The NASA Championships are the crown jewel of our racing season, and this year’s event was no different. In years past, I have been responsible for many facets of the event, and a few times I have been fortunate enough experience it in the best way possible: racing! In 2011, NASA management decided it was time to hire a full-time person to manage the enormity of the Championships. We have been growing at such a rapid pace and have had so many other projects in development like Speed News, we knew it was time to make the investment in additional resources to maintain the our high standards.
We hired Will Faules as our National Event Manager. He worked side by side with me to produce the 2011 Championships. This year was his time to fly solo while having direct access to the guidance, support and resources of Great Lakes Regional Director Dave Royce. Both of these guys working together ended up becoming a dream team, and they knocked it out of the park. I was able to experience the event from a completely different perspective compared to the previous six years, and I had a blast being a spectator than more than anything else.
The NASA Championships is a showcase of what can be achieved with great people working together as a team. We are privileged to welcome more than 100 volunteers that come from every NASA region in the country. It is impressive to see all the parts of the machine working in harmony to produce a professional-level event. The NASA family of volunteers and staff are what make us different. Just like most things in life, people are what make the difference to the customer.
A person could visit any area of the event, from race control, tech, impound and pre-grid to registration, driver info, victory circle, media, etc., and he would see not one but a cadre of people doing amazing work to accommodate the NASA racer. Not being as involved this year as I have been in years past left me even more impressed with and encouraged by what this great event has become. I flew home with the satisfaction of knowing we have secured our spot on the center stage of motorsports and that NASA will continue to thrive because of all the great people we are honored to call our family.
Case in point, we all know and understand racing can be dangerous, and our safety equipment requirements are devised for worst-case scenarios. Race car crashes are miserable. Car fires are every racer’s nightmare. Race car crashes that result in an epic fire are something none of us wants to experience, no matter how good the stories will be after the fact. That terrible sequence of events happened to a couple of unlucky racers during the Championships.
What you will see in the stories ahead will showcase the amazing act of bravery and clear thinking of our Regional Director, Jim Pantas, whom many of us credit with saving a life. I feel bad for Jim for having to deal with that situation — and a wrecked car — along with minor injuries, but in an odd way, I am grateful he was one of the guys involved. Regional Directors have a “responsibility complex” by nature and we have been trained to deal with a serious incident, and begin working toward a resolution. I don’t need to go into the details of the incident since you can read everything in the pages ahead, but suffice it to say Jim Pantas is a true hero by all our standards, and we are grateful to have amazing people like him on our team.
I am thankful to know so many great people in this organization and I am proud that you choose NASA to be part of your racing family.