If the photos don’t give it away already, if you have seen Jeff Seldomridge before, he was probably inspecting parts from your car in the tech shed at the NASA Championships. A NASA member since 2007, Seldomridge has been doing the heavy lifting in tech to ensure all cars are prepared according to the rules.
Nowhere has that been more important in recent Championships events than in Spec Miata, a class that gets torn down extensively year after year to ensure parity and fairness. It is, without question, a binary and thankless job. He’s a hero to some and a villain to others. We caught up with Seldomridge to pick his brain about some of the things he has seen in the tech shed over the years.
Q: First off, how’d you get started in the tech shed with NASA, and how long have you been doing it?
A: I’ve been racing with NASA since 2007. I joined Performance Touring E class in approximately 2011. Over the years, a fellow class competitor, Xavier Calderon, and I became good friends. In 2016, he mentioned to me that the upcoming Championships at Watkins Glen had an enormous number of Spec Miata class entrants, the biggest yet. He asked if I had any interest in assisting with compliance impound for that event because of the potential chaos of such a large field. I am a fairly organized technical soul, so I thought it would be fun to be part of the notorious SM teardown.
Q: You were involved in the Spec Miata tech inspections at COTA in 2018, which took more than a week to finalize and adjudicate. What was that like?
A: As we all know, 2018 COTA had some controversy. Despite what the disqualified competitors tried to rumor, NASA handled the findings with incredible responsibility and care. It went all the way to the top of NASA and beyond to ensure the right answer was found, and ultimately to ensure the right decision was made. I do not speak on behalf of the national directors or officials, but I experienced their concerns first hand, their exacting precision and ultimately their resolve. At some point, every official played the devil’s advocate to question our findings to ensure we were looking at this from all angles for the sake of the competitor. Some competitors may strongly disagree. Others may strongly agree.
2018 COTA established my commitment to the NASA national program. In addition, being part of that event defined my character, my virtue, my willingness to seek out fairness in life.
Q: In any of the classes you have been involved with inspecting, what have been some of the more, uh, creative infractions you have found?
A: Oh, hell, Spec Miata always has the gifts that keep on giving. Because of the nature of the SM class and their “methods,” I have seen a wealth of creative infractions. But I cannot disclose that info because, well, an artist never exposes his master stroke, and there are many races left to go.
Q: What have you found to be the most difficult inspections to make? In other words, what are the most difficult things to catch?
A: The rules of most classes state what can be done. The rules do not always state what cannot be done. Even though the rules are generally thorough, there is still a lot unwritten. So the SM compliance team’s job is not only to tech the items clearly stated in the rules, but also to look within the gray area to see what electrical and/or mechanical advantages can be used that do not directly conflict with the written rule.
In addition, we have to look for parts that require the 28.1.1 of the NASA CCR to determine if tampering has been done, i.e., the axle cages from the COTA race. Items such as these are the hardest to discover because the prioritized tech list is long, arduous and time consuming. Most of the “cheaters” prey on this aspect of the impound process. We caught many off guard at COTA because Xavier, Ron and myself did not sleep or rest until every inch of the car was absolutely NASA SM and CCR legal. The competitors deserved nothing less.
Q: Do you find the job interesting? Are you having fun?
A: I’ll be honest on this question. I love the job. I love the people I work with. I love to travel to the tracks I have never seen. I love that I am given the chance to see to it that the rules are followed, that the cheaters of the game are held accountable and that all participants are afforded the chance to podium at a national race. For some, it’s the win of a lifetime. For others, it’s just another first place. All must be given the chance to prove that their principles, their driving and their car is superior.
Q: What are the main things you’d like to competitors to know or to be aware of when they submit their cars for inspection?
A: This question sparked a thought. I dwelled on it for a few days. I was torn between saying what I truly feel and what I feel is politically correct. Instead I’ve decided to follow up on the first question and share a bit more of how I came to be SM tech.
I am a driver. I want to win. I want to outdrive the competition in a sportsmanlike conduct and hold my head high on the podium. In my driving career, I have landed a podium then been disqualified for being over power, underweight, gray area parts and technical infractions. I will admit that my intentions, at times, dwelled in the gray area. I wanted to win. Nonetheless, when the tech issued results, I was held accountable. I failed myself and there was no one else to blame, not the dyno, not scales, not the tech man and not NASA. The driver next in line to pass earned every bit of my finishing position because they put in the time and had the rectitude to keep the car within the legal limits of the rules.
When you bring your SM car to a NASA Championships event, I ask competitors to understand that the team dissecting your cars divined the hard lessons of losing from a DQ, and we’ve also reveled in the rewards of passing a tech teardown and keeping our position. We valued the process so much we became part of the compliance program. We are unbiased to your name, your shop, your engine builder or your home region. All we care about is that you maintain legality for your right to claim a podium, for your car prep reputation and lastly, for the respect that it brings.