Gary Faules - NASA Director of Mentoring

One chain of events that will long stand out in my mind was the weekend I qualified for my rookie competition license. It was an unusually beautiful weekend at none other than Laguna Seca. I had been there years before, dreaming of the possibilities of one day getting behind the wheel of a racecar and competing.

Now, years later, here I was at the same track, proving myself worthy of a rookie competition license. Before the ink of the race-licensing director’s signature had dried in my rookie log book, I was signed up for not one, but four sprint races, and a four-hour endurance race, a rather ambitious weekend for a rookie driver, especially considering this being one of the most technically challenging tracks in the world.

Qualifying midpack, I was quite pleased with my first two performances, having managed to run clean races, a requirement during my rookie probation and finding myself with a third-place podium finish. The sun was shining, the car was performing to perfection, and I couldn’t get over the fact I was racing at Laguna Seca, and the feeling of belonging was over the top. NASA had helped me realize my dream.

In the endurance race I was quite pleased to find myself out front in my class with less than 20 minutes left, and it was looking like a sure thing for a podium finish and began thinking, “This racing stuff is pretty easy.” Little did I realize those seven little words would bite me in the butt more times than I care to count.

As my confidence grew and lap times got faster, I found myself entering Rainey Curve, with a fast-class car on the inside and a faster whale-tail Porsche trying to pass on the outside. My first thought was “Hey we’re three-wide, is this cool or what?!” It was a hold-my-beer-and-watch-this moment until the Porsche got loose in the marbles and collected my right front and sandwiched me between him and the car on my left, leaving us locked together and headed off course. I down-shifted, braked hard and was able to pull back and get around them, and went on to finish the race and get my first endurance class win.

Later I recognized the car that I had collected earlier being towed into the pits. Immediately the driver was in my face screaming, “Faules, what’s your f#$%ing problem?” I was unable to convince him the Porsche had pushed me into his car until another driver told us he caught the whole thing on his in-car camera.

The following day, while I was racing with mixed classes of cars on the track, once again I found myself in Rainey Curve when suddenly, I heard what sounded like someone honking a horn? Huh? As I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw the same driver and car that I had hit the day before. As he passed, he gave me a friendly wave. After the race, I found him and asked, “Was that a horn on your racecar?” His entire crew burst into laughter and he said, “My crew chief installed it last night and told me, “If you see Faules on the track, make damn sure he knows you’re there.”

Marc Kirberg and I became best friends and eventually he joined my team, and we enjoyed wins at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about NASA, it is every racing story you’ll ever have will find a special place.

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