NASA National named Shawn Meze as its Technical Director of Racing in February 2018. Responsible for cultivating the growth and technical aspects of new and existing classes, and oversight of the NASA Prototype series, Meze has had a busy first year.
He’s presided over testing and adaptation of a new spring package for Spec E30, and was on hand for testing and evaluation of the new shock package for Spec Miata. He wrote both stories on those developments for Speed News, and has been instrumental in improving individual class rules and those in the Club Codes and Regulations.
This year should be just as busy for Meze, so we caught up with him to see what he’s been working on in 2019.
Q: 2018 was a busy year for you. What presented the biggest challenges?
A: Knowing which hat to wear, and when! People ask me about what it is I do at NASA. I ramble off a few areas that I’m directly responsible for, and their comment back to me midsentence is usually, “So, you wear a lot of hats.” My instant response is a big smile. The trick that I’ve leaned early on is, to not wear one hat for too long. I’ve got to juggle the areas I’m responsible for and be as involved in those areas as much as possible. I’m still finding new areas that I need to learn about and deal with accordingly. It’s always evolving, and the learning is every day.
Q: At the NASA Championships at Circuit of the Americas, your first Championships event as Technical Director of Racing, you were all over the place. What did you learn from that experience?
A: I was lucky in that I had previously attended NASA Championships events as a competitor, as a Series Director and Race Director several times, as well as other duties as at events. Being familiar with how the event runs helped me plan certain aspects of the event to benefit the racers and staff alike.
What I learned at this event is, it’s a super busy job. I was being tugged in three different directions seemingly all the time. It was fantastic to a point, and at other times somewhat overwhelming. I learned that it’s OK to dream big, but if you make grand plans for the racers, keep it realistic because there are only 24 hours in a day. I had seven race groups and a Time Trial group on the schedule! Previously, when I had just one single race group to deal with, it was easy and I had spare time to enjoy the racing and racers alike.
At COTA, as the event ramped up, as we got closer to the Championship races, the busier I became. Sure, I made mistakes and from that, learned a lot about planning, staffing, adapting and always trying to be ready for the next thing that comes at you, because it will. It was a great experience for me. The things we thought would be a nightmare, much to our surprise, worked out fantastically! And the things you can’t anticipate, really never developed into an issue that we weren’t able to deal with as it happened. Hearing all of the drivers exclaim what a great time they had and how much fun this event was for them was the cherry on top!
Q: How do you think that will help you at the 2019 NASA Championships at Mid-Ohio?
A: Having one event under my belt does not make me an expert, but it has given me an edge for many things in terms of what to expect and anticipate. Being part of a great team doesn’t hurt, either. That we have previously done Championships events at Mid-Ohio will add to the familiarity for many of us. In a way, we will know what to expect, which makes planning for the event a little easier because we know what our limitations are.
In a way, it’s like I’m returning home to the place of my first NASA Championships event as a racer, and my first NASA Championships events as a Race and Series Director at Mid-Ohio. And now with even more duties and responsibilities, I welcome the challenge for myself and the NASA team who look to make this another event to remember as well!
Q: What can competitors look forward to at Mid-Ohio this year?
A: We have just begun planning for the 2019 Championships event at Mid-Ohio. First of all, who doesn’t want to be on a racetrack where so many racers we have looked up to and idolized have raced on? Being on this track is becoming a part of history. Taking the very same turns as so many famous racers have been on, it’s just a magical place.
If our members want to compete against the very best racers in the United States, this is the event they need to attend, and see where they match up in their respective classes. It’s a great opportunity to finally put a screen name to a face. It’s an opportunity to compete with racers who live in other parts of the country, where you wouldn’t have that opportunity to do so otherwise. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I hope everyone makes the commitment to attending! We will spend months in planning and doing everything we can to make this a great event.
Q: You’ve been a NASA member since 2005, long before you worked for the organization. What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen come along?
A: Has it been that long? Wow! Well, since my first event with NASA, the changes have been that the cars have gotten better and faster. And to coincide with that development, the drivers also have improved. It’s been an evolution, and rules that were overly simple on purpose, have had to evolve with the up-trending of the development of the cars. I believe that’s all a very healthy change for any organization.
Q: HPDE drivers are an important part of NASA. What are you doing to help those drivers and to help grow that segment of the membership?
A: Many people don’t know this but, HPDE drivers are our future NASA racers! Within the HPDE program, we have a direct responsibility in determining what kind of drivers they become. Fostering that desire and helping them to improve as a driver and eventually become a racer is our duty!
What I have learned is that of the many people who strongly desire to be on a racetrack, a large percentage of them don’t even know who we are or that we even exist. Another program we have started is a new endurance racing series called Team Racing Endurance Challenge. TREC racing requirements are that competitors be HPDE3 level drivers. You don’t need a competition license to be able to race! It’s a great way to get lots of seat time and work as a team where they will not only race, but also learn to form strategies, sportsmanship and develop their teams in an affordable Enduro format.
Q: Can you give us any glimpse of things we might expect in the future?
A: We expect to see larger racing fields. In some regions, we are already seeing that, although the 2019 season has only just begun in a few regions. Since we were just talking about the HPDE program, something we jave developed for the HPDE program that I’m excited about is that HPDE drivers will qualify for contingency programs! We are working on a program to actively reward HPDE drivers and programs. I’ve probably already said too much, but that’s an exciting development to me! What other organization does that for its members?
We have also increased the size of our team to obtain more racing contingencies and benefits for NASA members, as well. Something else we have implemented is to return to using the NASA Forums. Other forms of social media are popular, but they all lack any ability to search for topics/subjects that have already been discussed and resolved for others. People want and need answers to their questions “right now,” and we realized that the NASA Forums can do just that. So, we updated the software on the site and have added new moderators to answer questions and give people the guidance they are asking for.
There are many things going on behind the scenes that we are working on that many people probably won’t notice. For example, we require that all NASA Tech officials are SFI certified, and we implement testing for that certification. We host Race Director meetings online with all of the Race Directors from all of the regions for training or to discuss issues they might be seeing. Many things are going on behind the scenes to make all of our events better for everyone!