Sometimes you have to wonder about the value in the gym membership you haven’t used in a year, or buying a new iPhone when a new model seems to come out every few months.
A great value — prepare for a shameless plug — is your National Auto Sport Association membership, which gives access to the top tracks in the country and affordable insurance. But you might not know that a NASA membership also offers driving clinics for teenagers, big discounts on brake pads and memorable excursions.
“NASA is kind of like the Wal-Mart of the motorsports world. We have friendly people out front to greet you, you can find nearly anything you want, and you get a tremendous value for your money,” said John Lindsey, chief divisional director for NASA. “With the member benefit deals we have set up for our drivers, you can easily recover the cost of your membership with one purchase using the discounts our partners have put in place.”
Whether your passion is road racing or endurance racing, we’ll highlight some other benefits that might pique your interest and detail a few other NASA activities you might not have known about. After all, membership has its privileges.
Imagine a course in the middle of the woods where the track is gravel with an occasional pothole. That’s the thrill and adventure that Rally Sport offers drivers who are willing to travel to remote locations.
Rallies are open to cars and motorcycles, and surprisingly, nearly half of the competitors have never competed in motorsports before participating in Rally Sport, said Anders Green, director of the eastern region.
“The idea of getting sideways and running in any conditions, appeals to those drivers,” Green said. “You have to master all the possibilities on the course.”
A typical stage is 8 to 20 miles and drivers are spaced about a minute apart. The prepped cars have full cages with stripped interiors and are generally all-wheel drive. Events are run with a co-pilot, but they also offer RallySolo, which allows for just the driver.
Is a paved road more your speed? Rallies are always in need of volunteers. A rally will shut down as many 600 square miles of forest and 100-plus volunteers are needed to control intersections to make sure traffic doesn’t get onto the course.
For more information, visit: www.nasarallysport.com.
NASA Car Control Clinic
Starting the NASA Car Control Clinic was personal for Scott Smith. After two of his daughters’ friends died in what Smith called preventable traffic accidents, he wanted to educate the public on how to drive a car responsibly.
The eight-hour class is open to all ages and teaches everything from how to control a car in a skid to parallel parking. Students are taught how to properly maintain a car and proper seating and steering wheel position before going out to the track for hands-on instruction.
Smith said drivers — especially younger ones — don’t realize how easily they can be distracted. Driving at 55 mph and looking away for three to five seconds, the car has traveled the length of a football field.
“We want to make them more aware of their surroundings and possible distractions,” Smith said. “Things they think aren’t a distraction usually are … and need to be put away while they are driving.”
The clinic started in the Northern California region and is expected to roll out nationwide late this year. For more information, visit www.nasacarcontrol.org.
A NASA membership quickly pays for itself if you take advantage of special discounts offered to members. Discounts at Avis, Cruise America RV Rental and Motel 6 can be used anytime you travel, but the real savings add up when modifying your car. APR Performance offers discounts of up to 30 percent on its aerodynamic racing components, and Fuel Safe Racing Cells gives members 10 percent off its standard fuel cells. There are even discounts at driving schools if you want to step up your game on the track.
Some 20 companies offer discounts through NASA’s website and new ones are added frequently. For more information, visit www.nasaproracing.com/benefits
Maybe you’re not sure you want to race or maybe you want to get a buddy into the sport. HyperDrives are the ideal way to see if racing is right for you or your friend. A HyperDrive offers 30 minutes in classroom instruction on the basics and a 20- to 25-minute session on the track with an instructor coaching you for just $50. The car also undergoes a technical inspection. The event was created as a way to get more young adults into auto racing.
“It introduces people to what we do,” said Chris Cobetto, regional director for the Mid-Atlantic region. “Some drivers said they didn’t want to tear it up for a whole weekend and that was becoming a barrier to entry. Once they experience it, they’re hooked.”
