Years ago, when NASA officially announced the first National Championships at Mid-Ohio, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have the championships travel around the country like the Super Bowl?” Little did I know that it would someday come true. Last year, NASA announced it would be holding dual championships and rotating them at marquis tracks on each coast. After a flurry of emails last year with driver population statistics, track repaving schedules and track availability, we determined that Road Atlanta would be the 2014 Eastern States Championships venue.
To say that we were excited in the Southeast to be the host region for this new format is a tremendous understatement. We all looked forward to stepping up to the task of hosting such a prestigious and exciting event. What a phenomenal year it has been. There is so much planning that goes into an event of this magnitude it is hard to fathom.
We thought the flurry of emails that were part of the behind-the-scenes decision-making process were the tough part of the task, but little did we know that they were the tip of the iceberg. Once it was announced that Road Atlanta was going to be the venue for the Eastern States Championships, everyone from vendors to trackside services and, of course, drivers wanted to know all they could about the track, from the characteristics of the asphalt surface to electricity to parking.
As we got closer to the event, the flurry of emails turned into a blizzard as we coordinated oil shipments, trophy girls, tire vendors, spec gasoline and don’t forget catering for the Honda, Mazda and driver welcome meetings. In the final two months, it was crunch time! We had to arrange for wreckers, scales, dyno, control staff, race directors, series directors, timing and scoring, hotels, staff lunches, trophies, banners, high-speed internet, video editors, news editors, magazine folks and a marketing production company!
It was so much stuff that it required Google docs the size of War and Peace to keep track of. All along the journey, we believed in our NASA staff, affectionately known as our “NASA family.” Sure enough, everyone jumped in and helped to make the event a huge success. Sure there were hiccups at the start, but you can’t throw a staff of 100-plus and close to 400 drivers on track without having to iron out a few bugs. True to the NASA family of volunteers, everyone chipped in to help. They are the best, and we had the event running like clockwork in no time.
I am truly proud of the friendships I have made over the years at the various NASA Championships, and this year didn’t disappoint. Everyone in NASA is first class, and we are already working on next year’s Championships, learning from our strengths and weaknesses, because that is what we do. We love our NASA family and we want to make sure everyone ends the weekend with a smile. I have a T-shirt that says, “My drinkin’ team has a racing problem,” and that is so true of the NASA Championships, because the off-track and evening activities are as much a part of the weekend as the racing is.
I wouldn’t trade hosting the Championships experience for anything. It was a wonderful and enlightening weekend for everyone involved. It was a dream of ours to host the Championships and we would do it all over again in an instant. So the next time you feel the urge to dream big, I say go for it! But I would add, “Be careful what you wish for.”