When you visit HyperFest at Virginia International Raceway, it can be a bit overwhelming at first, but that’s HyperFest’s sneaky plan. At 1,300 acres, the facility is immense, nearly every inch has some activity that is YouTube worthy. Your senses approach redline as your ears enjoy the wail of stressed engines, your nostrils breathe in the sweet smell of race gas and your eyes lock in on plumes of tire smoke billowing from the drift arena. Festive and colorful sponsor banners greet and guide you in where vendor booths flank the roads, thousands of campers have claimed their spot and throngs of people line the fences.
You also get the sense that HyperFest has been built by car people for car people. Many have attended for multiple years and tend to take ownership of it, in a sense. For one weekend a year, members of the fun-with-wheels tribe have a home, and regardless of how they choose to enjoy HyperFest with their friends or family, there’s really no right or wrong way to do it.
Now in its 21st year, HyperFest has grown from humble beginnings at Summit Point Motorsports Park, a track that wasn’t necessarily designed to accommodate large crowds of spectators, to VIR where there’s far more room for drivers to spread out and fans to come and take part. For 2022, NASA Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Chris Cobetto said there was a combined attendance of more than 14,500 people.
“The whole point of HyperFest, right from the very beginning was to introduce people to the beauty of road racing,” Cobetto said. “That idea has expanded a little bit in that it has become about being able to introduce everybody to motorsports, and the fun that that is. It’s still centered around NASA and around road racing, but it’s morphed into a gathering that is just unmatched in scope.
“We have road racing, drifting, rally, 4×4 off road, RC cars and the list goes on. We sort of provide a palette of colors at the event, and it’s really up to the individual to paint whatever picture they want,” he added.
Check out some cool drift RC cars showing their stuff at 2022 HyperFest.
Some visitors come specifically to take part in the HyperDrives, an abbreviated format of NASA’s HPDE program wherein drivers get one session in the classroom, then one 20-minute session on track. At HyperFest, HyperDrives take place on the Patriot Course, which also is where the drifters put on their show all weekend long.
Cobetto estimates that they do 100 to 120 HyperDrives at HyperFest. NASA Mid-Atlantic used to take registrations at the track, but now HyperDrives sell out well before event takes place.
“We have people who just come out and do the HyperDrives. You know, they just want to do that once a year, and as long as they are having fun, that’s fine,” Cobetto said. “But then we also have people that make the transition and come to a regular NASA event. Either way, we are just happy that they are having fun and getting introduced to the beauty of the sport.”
One driver to dip his toes in the water with a HyperDrive was Kevin Helms, who not only returned to regular NASA Mid-Atlantic events, but also earned a competition license and then went on to win a National Championship in Honda Challenge at VIR in 2015.
Cobetto has found success in marketing the event through social media influencers who not only promote the event to their followers beforehand, but many of them also make appearances at HyperFest. Outfits like Krispy Media have 500,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel and videos shown on Krispy’s YouTube channel get shared over and over and over again. Numbers like that multiply quickly.
There are thousands of images from HyperFest, most of which we don’t have room for here on Speed News, so we put together a video to show off more of what went on at the 2022 HyperFest.
“They love the event because they can relax and just have fun,” Cobetto said. “And, you know, if you can put an event on that these folks really like, given the fact that they have been to a million events, that’s really excellent.”
In past surveys, fans have indicated their favorite activities are, in order, the Haltech drifting competition, the KONI Power Wheels Attack presented by Red Line Oil and, of course, NASA road racing. You read that right. The Power Wheels event is more popular than the road racing, which is pretty astonishing, but when you see the spectators that gather to watch, it’s clear that it’s a fan favorite.
It costs nothing to enter the Power Wheels Attack, which runs down the Roller Coaster section, turns 14 through 17, of the main track at VIR after the track has gone cold Saturday evening. You have to maneuver through the KONI Shocks chicane while the crowd pelts you with water balloons supplied by Red Line Oil. The competition is open to 100 drivers who face off in multiple heats, after which the winners race for the ultimate glory, a grand prize of $100 and some swag.
“This year we had a hundred pre-register, and by the time we got to the actual race, there were about 85 drivers out there total, and they put on a great show,” Cobetto said. “You do have to be 18 years old, but you’ve got to wear a helmet and we suggest protective clothing. Sometimes the protective clothing that people choose is a Batman outfit.”
Spectators also get to take part in other contests and “content.” There’s the ever-popular PRS Guitars air guitar shredding contest, the winner of which gets a real Paul Reed Smith guitar. The Tire Streets hot pepper-eating contest also has been on the docket for several years.
Right in the middle of it all is a vendor village with products on display and swag for the taking, more drifting on the skid pad and the Speed Trend Society car show. For that matter, the whole infield is a car show. Around the facility, spectators can get in on the action at the kart track, or get ride-alongs during the Exedy Clutches Rally and BFGoodrich 4×4 experience courses, ride-alongs on the main track with Kaizen Autosport and check out RC cars in The Gallery. When darkness falls, the Motul Burnout Contest kicks off, and when that’s done, Club HyperFest Powered by Monster pumps out the music till after midnight. Saturday at HyperFest has a whole weekend’s worth of action. Doing it all requires stamina — and maybe a Monster or two — neither of which seem to be in short supply.
“There are people who are out there just for the party. Most love cars in some manner, but ultimately, I think all love the energy of the event,” Cobetto said. “There is an energy that we draw as human beings from each other that gets amplified when those humans are of like mind. We send the message that we are all here as brothers and sisters in speed. The HyperFest crowd responds very positively, and we ask that when they are done enjoying the event that they leave the place looking better than how they found it.”
For NASA drivers and racers, racing and winning at HyperFest is every bit sought after as winning a National Championship, Cobetto said. HyperFest is the one event on the whole calendar where fans fill the bleachers. Young fans walking through the paddock often will ask drivers for their autographs.
“What drivers really like is the excitement and the energy when they’re in Turn 3 or coming down the Roller Coaster section of the track lined with tents and campers and spectators lined up the whole way down from 14 through 17,” Cobetto said. “You know, when you go into Turn 4 and you see activity and tents all over the place, it is a great feeling. Most of us, as amateur drivers within NASA, aren’t going to get the opportunity to go and run at a true pro event, you know? I want to provide a pro level event for all the amateurs like me, so at least once a year they could feel the energy and get the big-time racecar driver attention from fans and sponsors.
“The average spectator doesn’t really look at the racers as amateurs,” Cobetto said. “Racecar drivers are a rare breed and for a spectator to have access to the paddock and to be able to interact with a Spec E30 driver or American Iron driver is exciting.”
The months leading up to HyperFest are filled with more work than sleep, and the moment you cross the bridge into the infield during the event, you can appreciate all the work it takes to put it on. Regardless of whether you’re staff, a spectator, fan or a driver, everyone at HyperFest is a participant. It holds a different meaning for each of us.
“That we have created something that allows a person to go follow a dream is very fulfilling, from a perspective of what you do with your time on this earth,” Cobetto mused. “You know, it sounds maybe a little campy, but I really do believe that with the time you spend on this planet, you do your best to leave it better than you found it. It takes a lot of work to put this event on as you know. I mean, it is truly 18 hour days for two months straight leading up the event. But when somebody thanks me and tells me, ‘I feel like I’m home,’ it makes me feel like we are doing our part in making this world a better place. And that feels good.”