Former NASA National Events Manager Will Faules moved to Texas a few years ago and took over leadership of the Texas Region. Now he’s putting that experience back to work in planning for the NASA Championships Presented by Toyo Tires at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, this September. We caught up with him to find out how preparations are going, and to get some local knowledge about COTA and the surrounding Austin area.
Q: You just wrapped up your second event at Circuit of the Americas. How did it go compared with last year’s event?
A: This event was a bit larger than last year, and a new regional record for the size of the event! To my knowledge, it is the only regional event to have every region represented on the entry list two years in a row. There were many reasons why, but primarily because of the HPDE program growth here and partially due to out-of-towners coming to test for the NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires here in September.
As usual, the NASA Texas team pulled off another fantastic event with the help of the amazing COTA staff. They had a 30,000-person music festival on the property on Saturday and we didn’t even notice aside from all the spectators watching the NASA racing as they were waiting to get into the festival on a different part of the property.
Q: You’re knee-deep in getting ready for the NASA Championships at COTA. How are the preparations going?
A: Preparations are going very smoothly for the big event. We had a whole herd of national staff at the Cinco de COTA event just a couple of weeks ago doing recon for many of the event details. In the past, we’ve usually only had one person responsible for most items for the big event, but this year we’ve stepped it up and have a team of people managing the many different facets to really let this event be as big as it needs to be. The team is full steam ahead everyday on items for this event. With Ryan Flaherty at the helm as event director, the NASA Texas team excited to be the hosting region, and many of the usual National fly-in event officials already making plans, I’m over-the-top pleased with how well planning is going, and in true Texas fashion, I look forward to helping host the biggest NASA Championships event to date!
Q: You also have been racing at Texas Region events. What have you learned about COTA in the time you have spent driving on it?
A: COTA is one of the best tracks for making drivers feel bad about themselves. Because the track is 3.4 miles long, one little mistake on entry to the esses or the stadium section can set you back a lot of time that lap! Getting that time back is tough on a fast and technical track like COTA, so the track is very rewarding to precision and consistency. Also, there are a couple of very bad spots to make a mistake while most of the track has acres of paved runoff. My advice is to have an escape plan for those bad areas.
Q: Can you share some general advice for going fast at COTA?
A: Even the U.S. Grand Prix drivers, who are arguably the best in the world, don’t show up to COTA expecting to learn the track in practice. It is a fun track to race, however it is one of the more tricky tracks to learn. The iRacing simulation is very good for COTA, and I’d recommend to anybody coming to COTA for the first time to get some simulator work in. I’ve worked with friends on the sim at specific first-time tracks, and the consensus is that with some proper sim work one can show up to a track they’ve never been to before and drive at least an 8/10ths out lap! If you factor in the average costs for test days, that makes a $1,000 to $3,500 simulator a no-brainer for preparing for events like this!
Q: OK, let’s shift gears a bit. Where’s the best barbecue in Austin?
A: I have to tread lightly here, because I could make some fellow Texans want to put me 6 feet under with the “wrong” answer here. But my personal go-to’s, depending on how much time I’ve got to sit down and enjoy the meal, would be Terry Blacks, Salt Lick, and Rudy’s.
Q: Where are some other good places to eat and drink?
A: I’m a buffalo wing connoisseur and the best place in Austin is a spot called Wingzup Bar and Grill. Great spot close to downtown. The Mighty Fine trailer at the Barton Springs trailer park is one of my go-to’s. At this point I’ll have to defer to John Lindsey’s upcoming Motorsports Tourist column for the event for more fun stuff in and around Austin.
With all that, I’d like to extend a huge welcome to everybody planning to come to Austin this September for the NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires. As the hosting region, we can’t wait to greet everybody with a Texas-size helping of some good ol’ Southern hospitality!