Tracey Gaudu joined NASA in 2010, but she already had experience and success at track days and autocrosses in her C6 Z06. She earned her NASA Time Trial license in 2016, became an instructor in 2018 and earned her competition license in 2021, and she’s still racing that same C6 Z06 in Super Unlimited with NASA Southeast today.
Along the way, she captured the attention of and sponsorship from Lingenfelter Performance and TrackDayTire.com. Her latest achievement is becoming one of NASA’s newest series leaders for the Super Touring classes with NASA Southeast. We caught up with Gaudu to find out how she’s approaching her latest endeavor as a series leader.
Q: First off, you started off driving a C6 Corvette, then moved to TT and racing. What made you start with such a fast car?
A: I had always wanted a Corvette since I was a young girl. I didn’t realize my car would morph into what it is today.
I initially had plans of car shows, some autocross and a few track days. I never thought I would end up time trialing, hill climbing and then onto wheel-to-wheel racing with the car. I feel the C6Z is a great choice for a track car, personally!
Q: What is your professional background and how do you think that will help you in your role as series leader?
A: I am a vascular surgery physician assistant and I also pick up weekend shifts with the trauma team, working with surgeons as a team and trying to keep them happy, as they like to have coordination in their practices, is a very similar situation with the regional/race director as well. Jim and Julie Pantas are my bosses, and I go to them
with issues because no boss ever likes any surprises. I try to connect with them frequently, as well as some of the other series leaders for advice. We are all a team.
Keeping the ST series drivers happy keeps the regional/race director happy as well.
Q: You’re one of, if not the, newest series leaders. What are your plans for growing the ST class in your region?
A: As a series leader, I feel if the ST class isn’t growing, it really is on me. I am very enthusiastic about the ST/SU series and try to show the racers this energy, and hope it will be reinforced by them. The camaraderie will build. Keeping the remaining racers “happy” and attracting new racers is definitely my job, as well, and I feel I can do this by making the racing more than a competition, but creating an environment of “friends first and competitors second.” The bonds made between racers are what bring them back to events. The few podium contenders that are there solely for the competition will find that on their own. I will need to focus more on the mid- and back-packers to ensure they are having a good time and are treated fairly.
Q: When a new driver comes to Super Touring in your region, how do you make him or her feel welcome?
A: Preparing the new driver is the first way to make them feel comfortable. Giving them information that is unique to the region or the specific track is helpful. Also reaching out to them for potential questions that may arise will put them at ease and make them more comfortable. At the first driver’s meeting on Saturday, I give them a chance to introduce themselves and make sure they are included in conversations and banter throughout the entire weekend. If I see a new driver alone, I make sure to include him or her in the group. I check on them throughout the weekend to make sure if there are any issues that they are handled. Most of all, I get to know them.
Q: What was it like when you first started racing with NASA? How did NASA members and staff make you feel welcome?
A: When I started time trialing with NASA Southeast, I didn’t really know anyone, per se, but I knew the track because I had been there before with another HPDE. I got stared at a bit because I was the only female in the group, but I am a pretty gregarious person, so I just started talking with other drivers in the paddock and at the meetings. It didn’t take long to make true friendships. When I started to race in SU last year,
I already knew most of the racers and I felt very welcomed. I was apprehensive about that first race as I should have been, but the guys tried to make me feel at ease as best as they could. They encouraged me
and congratulated me, and I felt like a true part of the series. The staff with NASA Southeast has always treated me well and made me feel welcome from day one.
Q: What do you think the most effective recruitment tool is at your disposal?
A: My most effective recruitment tool for ST/SU series is my energy and enthusiasm. I don’t want to be the person responsible for just handing out wristbands. It’s more than that — way more. I want the racers
to know that I am there to support their needs all weekend. Making new racers feel welcome and informed is another tool in my arsenal. Keep enthusiasm at a high and help build camaraderie within the series.
Q: Have you been able to speak with other series leaders to get their best practices?
A: Yes, I have bent the ear of both the TT leaders, and (NASA Southeast Spec E30 series leader) Scott Gress has given me written information about the ins and outs of being an effective series leader. One of my favorite quotes from him is regarding friends first and competitors second, and to obsess over the idea of “good friends hanging out with each other at the track and races break out!”
Q: What would you like to see happen with Super Touring in the Southeast Region over the next five years?
A: I would like to see the Super Touring series grow exponentially. Growing this series will take making it more about racing with friends and having a hell of a good time while doing it. Making everyone feel welcome and heard if they have any issues and to always be aware.
Q: Let’s say you were the queen of amateur motorsports for a season. What would you do to bring motorsports to more people?
A: Let’s just say I am the “queen of amateur motorsports” and how exactly would I bring it to the masses? I would pour lots of mentoring and instruction into the driving enthusiast and potential new racer.
Enthusiasm in a new HPDE driver is especially high, and they would be super receptive to this approach. I do this now, particularly with female drivers who are new to the sport. They are super excited and can’t wait for that next track weekend. I do my best to connect with them and answer all of the questions they may have, but I also try to get to know them on a personal level and they become fast new friends. Social media is a necessary evil, unfortunately, but it does reach a large number of folks. I have posted about my interactions with not only grown women trying this sport out for the first time, but also young girls who are the future to women in motorsports.
I love this saying, because it is so true: If she can see her, she can be her.