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
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:
- Norm Hamden, #99
- Rich Geisler, #03
- Glen Gormley, #924
- Jim Foxx #12
- Joe Paluch, #94
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.
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:
- Rich Geisler, #03
- Glen Gormley, #924
- Norm Hamden, #99
- Austin Newmark, #47x
- Joshua Pitt, #92
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!
NASA BBQ Social Kicks Off May 2nd
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.
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
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.
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!