“I want to be a NASA Champion!” Hundreds of NASA drivers from all over the country have told themselves that as we head into the final month of preparation for the inaugural Eastern States Championships. These drivers have spent weekends at the track with their eyes on the prize, each session trying to get better and better with the hope of being the first one across the stripe later this month.
There’s no question that the Championships weekend is grueling. It’s a lot like a long endurance race chopped up into three days. A racer’s first impression might be that it is just a 45-minute race on Sunday after going out for a couple qualifying sessions, but it is so much more than that. Most drivers will start by showing up on Thursday to test and tune their cars to the nuances of the beautiful, challenging, up and down elevations of Road Atlanta. We all know even a perfect test day can be challenging, and that’s just the start for our competitors.
From there, they’ll warm up in NASA groups on Friday to do some final checks on their cars. Meanwhile, our tech inspection team will already have a list of items to check on every single car in the paddock over the course of the weekend to ensure class compliance throughout the event. After warm-up, drivers will head to grid for a qualifying session. They’ll want to get as clean a lap as possible since this time earns them their grid spot for the first qualifying race. After qualifying, teams will want to make adjustments to the car for their first qualifying race. The finishing position of qualifying race No. 1 will be their starting position for qualifying race No. 2 on Saturday. Now, they’re finally through Friday.
Saturday morning classes will have another warm-up session and likely be making more adjustments to find even more speed than Friday. They’ll already know where they’ll be starting qualifying race No. 2, since it is where they finished their race the day before. These races grow even more intense because everybody wants to start the big Championship race as close to the front as possible. Just the two qualifying races promise to be some of the best action all year long.
The Championship races all will be held Sunday. One final 45-minute race for all the marbles. Millions of dollars in contingency awards for the event all based on this one day of racing. The title of ‘”NASA Champion” comes down to this day. It all comes down to a 45-minute sprint to the finish. The best-of-the-best battle it out, and every year the Championships races provide epic amounts of excitement as we crown our newest Champions and spray champagne all over victory circle.
Even with these three days of on-track excitement, there’s one aspect of the event that any Championships veteran looks forward to as much as the racing: the people. At this one event, we get friends from all over the country together to participate in what we love: NASA racing! The type of beverages and food in a certain camp often give away which region of the country someone might be from. One thing is certain with so many competitors from all over the country, the bench racing in the paddock on Friday and Saturday nights will be as entertaining and fun as the on-track action. That’s what NASA is all about, providing the best playing field for competition, and having massive amounts of fun with everybody involved at the same time.