NASA Arizona Wraps Up, 1/9-1/10 2010, Phoenix Intl. Raceway
So, how was that off season? You know, that 40 or so day break between the Thanksgiving event and the season-opener in January. Yeah, that topic came up several times in the previous wrap up (ie. how motorsports dominates all other sports when it comes to lack of downtime), but I think it’s safe to say one thing: Holidays? Yeah, they’re fun, but it’s great to be back at the track!
You can see by the headlining picture on this month’s issue of the NASA Wrap Up that there was as much fun and competition off the track, as there was on. Now, if the NASA organizers can only find a way to fill the 23-minute void with something exciting between track opening and tech inspection each morning, NASA Arizona will perhaps have the most fulfilling 48-hour adventure of any organized activity in the world! Ok, enough rambling and onto the weekend’s activities…
Trial by Fire Drift Returns!
What’s more mind-boggling is that January marks the 4th event weekend in a row at Phoenix Intl. Raceway, yet the feeling was much different due to new groups, activities and people. Starting off was the return of the Trial By Fire drift sessions led by George Marstanovic and Joe DiNunzio. Trial By Fire is Arizona’s oldest and most well-established group for organized drifting in Arizona and has a long relationship with NASA Arizona dating back to TBF’s beginning. Typically speaking, Trial By Fire’s events are held in parking lots and cater to everyone from beginning drifters, all the way up to professional, licensed drivers that compete in the Formula D and D1 drift series events. Several times a year, Trial By Fire ramps it up and invites the best drivers out for a weekend of fun with NASA Arizona.
It’s easy to tell when the drifters are on track since the entire facility at Phoenix Intl. Raceway gets covered in tire smoke. When you see heads turning and people looking for car spinning, it’s not a HPDE1 session gone bad, it’s the sound of hundreds of dollars of Dunlop tire rubber being burned off on the asphalt. [The debate as to whether the drifters help or hurt grip by leaving rubber everywhere is up for debate on the forums–join in!]. What’s not easy to tell is what exactly is going on. Here are some simple drifter facts in effort to give credit where due!
- The top drifters at PIR enter Turn 1 between 85-95mph, then immediately initiate a 4-wheel slide, holding it all the way to turn 8!
- Popular cars are typically light, RWD platforms: Nissan 240SX, Mazda RX7, Nissan Z, Toyota Cressida (!), Toyota Corolla
- Myth: Grippy tires in the front, all-season, pumped up tires in the rear. Reality: Maintaining a slide at 90mph requires grip, and lots of it.
- Keeping those tires spinning requires one thing: Horsepower. Most of the drift cars use turbocharged 4-cylinders making 280-400hp, or swap in Chevy LS-series V8s making 400-490hp! All in a 2400lb chassis.
A big thanks goes out to Joe and George for bringing the drifters, as well as the friends and spectators out for a weekend of clean and safe driving at PIR. NASA Arizona looks forward hosting Trial by Fire again in the near future.
Epic Battles in Race Group
Through the 40 or so drivers and ten classes in the NASA race group, it’s hard to cover in detail what exactly happened during the two days of racing. Watching, is far different than driving, and having that feeling of being on the ragged edge during a pass or trying to hold someone off is something that’s difficult to convey outside the cockpit of a race car. What we see as spectators, doesn’t even come close to what a driver sees or feels. However, on occasion there are some battles that can be seen on paper; we had a few in January.
The Performance Touring Class A (PTA) bunch had a weekend of thrills, thanks to two new drivers entering the class. Terry Denton and his son Ryan Denton (BMW M3 #66), the 2009 ST2 championship winner, bumped down a class to join the fun with John Dowling (Porsche 911 #46). To throw the odds off just that much more, Brian Turner (Porsche 911 #524) moved from the time trial group over the winter break in order to get in on the racing action in PTA.
After qualifying results rolled in on Saturday, I think everyone watching the race group just stood there, amazed and thankful that we have 11 more months to watch and see how this class is going to unfold in 2010! To give you an idea, here are the qualifying results for PTA over the weekend:
- Terry Denton – 1:09.801
- John Dowling – 1:09.808
- Brian Turner – 1:09.916
- Ryan Denton – 1:09.551
- Brian Turner – 1:09.909
- John Dowling – 1:10.821
Really–does it get any better than that?? The results unfolded in a similar fashion with The Dentons taking the wins in PTA on both days. John Dowling took second twice and Brian Turner, in his inaugural weekend in the NASA race group, took home a pair of third place podium spots. Congratulations to all the PTA guys for keeping it close, clean and keeping the spectators entertained all weekend.
ST1 had a similar experience on Sunday, with Clay Koevary dusting off his Porsche 911 and taking the overall pole for the race group, with a 1:05.053 lap. Mark Alger qualified second overall and in ST1 with a 1:05. 663, while Chad Nelson (and eventual ST1 winner) qualified at a 1:05.893. Clay, Chad and Mark battled it out for the first ten minutes of the race with Chad eventually pulling away. Clay finished second and Mark rounded off the podium ending up 3rd overall and in ST1.
