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


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


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.


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!)  😉


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.”



Mike Pinholster

April, 2009

NASA Profiles:  Mike Pinholster

mikepinholsterVital Stats

Home: Las Cruces, New Mexico

Job: Dentist

Age: You don’t want to know

Run Group: Race Group, ST1 Class

Vehicle: Dodge Viper GTS, #4

Long before the gypsum particles blew southward off the San Andreas Mountains and formed White Sands National Park, and in a time when little happened in southern New Mexio other than Jim White’s rapid discoveries within the Carlsbad Caverns, one thing was constant:  Mike Pinholster and his reign over the old guard of New Mexican dentistry in Las Cruces.  Starting out as a Dodge Viper enthusiast and car nut in general, naturally, Mike came to the decision that most readers of this section eventually face:  To race, or not to race?  Mike chose to apply his skills, passion, and most importantly, the V10 Dodge Viper that’s sitting in his garage, and do something productive with the little free time he has.

Starting off with a recommendation from a friend living in Las Cruces, Mike made the trip to the legendary Arroyo Seco raceway–a venue that has a cult classic type following for people from New Mexico, Texas and Arizona–and you know how that goes.. “I’m just going to try this out and see if I like it.”  (Haha, good one, Mike).  After that first trip to Arroyo Seco, changes happened in the Pinholster household.  That “pretty red Viper that will never see a track”, was replaced with the iconic blue/white color-schemed Viper GTS that we have the pleasure of racing with at most events in Arizona.  Glass windows were replaced with lexan, as were his scrubs were traded in for a new firesuit.  And in the last five years, Mike has become a staple at Arizona and SoCal NASA events, running in the Race group and doing occasional stints in the Time Trial sessions.  In 2008, Mike even attended NASA Nationals at Mid-Ohio, adding to the impressive commutes Mike and his family endure to indulge in this hobby.


As mentioned above, Mike and his family make the monthly haul from Las Cruces to Phoenix to attend NASA events, which is a mere six-hour tow;  when combined with multiple trips to The Thing (I-10 joke), the Akela Flats fireworks stand and of course, racing with all of us bums at PIR and Firebird, Mike claims the trip is entirely worth the effort!  He credits part of the reason to coming out to NASA Arizona to the camaraderie and social aspect with drivers off the track, almost as much as the good times spent behind the wheel.

Yearly trips to participate in the SoCal and Rocky Mountain region NASA events are on the schedule as well, which allow a stint at his favorite track, Willow Springs.  “I finally managed to learn how not to catch air at Willow coming down the hill”, said Mike during his interview.

Random Facts

Favorite Food: Italian

Best Teeth Whitening Product: Crest White Strips

What exactly is there to do in Las Cruces? Work

Jennifer Garner or Jennifer Lopez: Garner, definitely.

Embarassing Moment: Watching Sex and the City with my wife

Can I drive the Viper? No.


Outside of racing and cleaning  teeth during the week, Mike and his family have an array of hobbies and live an active lifestyle, exploring and relaxing in southern New Mexico by boat, ATV and motorcycle.  Aside from desert hobbies, the Pinholster family indulges in occasional ski trips and Mike is currently trying to massage a “wine tasting trip” to Laguna Seca.. er uh, I mean, Napa Valley, in the near future.  Mike is married with one son, who we all look forward to seeing behind the wheel of a car at a NASA event soon (right, Mike?)!

If you have never met Mike Pinholster before, he’s not difficult to spot in the paddock.  Aside from his bright blue Viper, Mike flaunts his custom enclosed trailer, which he built himself to keep the Viper safe from the elements during the long tows across the desert.  And one thing remains true as well:  Mike Pinholster is someone everyone should get to know, as he is a true gentlemen both on and off the track.

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