When I Answer the Phone

As Regional Director of NASA Northeast, I get a wide variety of phone calls and emails every day. Some calls are questions about an upcoming event, or something like, “My brother is a mechanic. Can I tech my own car?” “Can I get a race license without ever attending any HPDE events?” “My son just drove his first go-kart and I think he’s ready to race.” “Is my 1990 M helmet still OK to use?” “How fast can I drive at your event?” “I have an FIA license in China. Can you give me a NASA license?” “I have been drag racing for 10 years. Can I get a race license?”

And it goes on … “Will my HPDE1 sessions be on TV?” “I race Forza. Can I start in HPDE3?” “I watch Formula 1. Can I start in HPDE4?” “My GTR makes 700 horsepower. Do I need better brakes?”

I’m sure most of the RDs have gotten similar questions — unless this is unique to the Northeast. I do my best to give reasonable answers to the questions without being rude, hoping to get them to become new NASA members.

Sometimes I get calls asking me to participate in an event or give a talk to a club or organization. The Cub Scout Pinewood Derby meeting was a favorite. “Do you ever have to pee in your racecar?” was the hot topic.

A few years ago I got a call to organize a race event on public roads for a reality TV show. After a number of phone conversations and a meeting in New York City, I agreed to do it. The first site was in New Hampshire. The second was in New York. The town officials approved the idea and I put together a team to set the courses. The concept of the TV show was about the types of people — characters — who would want to be part of this show. As it turned out, I knew many of the drivers and the idea of being on a TV show was the big attraction. The show went bankrupt after the second event, and never made it to TV, but I got paid.

In 2015, I was contacted by our very own John Lindsey to check out a private racetrack in New York to see if it was safe enough for NASA to insure an event there. I knew of the track and the owner, so I made the drive to see it. After making a few suggestions, and adding some cones, the track seemed safe enough for the event to take place.

The driving event was part of the Triumph Games held for wounded service men and women sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. After meeting with the organizer, I was asked to help train these amazing athletes in the art of driving fast Roush Mustangs. The cars were equipped with various types of hand and foot controls to accommodate the different injuries these people had suffered. It took some time to fit the veterans in the race seats and harnesses, but once they were in, they were ready to go.

We did our normal HPDE1 classroom preparation and then got in the right seat to teach them the course. Two of the other instructors happened to be Jack Roush Jr. and Brock Yates. I have been doing this stuff for many years, but I have never been so impressed with the way these athletes wanted to learn. They used a Time Trial format, and the vet that won is a paraplegic! So amazing! They learned, and so did I, that human spirit can conquer most anything.

I also learned you never know what can happen when you answer the phone.

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