Bryce Kliewer drove home from Circuit of The Americas riding the high of being a National Champion. Kliewer has been racing in TT with NASA for five years. Regionally, he’s won class championships in TTD, TTC and now TT5. Last year, he won the TTC Championship at the 2017 Western States Championships, though he was the only car in the class. Kliewer, 38, has been building his car for the last few years with an eye on class rules, and you can see how it has changed over the last couple of years in the accompanying photos. We caught up with him after the 2018 NASA Championships to ask him a few questions.

Q: Whether you knew it or not, you’re the very first NASA TT5 National Champion. What does that feel like?

A: Like landing on the moon! Probably not that cool, but being the first at anything is exciting and looking forward to seeing how the class develops.

Q: What was it like trying to figure out how to go fast at Circuit of The Americas? Had you ever been there before?

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A: I ran an endurance race at COTA last December in an SCR Performance E36 and through a series of several yellow flags and general race strategy did a couple “splash and go’s” resulting in several hours of consecutive track time, so I had pretty good familiarity with the track. This was my first time in this trim in my car, however, and putting a complete lap together is hard on this track — there are so many opportunities to completely blow it. Nerding out behind the wheel of a sim racer doesn’t hurt either, and I logged a few hours there before Nationals.

Q: What’s your favorite home track in your region, and why? 

A: I really enjoy Pueblo Motorsports Park. It’s a short track, so you get lots of time to “learn” while driving it — trying out different things in quick succession to see what is faster. A lot of racing cars for me is progression, improvement and trial and error, so a really fun, technical track that provides quick feedback loops is really fun.

Q: Your car is a 330i ZHP, a car not allowed in Spec E46, yet not as powerful as the M3s you beat in TT5 at COTA . What have you done to the car? 

A: I was bummed when the E46 rules came out and the ZHP was on the outside looking in, because that class and group of drivers looks really fun, but it didn’t stop my progression on building out the car to ST5 spec. I decided to do a full cage on the car and accompanying safety equipment even though I only run it in TT because I liked the option of being able to jump into a race group and having the peace of mind that a caged car brings. It’s also a full-aero car with a pretty small wing to accommodate the rules, but also the lower HP, and that chassis has responded really well to the added grip.

Q: What are your plans for the car? 

A: The sedan credit is going away next year, so I will need to add a little weight to account for that, but otherwise no development plans. That would mark the first year in several where I don’t do anything major to the car, so it will be a nice chance to actually dial it in without adjusting to a huge pile of “new” at every race.

Q: Will we see you at Mid-Ohio next year to defend your TT5 title? Why or why not?

A: Man, I hope so. It’s a long haul out there from Colorado, but learning new tracks is so much fun, and what better way to do it than trying to avoid being humbled at the national competition level?

Image courtesy of BRYCE KLIEWER