Name: Adrian Carpenter
Age: 41
Region: NASA Texas
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Racing Class: All of them.  I’m the Event Manager
Sponsors: My incredible husband and daughter
Day Job: GM at School of Rock, The Woodlands, Texas
Favorite Food: Chicken Fried Steak
Favorite TV Show: “Justified”
Favorite Movie: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
Favorite Book: “A Time to Kill,” John Grisham
Favorite Track: Texas World Speedway
Dream Racecar: Not a racecar, but I’ve always wanted a ’76 Stingray

 

Anyone who has gotten married knows the stress of putting on a wedding, from finding a place to get married to picking the right caterer.

Imagine staging a wedding five times a year and the guests are 250 hypercompetitive racers and their families. Welcome to Adrian Carpenter’s world in NASA’s Texas region, where she is responsible for organizing some of the biggest events in NASA Pro Racing.

When racers need assistance, from updating medical forms to changing car numbers, they turn to Carpenter because they know the Houston, Texas, native will fix the problem.

“I think the biggest part of it is that they’ve seen my face for the last 15 years, so they know that I’m a dependable person and, of course, they’re all my guys,” Carpenter said. “They come to me when they need anything, and they know I’m going to take care of them. That works both ways, but it works.”

Racers in the Texas region know the Carpenter family well. They’ve raced against Adrian’s husband, Kenneth, in Spec Miata and watched the Carpenter’s 17-year-old daughter, Kaleigh, grow up and work the grid at NASA races.

It’s no surprise that Adrian is deep into motorsports considering she grew up on the back of a crash truck. Her father started a crash team in the late 1960s and Adrian joined the team well before she was a teenager. The crew worked the Houston Grand Prix and Dallas Grand Prix along with many regional races over the years.

“I was pretty lucky and didn’t ever have to deal with anything horrid,” said Carpenter, 41. “That’s the job. You don’t ever want to move all weekend long. If the crash truck stays where it is, you’ve had a great weekend.”

After Carpenter got married, her husband, Kenneth, who was racing a Mazda RX-7, decided to participate in a NASA event. The NASA regional directors at the time asked Adrian to work grid since she had experience with other race organizations.

Carpenter moved up through the ranks, serving as race director and into her current spot as the event director for Texas Regional Director Will Faules. It’s been a remarkable partnership as the car counts and racer enthusiasm has only grown.

“I told her the goal wasn’t going to be to come down and do the same 150-, 200-car events,” Faules said. “The goal was to grow the business, and not once going on five years now has she ever questioned how or why we’re going to do that. All she said was what more can I do?”

Races in the Texas region routinely top 250 cars and Carpenter is at the center of it. Most racers don’t realize how much work goes into staging a two- or three-day event before they arrive at the track.

Carpenter must secure the track, hotel rooms and confirm safety crews before the dates a race is publicly announced. When Carpenter isn’t busy chasing down racers who haven’t completed waivers or medical forms, she’s dealing with small touches that make for a great event. Saturday night parties, champagne for the winner’s circle, trophies and T-shirts are on the long list of items she has a hand in.

Carpenter spends about 100 hours organizing a race and the Texas  Region is known for its big Cinco De COTA event at the Circuit of the Americas in early May. Asked how she stays organized, Carpenter points to having served in various roles in the organization and to being a mom.

“I credit being a mom to doing this job, because a lot of it is mom stuff,” Carpenter said. “You’re planning, you’re getting things organized and you’re the go-to person. Where are my shoes? Where’s my helmet? Okay, I’ll go find it. That’s part of what moms do.”

Even with the best planning, problems can still pop up at events. Take last year at Houston Motorsports Park when the timing loop went down on Saturday morning. Hurricane Harvey had hit the region a couple weeks earlier and the water and winds had battered the timing system.

“We had opposite race groups timing the other race groups that weekend,” Carpenter said. “The (racers) threw in and we made it work. It was an awesome thing, and I think that speaks to the integrity of our customers and members in Texas.”

Faules said Carpenter exemplifies the staff that works the races. “(They) meet you in the morning with a smile instead of a cup of attitude,” he said. “Adrian has been a big leader in always having a smile on facing the customer, no matter what is burning down behind us.”

Carpenter said this will be her last year as event manager, citing her time commitment managing a School of Rock franchise and her daughter Kay going off to college in the fall. Faules hopes Carpenter will reconsider, but he likes that the NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin will be one of her last races as an event manager.

The race will represent full circle for Carpenter, who was slated to chair her first Championships race in 2008, but her husband suffered a heart attack and needed a double bypass just days before the event.

“I couldn’t go because I was taking care of my husband,” Carpenter said. “For me, having the Championships back again 10 years later is huge.”

Carpenter is determined to show racers what makes the Texas Region so great. She plans to take a similar approach to the Cinco De COTA event with a huge party near the pool and live music. “You can’t go wrong with Mexican food and live music, right?” she said with a laugh.

She wants 500 cars racing at the NASA Championships, September 13-16. It’s true they do things bigger in Texas.

“I want a big field and I want to go out with a bang,” she said. “I want Texas to be remembered for this Championship. It’s going to be amazing.”

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Images courtesy of Brett Becker and Will Faules