Opened in 1941 as the Millville Army Air Field, the site of New Jersey Motorsports Park was originally a gunnery school for pilots to learn to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt. During the four years of U.S. involvement in World War II, roughly 1,500 pilots underwent advanced training at Millville Army Air Field.
Fast forward about six decades, one track at New Jersey Motorsports Park is called Thunderbolt and the other is Lightning, so named for the WWII fighter planes. NASA Northeast has been putting people on the two tracks at NJMP since it opened in 2008, and has probably introduced well over 1,500 people to the joys of high-performance driving.
NASA Northeast visits NJMP more than any other track in the region. In fact, it has five events scheduled for 2023 in addition to other tracks, including Watkins Glen, Lime Rock and Pocono. NASA Northeast has fostered such a good business relationship with the track that it earned the Track Partner of the Year award from NJMP in 2022.
“We brought more people through the gate than any of the other clubs have,” said NASA Northeast Regional Director Joe Casella. “We know we bring more people there. So, that might have been the basis for it, plus the fact that we’ve been going to the track from the week after it opened. We were the second group to go there when it first opened and been going ever since.”
Conveniently located to four major metropolitan areas, NJMP also is located next to an operational regional airport, so there are no exhaust sound regulations to deal with. That’s a big departure from Lime Rock Park, which has been operating under an injunction limiting noise levels and when racing events can be held since it opened in 1959.
Check out more NASA Northeast action from the August 2022 event at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
“The key for us, obviously, is we do better at New Jersey than we do anywhere else, because it’s so local to the three markets, the Philly market, the Delaware market, and the New York and New Jersey markets,” Casella said. “So we have a tendency to pull more people. So strictly out of business, since that’s the best place for us to go.”
From the perspective of NASA members, NJMP is about as good as it gets. The facilities are well maintained, with everything you could ever need. For example, the track rents VIP suites overlooking the front straight on the Thunderbolt course, with garages underneath. There’s fuel, long-term storage, banquet rooms, a pro shop and, conveniently enough, the Finish Line pub located between the Thunderbolt and Lightning courses.
To get better acquainted with the region and its members, Speed News visited NASA Northeast at NJMP in August, and it was a hoot. Despite its 2.25-mile length, the Thunderbolt course is a quick lap, with Honda Challenge 2 cars lapping it an average pace of 1:35 and ST1 cars around 1:25.
Ride along with Edward Higginbotham from the rainy Sunday race in August in his Spec3 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
In NASA Northeast, Honda Challenge, Spec Miata, Spec E30 and German Touring and Super Touring Series are all healthy and viable, with tight, aggressive and, most important, clean racing. Spec3 is making its presence known from the growth in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and given Regional Director Joe Casella’s love of Nissan Z cars — and that Brian Casella has bought a new Spec Z — NASA Northeast might also be poised to become a Spec Z hot spot.
“All the major hotels are down there. So it’s convenient for so many,” Casella said. “And you know, you got to appeal to our customer base, that they can go and have a good meal and have a good hotel to stay at. It just works.”
If you get the chance to go to New Jersey Motorsports Park and race with your NASA Northeast family, do it. It’s a great place to race against great people.