If you are a racer, you know the feeling of adrenaline blasting through your veins during a race. The feeling of completing the perfect pass or the excitement of victory when crossing the finish line with the checkered flag flying is exhilarating. However, there are many more folks at a NASA event having the time of their lives, with the same feel-good chemicals coursing through their veins.
It wasn’t until I got more involved with NASA and became a Regional Director that I realized throughout the entire paddock everyone is experiencing a similar euphoria at a NASA event. That is why we are all there, as one big NASA family, to have fun with our friends and experience the magic of our own kind endorphin rush.
I came to this understanding — that not everyone at a NASA event has to be a racer to experience the rush — when I read a Facebook post from one of our awesome volunteers, who is in charge of our black flag station. Steve Gill said, “Volunteering is a lot of fun. You get in for free. You meet a lot of really great people. You get a front-row seat to some exciting racing. And they even feed you. And unlike some of the drivers who may have unfortunately been involved in an incident, you leave at the end of the day with the same amount of money that you started with. Thanks for letting me come out and play and for allowing me to be a part of your family.” Steve also gets a thrill out of helping put out the rare fire in the pits and hearing all of the creative stories drivers tell him when they have to come in for a visit. Grid staff, corner workers, safety crew, tech and impound volunteers, they all get a rush at a NASA event!
Of course, many of us remember the first time. Not that first time, but the first time at a NASA event in HPDE1. The nervousness of something exciting and new, and not knowing what to expect followed by the rush of seeing first hand a race track that you had only seen on TV. Then feeling the g forces in the corners and braking zones while learning what our cars can really do.
Driving instructors and classroom teachers experience that same great feeling when electrical stimulation of their neurotransmitters kicks in. After teaching a new student, it’s that moment when the student “gets it,” or after the student pulls his or her helmet off, exposing an ear-to-ear smile that just won’t quit. I got the opportunity to feel this rush with my student Claude Lawrence at Pitt Race in May.
Up on the Start/Finish stand, the hair stands up on the back of the neck of the starter as he drops the green flag. The roar of the cars thundering below can be felt up in that tower, along with the blast of wind as the field hurls by into Turn 1. The crew chief yells “Green, green, green!” The spectators jump to their feet to get a better view of the cars going three wide. Photographers, fans, crews, race directors, timing and scoring staff and control staff, they all get a rush at a NASA event.
That rush is what makes NASA so special to me. NASA is an organization like no other, where all kinds of people can come together during one weekend and experience a rush of endorphins through so many shared experiences around the same ribbon of asphalt.