HyperFest is a bit difficult to describe because there is so much going on, but if pushed, one might think of it as the particle that would result from the high-speed collision of a state fair, Woodstock and LeMans. The event is touted as “The Automotive Amusement Park,” and it looks a little like what Walt of the Florida Disneys might have come up with if he were a car guy.
June 16 marked the 11th annual HyperFest staged by the Mid-Atlantic region of NASA. More than 13,000 attendees were treated to a banquet of speed and excitement that featured NASA road racing, a 24 Hours of LeMons race, a Hot Import Nights car show and the fourth round of the Xtreme Drifting Championships.
But even that wasn’t all that happened at HyperFest. Pro drifters were on hand to give rides in their drift cars. Monster Energy’s Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Hankook’s Chris Forsberg started their pro drifting careers at HyperFest nearly a decade ago, and loved the event so much they wanted to come back and be part of it again.
“I just love the story,” Gittin Jr. says. “HyperFest is one of my all time favorite events. Chris Cobetto and his crew have done a great job of putting together a really fun event that drivers and spectators can enjoy.”
Event creator and NASA Mid-Atlantic regional director, Chris Cobetto, tends to agree, and gives a lot of credit to the venue.
“The great thing about Summit Point Raceway is that if you can think of something fun that happens on wheels with a motor, it can probably be done here,” Cobetto says. “It’s a great place to showcase the fact that NASA not only sanctions road racing but also rally and drifting. The event is just plain fun. Attendees can be spectators at one moment and participants the next. There is so much to do that it is hard to do it all in one trip.”
The phrase “a lot to do” could be an understatement. Summit Point Motorsports park is a large facility consisting of two 2-mile, and one 1.1-mile road courses, five skid pads, a 10-acre, multi-configuration karting track and three off-road/rally courses. HyperFest makes use of all of them for the entire day. There is no down time, on or off the track. Ever.
Some 350 HPDE drivers and NASA-licensed racers did their best to wear out the asphalt from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Racers that normally don’t get the thrill of racing in front of a large crowd crested the hill at Turn 4 to witness every seat in the grandstands taken, and people crowding the fences bordering the track.
Kent Lydic, NASA Mid-Atlantic’s Camaro/Mustang Challenge series leader and driver has been to every HyperFest, and he loves the event. “It’s just so great to see all the fellas having fun,” he says. “For most of the guys, there are two races that you want to win: the National Championship race and HyperFest. Chris (Cobetto) gets all the class winners on stage just before the Daisy Dukes contest. For a lot of the guys, this is the only event where they can get on stage with a huge crowd cheering and spray champagne over their friends and the crowd.”
The 1.1-mile Jefferson Circuit played host to 180 participants of a single session HPDE program called HyperDrives, which serves as many drivers’ introductions to track-day events. Kevin Helms, Honda Challenge driver and perennial podium finisher at the NASA National Championships, began his road racing career after participating in a HyperDrive in 2002.
“I had always loved road racing, but always thought it would be too expensive,” Helms says. “I did a HyperDrive in 2002 and was hooked from that point. I realized that the NASA system is really affordable and allows a driver to build their skills as they build their cars. I have been racing for almost 10 years now and I love it. I’m not sure I would have found road racing had it not been for those HyperDrives.”
HyperFest encourages attendees to camp, and for two days the infield of Summit Point Raceway becomes a community of speed enthusiasts. Jim Titus of Baltimore has been coming to HyperFest every year for 11 years.
“I haven’t missed one. We look forward to this event every year and we bring more and more people to each one,” Titus says. “We used to be able to have our choice of camping areas. Now we have to make sure to get here early in order to get a good spot. It’s just great fun to be able to grill some burgers and watch the race cars go by. I like the rumble of the V8 cars. My son loves the drifting. I started bringing him here when he was 9. Now he is almost 20 and he takes his car out and runs in the HyperDrives. I wish they did more of these events.”
HyperFest owns the distinction of having held the very first professional drifting event in the United States in 2002. NASA’s U.S. Drift is the sanctioning body for the Xtreme Drift Championships. Practice and qualifying for XDC started Friday afternoon, and by 8 p.m. the top 16 drifters had been chosen to be in the show Saturday night. And it was a great show, with top honors going to Chelsea DeNofa in a fire-breathing BMW. Chelsea took home his share of the $4,500 purse, as well as a custom-painted guitar from Paul Reed Smith Guitars, a HyperFest sponsor since 2005.
Attendees don’t get the chance to have an idle synapse. 2012 marked the first year that HyperFest partnered with Hot Import Nights. Hundreds of show cars covered the grass on the outside of the track and glittered in the West Virginia sun.
Not so glittery was the “mud” parade put on by NASA Rally Sport as all of the Exedy Rally Ride cars filed by with nothing clean except the windshield glass that had been cleared by sturdy windshield wipers.
One of the first things you notice when you arrive at HyperFest is the huge professional stage set up for the band that plays at the end of the event. Banners from Mazda, Monster Energy, Exedy, Paul Reed Smith Guitars, Koni and the United States Marine Corps are the backdrop to some crazy games that happen on and around the stage. OK, so a hot pepper eating contest isn’t exactly new. But how about a tie breaker that includes a second round of hot peppers covered in habanero hot sauce with a $300 Hawk performance products gift certificate as motivation?
Luckily the winner of the hot pepper eating contest didn’t participate in the newest HyperFest stage game where the contestant, sitting on a swivel office chair holds a leaf blower at full throttle for a minute, then has to get up and walk a narrow channel lined with Monster Energy cans.
“We just love to be here,” says Corporal Amber Williams of the United States Marines, a HyperFest marketing partner. “The event is so good and the organizers are so good to us that I knew we would be back again this year before the last event was even over, and we will be back next year, too. We are at events nearly every weekend, but this is the one we truly enjoy. There are things here that you just don’t see anywhere else.”
They call it “THE Automotive Amusement Park,” and at the end of the day, as you rest from your rally ride, drink a milkshake to calm the hot peppers burbling in your stomach and watch in awe as a guy rolls his car over—on purpose—in the rollover contest, its easy to see why it has earned that moniker. HyperFest is a not just an event. It’s a spectacle, and one that will have me returning next year.
Now, where did I put my helmet?