Most of us have made plans to attend the upcoming Eastern States Championships at VIRginia International Raceway September 3-6. For me, it will be a special trip because VIR always feels like a home away from home, especially when I’m there with my NASA friends — even the ones I haven’t met yet!
I have spent a lot of time at VIR since it reopened 15 years ago, and I will be there for something like 28 days this year alone. It wasn’t the first track I ever drove at speed, but it is where I attended my first NASA instructor clinic, and my first NASA competition licensing school and sprint races. It’s also where I did my first enduro and first drove on track at speed in the dark.
No matter how much time I spend away from the area or how many other tracks I visit, VIR will always have a special place in my heart. I think that’s why I was particularly excited when the worst-kept secret in NASA rumor circles was finally made official last year: The 2015 Eastern States Championships would be at VIR! Woohoo!
So if you haven’t been to VIR before, what can you expect? The first thing you notice is that it looks like a golf course with a racetrack around the perimeter. Imagine vast green expanses and picturesque rolling hills. The paddock is huge, the bathrooms are always clean, and the buildings have Wi-Fi, not to mention cold air conditioning! Even better, the 3.3-mile Full Course itself is awesome to drive. It’s a world-class road-racing circuit that has been fully modernized with recent pavement and curbs and barriers. But don’t take my word for it. Ask a guy who usually can be found at the pointy end of a Spec E30 or American Iron field, NASA Mid-Atlantic director Chris Cobetto.
“The layout of the track is fairly simple, but the nuances are complex, and it’s the nuances that make you fast,” Cobetto said. “Some tracks are very technical, and some require … let’s call it bravery, but VIR has both aspects. It really tests your car placement as well as how deep you can have the ‘go pedal’ at the same time. And the best thing about it is the flow. It’s got the perfect balance of being able to anticipate what is coming up, and linking sections together, with just enough break in between. However, there is no replacement for that bravery in the Uphill Esses and coming through Turn 17. You have to suck it up and hold the throttle down if you want to win.”
After a day of racing is done, there are few things more enjoyable than opening a chilly beverage and roaming the paddock, visiting the many social gatherings and eventually making your way to The Tavern for a delicious meal. You also can go for a dip in the pool, drive karts, shoot guns, and more. Then you can retire to your room, which overlooks the Climbing Esses, the Lower Esses or pit road, depending on where you stay. VIR truly does have something for everyone to enjoy.
Pair all this with the fun, camaraderie and close competition and incredible highs you’ll experience with hundreds of NASA members just like you, and honestly, what’s not to love? And where on earth would you rather be? With so many other events, and even non-motorsports activities, competing for our time these days, I’ll go on record with the statement that the Eastern States Championships will be the best event we do all year — maybe the best NASA event ever held on this side of the country, and probably the best NASA Championships event in the history of our organization. If you haven’t already decided to go, I highly recommend it. See you there!