The NASA Nation is filled with tales of fathers and sons racing together, one of the greatest joys for any father. The stories of fathers and daughters getting to race together are less common, but equally compelling, if not more so.

NASA Southeast Spec E30 series leader Katherine Agurkis spent a lot of time coming up through NASA’s HPDE program and watching her father race. After earning her provisional license in 2022, Agurkis soon took the reins as series leader of NASA Southeast’s Spec E30 when her predecessor, Scott Gress, decided to step down.

She also was recently awarded The Spirit of Spec E30 Award, a prize originally created by Scott Gress. The Spirit award goes to the person who most embodies the series’ fun and competitive spirit. It goes to a driver the series is lucky to have, and who has a positive effect on the group morale on and off the track.

As part of our continuing installments of “Timeout With:” interviews with series leaders, we thought it was a good time to catch up with Agurkis to see how she’s doing, what’s she is doing to foster growth in a series where it’s already one of the most populated of any NASA region in the country. We caught up with Agurkis shortly before Memorial Day and asked her a few questions, and how she feels about racing with her dad. Well, it was more than a few questions.

Q: According to your Instagram, your first day on track was in January 2018, and you got your provisional license in January 2022. Now, you’re the series leader for Spec E30. Can you talk a bit about that experience, and your progression coming up through HPDE and into racing?

A: It’s been wild journey! I spent years in HPDE watching my dad be a racer. All I ever wanted to do was be part of the racer group and be in competition like my dad. So, when the time came for me to go wheel to wheel, I was over the moon. I could never have asked for anything more from the sport than to be a racer. My short time in competition has been pretty wild. I’ve had a large wreck. I’ve been lapped by the whole field twice, I’ve worked my way up to the midpack. I just recently celebrated my first seventh-place finish. Now to have been chosen for such a pivotal role in the largest race groups in the country is such an honor! I am also helping instruct competition school as well, so it’s been exciting to help out my people, as well as brand new racers and grow the sport as a whole.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were moving from HPDE to racing?

A: The one thing I wish I knew was to watch the back of the pack lap times of my class. If I knew that in HPDE, that could have saved me a lot of time and frustration.

Q: I understand you get to race with your dad. How cool is that?

A: It’s the best! The ultimate father-daughter bonding. We camp, cook, work on the cars together. It would be cooler if we were similar speeds and got to race more together. But I am getting new personal bests every race so I am well on my way to dad!

Q: Have you two enjoyed any close battles while racing?

A: Not yet.

Q: What has surprised you most about stepping up to racing?

A: I would say the relationships. These are friendships like no other. I trust these drivers going three wide in a sharp turn at 90 mph, and I trust them just as much on a Wednesday afternoon outside of the track. We battle hard on track, but we have just as much fun off the track as well.

Q: How were you received by the NASA Southeast Spec E30 crowd when you became series leader?

A: With more love and congratulations than I knew what to do with. I have close relationships with all of the racers, so it was a warm welcome indeed.

Q: Why do you think Spec E30 is so popular in NASA Southeast?

A: I think it’s because of the wheel-to-wheel competition. Whether I’m watching or in the race it’s always a blast to witness and be part of. Every single person is out there fighting hard for position and managing traffic. The challenge certainly attracts drivers. We are great bunch of humans on and off the track. It’s never a dull day in NASA Southeast. I wish someone would put us on TV. We would crush NASCAR and Drive to Survive.

Q: You took over from Scott Gress, who was instrumental in building the Spec E30 field in NASA Southeast — arguably one of the largest in the NASA Nation. How did he help you with the leadership transition?

A: Scott and Fred have been wonderful during the transition. They knew I was brand new to this and gave me all their advice and tools for me to excel in this role. The best part is that they continue to do so. I know I always have someone to lean on if I ever need anything.

Q: Do you think there’s any room for more growth in Spec E30 in NASA Southeast?

A: Absolutely! I am always seeing new E30s in the HPDE classes. We are still adding more to the group and we plan to keep it that way.

Q: To what would attribute the lasting success of Spec E30 in NASA Southeast?

A: Having fun!

Q: What are some of your best practices to attract new drivers to Spec E30? What could series leaders in other regions learn from you?

A: My practices are just getting to know everyone! If I see an HPDE driver or someone I have never met with an E30 or other Spec German vehicle, I introduce myself. I tell the driver where we are parked if they ever need anything and please come over to join in the fun after racing! Wheel-to-wheel competition is an adrenaline rush like no other, but the relationships and people are what make it fun. So, the more we can recruit to the fun, the better!

Q: Do you confer with other series leaders within NASA Southeast or around the country to come up with other ideas for best practices?

A: Of course! When the role became official, NASA Nation stepped up. I was added into all the national group chats, leaders adding me on Facebook, texting, reaching out to say if I ever needed anything call them. It’s great to have those resources when situations arise.

Q: What are some of the things you do to ensure parity and legality at the front of your fields?

A: I have found standing firm on the rules and regulations. They are set in stone for a reason and they uphold the way when things go wrong.

Q: OK, what’s your favorite track and why?

A: Barber. Beautiful facility. It has everything you could ever want from a track.

Q: Oh, on a completely separate note, what is the deal with the Betty White sticker on your car?

A: Dad bought my car from a fellow E30 racer. He had named her Betty White, and somehow the entire E30 paddock knew the car. It had always been white and always a strong running car. So the name came with it! In June 2022, I wrecked hard at Road Atlanta on Turn 7. Betty was in the shop for a few months getting a face lift, and during that time I had stumbled upon a giant sticker of Betty White’s face on Amazon. I told Dad she needed some spice making her grand return. Ever since then it has caught fire. We have 40 Betty White shirts circling the paddock. Everyone knows and loves my car. Even my friend and champion Tracy Gaudu told me last weekend, “I can’t believe I was on track with Betty White!”

 Q: What did I miss? What were you hoping I’d ask you, but didn’t?

A: Great questions! Thank you so much for this!

Images courtesy of , Katherine Agurkis and James Voss

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