everyone hung around for the Saturday evening social event.

After benchmarking other NASA regions from around the country and a little brainstorming, NASA Arizona officials and drivers alike, agreed on the thought that a little friendly evening social following Saturday’s activities couldn’t hurt.  With a huge thanks to Gordon Levy for bringing out the BBQs and cooking for everyone, as well as Tage and Adina Evanson for coordinating the social, more than a hundred NASA drivers and friends hung out till after the sunset to eat, drink (only the finest of beers is served at NASA Arizona events!) and talk shop, recap the day’s activities and get a little personal in some cases.

NASA Arizona plans to have the social event on the Saturday evening of all two-day events from now on.  Of course, everyone is welcome to attend and best of all, there is no charge to come hang out and eat.  There is simply no better way to interact with fellow racers at an event like this, where driver’s gloves are off, cars are quiet and the weather is nice.

Ramin illustrates his point;  Simon Pavlick says, "No way!!"

Ramin illustrates his point; Simon Pavlick says, "No way!!"

New Run Group Format for HPDE

Freedom from the special run groups of March (BMWCCA) and April (Tuner Shootout) meant the ability to experiment with a new format for HPDE and Time Trial.  Traditionally, NASA Arizona has used the HPDE1-3 format, with HPDE4 and TT running a combined group.  Given the relatively small tracks in Arizona, the importance for cleaning up the TT groups, as well as making a new format that provides better options for HPDE drivers is the optimal situation.  Starting May 2nd, the HPDE4 group was put on its own after years of being lumped in with the TT group.  Using the open passing format of HPDE4, the run group was near capacity but managed to run the entire weekend incident free.  HPDE1-3 ran clean as well, with very minimal incidents.  Most HPDE drivers left the weekend with a great feeling about the new options for HPDE and ability to comfortably fit into a run group.

NASA Race and TT Groups

After talking to several racers and drivers, I think it’s safe to say that the track conditions were less than optimal throughout the weekend.  While many drivers still turned fast lap times in qualifying and TT, only one lap record was broken and most of the benchmark drivers were off pace.  Aside from a new TTS record and Austin’s remarkable pass in the Saturday makeup race (for April 11th’s rained out sprint), both groups were rather tame with some familiar faces topping the leaderboard.  Given the lack of drama, or what we like to call a good weekend, one major topic of discussion was, “What happened to PIR in the last month??”

Poplular theories as to why the track felt slippery:

  • It’s hot outside; ambient temperature in the morning was 30deg warmer than March.
  • Someone showed up with an MG Midget.  No further explanation needed.
  • Paul’s cool-suit plumbing dumped out the fender, rather than into the cool shirt
  • 40,000 gallons of BBQ grease from April’s NASCAR race spilled in turn 2
  • A tube of hair gel fell out of Kyle’s M3 during the pace laps, then was run over by the Viper
  • The TT group’s marvelous idea to spray the leftover Fanta Orange from the social on the track for extra grip, flopped big time
  • Jeremy Renshaw’s self-piloted 12-hour enduro Friday night on the DoodleBug pit bike wore through the asphalt, exposing the Asthenosphere which apparently, isn’t as grippy
COG/SRD Team in the PIR garage, preparing for a long weekend of racing.

COG/SRD Team in the PIR garage, preparing for a long weekend of racing.

All the funny business aside, 28 racers too the green flag on Saturday and 23 did the same on Sunday.  Despite the fact that the 944 Spec racers were on their own for their race, the PT and ST fields were still large and had plenty of competition.  Race results from Saturday are located here:

Saturday ST/PT Race

Sunday ST/PT Race

Time Trial had similar weekend that was free of incidents despite the slippery track conditions.  Lap times tapered off in a linear fashion throughout both days, so most drivers (even Doug Evans, who is the master of 4th-session record times!) turned their best laps early in the first session of the day.  TTS saw a new class record with Tage Evanson storming by the start-finish line, turning a 1:05.25 lap in his Honda Civic!  Looking at the race group qualifying results, that would have placed Tage 5th overall for the race start on Sunday!  TT results from both days are located here:  TT Results for May 2-3

UMS Time Attack Series

The UMS Time Attack series held points event #5 for the year-long series.  With the new structure of HPDE, defining eligibility for the Time Attack became easier for everyone to understand, so a boost in entries is expected.  TA-C favorites Erin Morely and Darrell Covert missed this event due to mechanical problems, but the competition was still strong.  A broken water pump on his TA-A BMW left Brady Dohrmann behind the wheel of Simon Pavlick’s Acura Integra, adding to the drama of the class battle between him and Phil Robles.  Justin Markiewicz ran out of gas on his first hot lap, giving up his shot at a victory as well.  The winners of each class are:

  • TA-A:  Phil Robles – Honda Civic – 1:12.59
  • TA-B:  John Miller – Subaru 2.5RS – 1:15.45
  • TA-C:  Tony Szirka – Honda S2000 – 1:09.01

Full Time Attack Results are located here.

April's Who's Who candidate Mike Pinholster made the driver over from Las Cruces, New Mexico.

April's Who's Who candidate Mike Pinholster made the driver over from Las Cruces, New Mexico.

June 13th Preview

June marks the start of NASA Arizona’s summer series.  While the remainder of the country is just getting their racing seasons underway–after having been buried in snow while we’re all our racing–the summer events are on a condensed schedule and start early, but still give everyone the opportunity to drive year-round.

Starting with a driver’s meeting around 5:40am, the summer events of June and August will last just until the temperatures have historically reached the early-90s, which technically make it a “cooler” (temperature speaking) than the May event we just had.