Complete race group results are listed here:
Saturday Race Group Results
Sunday Race Group Results
Without quantitative “results” from a group, it’s hard to report on any specific action that went on over the weekend while on-track with the HPDE groups. However, a couple interesting things happened in the HPDE groups over the weekend that are worth noting.
First off, Robert Rose, a long-time member of NASA (since the beginning in Arizona) has been working with the time trial program since 2005. Starting in 2010, Robert has been assigned responsibility of the HPDE2 group leader, giving guidance throughout the day and during the downloads. Given the perfectly clean run sessions of HPDE2 during the weekend, I think it’s safe to say Robert settled into his new role nicely.
Drills are back! No, not fire drills, I’m talking about the HPDE driving exercises! You’re probably thinking, “Say what?”, but with the combining of groups HPDE3 & 4, group leaders saw it as a perfect opportunity to challenge the HPDE3 drivers, while giving some of the HPDE4 drivers some refreshers and perhaps preparation for moving into either the race or time trial groups. During the designated drill sessions, which were scheduled longer in length to provide ample time for training and regular driving, participants practiced passing, side-by-side driving through corners and other critical maneuvers on track.
Lastly, January saw a record number of HPDE4 drivers move into the Time Trial group to drive against the clock, the competition and up the stakes just a little. (More on that below)
Time Attack and Time Trial
The UMS Time Attack series saw its first event of the year and had a strong field of 18 drivers. With nine events on the schedule for 2010, drivers were anxious to see who would be occupying which class and what the tone would be like for the rest of the year. Not surprisingly however, some familiar faces topped the leaderboard at the end of the day on Sunday. Full time attack results are located here:
The NASA Time Trial Series had 36 drivers on Saturday and 39 drivers on Sunday, making it one of the biggest TT events ever. Perhaps most notable this weekend was Rick Johnson’s sub-1:08 lap (1:07.926 to be exact), setting a new record for the TTC class! This means that in the past twelve months, the TTC record at Phoenix Intl. Raceway has been broken five times! In addition, records were broken in TTR–Wayne McKeen @ 1:02.37, and in TTF–Tage Evanson @ 1:17.21.
As mentioned above, the following drivers moved up from HPDE4, completed a weekend in time trial and received their TT Licenses:
- David Barbey
- Dave Tellez
- Jim Williams
- Terry Lee
And for you TT insiders, the Curse of January has finally been broken!
Full Time Trial results from January, as well as track records:
Saturday Evening Banquet Updates
Yes, you knew it was coming eventually. For those of you who have stuck around on Saturday nights after the driving has settled down, you may have noticed the line is getting increasingly longer for the BBQ, drinks and even a turn at RockBand. NASA Arizona is politely asking donations for those who can afford it, and are willing to help support the increasing costs it requires to put on a social event like this. As mentioned, it’s strictly optional, but if most people can pitch in $10 every few months to offset the cost of the food, drinks, BBQ grills (NASA Arizona now owns several!) and so forth, it will only help to make these events even better. The easiest way to donate to the cause–and it’s a worthy one–is by selecting a donation option on the registration page.
NASA Arizona thanks you in advance for your support!
February 6-7 Preview – Firebird Intl. Raceway – Main Course
First off, does everyone remember where Firebird Raceway is? Yes, it’s been a long time since NASA Arizona has been to Firebird Raceway in general, but even longer since there has been a two-day event, and even longer since there has been a winter daytime event on Firebird’s Main Course! If you can think back long enough, last time was November, 2006–over three years ago! Needless to say, it’s great to be back to FIR.
Secondly, yes, that game everyone refers to as the Super Bowl is on Sunday. Not that it’s of any concern to us racers who make driving our first priority, but just in case, Sunday will be using an abbreviated schedule to make sure everyone is home, on the couch, by kickoff time. Here are some essential facts for the February event:
- If you need to register for February 6-7, Click Here.
- A rough draft of the schedule, as well as other important information can be found on the NASA Forum by Clicking Here.
- HPDE2 will be offered on Sunday, but HPDE1 will not due to the condensed schedule.
- Race group will use Saturday’s race results as the qualifying for Sunday’s race. Accordingly, there will be no qualifying session on Sunday.
- TT & HPDE groups will have three sessions on Sunday instead of four.
- Lastly, prices for groups which have shortened track time on Sunday have been adjusted as a result.
That about finishes this month’s edition of the NASA Wrap Up. As with the previous installment, a HUGE thanks goes out to Geri Amani with Redlign Photography fortaking event photos. More NASA Arizona photos are available on Redlign Photograhy’s website.
Thanks again for a great January event and we look forward to seeing everyone at Firebird Raceway in February!
(now let’s see some more pictures from the RockBand shootout on Saturday!)