June 13th will take place on Firebird East, making it the third different track for NASA Arizona in six months.  Racers will have a test and tune, while TT drivers are still driving for points and track records.  HPDE will have a full schedule with HPDE1 through HPDE4 taking to the track throughout the morning.

NASA Arizona looks forward to seeing everyone in June!

Back to back PTD winner Jeremy Renshaw, on the DoodleBug.

Back to back PTD winner Jeremy Renshaw, on the DoodleBug.

Melissa Tellez

May, 2009

NASA Profiles:  Melissa Tellez

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Vital Stats

Hometown: Scottsdale, AZ

Job: Student

Run Group: HPDE4

Vehicle: ’95 BMW M3

Attends all Downloads: Of course

One thing that has become apparent after several months of the NASA Who’s Who column, the Saturday night social, or simply the countless hours spent side-by-side at the track with our racing comrades, is the fact that each and every person has their own unique story.  Sure, an outsider to NASA would look at the cars going around in endless circles and be oblivious to the stories each driver has relating to their involvement with NASA and racing in general.  Understanding the true reasons and motivating factors for all of the drivers, and more importantly, the diversity and adversity each and everyone has overcome, is what makes spending those two weekend days a month together, that much more interesting and special.  NASA’s HPDE driver Melissa Tellez, is no different; After spending some time with Melissa and getting to know her (and her story) better, it was clear who the next Who’s Who candidate would be.

Twas’ a brisk autumn day in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Dave Tellez took delivery of his brand new 1995 BMW M3 and pulled into the family driveway with that unmistakable grin on his face.  Within seconds, the family came rushing outside to check out the new car.  First up for a ride:  Melissa, the youngest of the three daughters.  Literally within miles, the remaining family members heard tires screeching, followed quickly by repeated yelling echoing around the neighborhood.  When Melissa proceeded to spill soda all over the seats, carpet and console of the freshly-delivered M3, she knew that car was her destiny.  Fast forward 14 years, including countless NASA events with Dave behind the wheel, the M3 and Melissa have come full circle.  Three years of NASA membership and participation only scratches the surface into the diverse life and passion Melissa has for the sport and the automotive industry.

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As mentioned, Melissa has two sisters, both with different passions and paths in life.  What kicked off a remarkable story was the requirement for all of them to attend NASA’s HPDE1 program upon receiving their driver’s license, in order to understand the basic concepts of vehicle dynamics, safety and car control.  Melissa, obviously, stuck with the racing path, and took over the driver’s seat of her father’s E36 when he eventually moved onto a different car.  Melissa says the passion began earlier however, as the numerous hours in the garage helping her dad tinker with the M3, not only counted for a daughter/father bonding experience, but fueled a desire to learn more about the industry, and eventually choose it as a career path.

Of course my question on who got rights to the M3 was much more basic..

Brady: So let me guess:  Your dad entered the three of you into a NASA-sanctioned time attack with the traditional 2-lap format, with the fast lap winner getting rights to the M3??

Melissa: Not quite.

Well, it was nice thought at least.  According to Melissa, taking the wheel and becoming an active NASA member was a natural progression due to the lifelong love for vehicles, driving, learning, and of course, the best all around track vehicle ever:  the BMW M3.  (Random M3 plugs throughout are one of the benefits to being the author!)  😉

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Currently Melissa is attending Arizona State University at the east-valley Polytechnic campus where she is nearing her degree in Automotive Mechanical Engineering.  Aspirations to continue a future in motorsports and automotive development are what helps drive the passion for participation in NASA events and learning about cars, racing and “the life” in general.  “Ultimately I want to work for BMW.  More short-term, a gig with a major racing program–ultimately in Formula 1– would be a dream come true and great way to spend the years after graduating,” said Melissa.

Random Facts

Favorite Restaurant: Cafe Pino

Hollywood Hunk: Hugh Jackman

Beach or City: City

Favorite Movie: Anything Batman

To further solidify an already solid background in automobiles, BMW and driving, Melissa is spending part of her summer abroad in Regensburg, Germany to study for a semester.  When she’s not studying, Melissa likes watching movies, her favorite TV shows, being sarcastic, driving and she’s entering the world of shifter kart racing soon.  More long term, while Melissa has no plans to ever sell the M3, she does wish to move into the instructor ranks.  Of course, when she returns from Germany, be sure to ask her to settle life’s greatest debate:  Is the Nurburgring really better than Firebird East??

Lastly, to conclude what could only be described as the most spectacular of interviews with another NASA member, I would like to leave the readers with this final thought and something I appropriately dubbed:

The Tellez Family Theory of Regulating Motion

As usual, my job is to dig for scandalous information with the Who’s Who candidates, with hopes to make them feel just a little less comfortable at the next NASA event.  [Ask Mike Pinholster about the unprecedented amount of dental advice he gave out on May 2-3 thanks to last month’s feature]  Much to my surprise, Melissa shared the most intimate of family secrets, so naturally I felt the need to share it with the NASA community.  While releasing any responsibility on her behalf, I will quote Melissa one last time:

“Thing is, city streets have speed limits.  Freeways and highways have speed limits.  On-ramps, however, fail to have speed limits and proper signage.  That being said, it’s up to the driver—one can accelerate up to the speed limit, or slow down to reach the appropriate speed limit.  The max velocity achieved on the on-ramp itself is not relevant.  However you chose to obtain the lawful freeway speed limit, is fair game so long as it’s reached.”

😉

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