Some car owners give HyperDrive sessions as gifts to teammates, while others might use it to test drive a car that’s not street legal, Cobetto said. Spots are limited at HyperDrives, so early registration is a must. And HyperDrives are always part of larger events at the track, so it’s a great time to watch some racing and check out the vendor booths. For more information, contact your local NASA regional officials.
Classic cars and the beauty of California’s back roads make Targa California a sought-after event each April.
The three-day experience is open to all makes and models, provided the car was built before 1976. Lots of Porsche, Fiat, Falcon and BMW owners participate in the event, which is about cars and camaraderie.
Targa California starts in the Southern California city of Thousand Oaks and makes its way up the coast to Paso Robles with a daytrip to the Carmel Valley, just outside Monterey. Along the way, there are stops at private car collections, lunch and dinner gatherings.
The event isn’t a competition, so participants can take their time traveling to each location, said Dave Bouzaglou, who calls himself the chief event disorganizer. Organizers hand out tongue-in-cheek prizes that fit with the frivolity.
“It’s about going out and having a good time,” he said. “It gives you a little taste of what California’s back roads have to offer.”
Bouzaglou limits entries to 125 cars (this year they had 105) and the cost is $200 but doesn’t include hotel rooms.
For more information, visit www.targacalifornia.com.
Tire Rack One Lap of America
Billed as an eight-day, nonstop automotive adventure, the Tire Rack One Lap of America combines touring, competition and the opportunity to run on some of America’s greatest tracks.
Set for May 4-11, 2013, participants will drive 3,500 miles in their car during the great adventure. Here’s how it works: Participants start with a new set of tires (which can’t be changed during the week) and must drive their car to each race track. At the eight tracks, each driver runs a practice lap, three flying hot laps and a cool down lap. The best combined time from all the tracks wins their respective class.
Because the cars can’t be trailered to each location, all the tools a driver needs for the week must be packed into the car. But if a car does break down, fellow drivers are more than willing to lend a hand. To win the event requires driving within the limits of the car and the tires.
Sanctioned and insured by NASA, the event moves to a different region in the country each year and in the past has visited legendary tracks such as Daytona, VIRginia International Raceway and Little Talladega. It costs $3,000 to participate and the entry fee doesn’t include hotel rooms, gas or the new set of tires.
“Most twits like us have no business being at Daytona or VIR,” said Brock Yates Jr., event coordinator. “It’s an excuse to go experience America’s racetracks and play with car people all week long.”
For more information, visit www.onelapofamerica.com.
Global Time Attack
When the Global Time Attack participates at a NASA event, they bring the sizzle with the fastest cars on the track, a large transporter and live streaming of their events. Cars that compete in the series technically must street legal and currently or previously available as a factory OEM vehicle. The owners are not allowed to modify the OEM floor plan, frame assemblies or the firewall except for permitted safety items. Competitors are divided into classes (Unlimited, Limited, Street and Enthusiast) and the car’s drive system (AWD, RWD or FWD). Needless to say, there is some heady competition.
The series was launched in February 2011 and has six races this year including stops in New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Georgia and California.
John Naderi, co-founder of Global Time Attack, said the beauty of the event is that competitors are racing against the clock rather than other cars on the track, which improves safety. A competitor recently ran a 1.9-mile course with 10 turns in 64 seconds.
“It’s you against the clock and you see how much you can improve it each time out on the track,” Naderi said.
For more information, visit www.globaltimeattack.com.
If there is an introductory course to what NASA has to offer, it’s probably autocross. You don’t have to be a member of NASA to participate, and it gives you a real-world feel of a road course without a serious financial commitment. Blue tape for your car numbers and an approved helmet are about all you need.
The course is set up with cones and includes multiple turns to mimic a road course at a major track, said Jon Felton, national NASA-X Director. Although drivers typically go slower than freeway speeds, it’s exciting for drivers thinking about getting into the sport.
“It’s kind of a gateway drug,” Felton said about the program, which costs $30. “It gives them the entry-level experience on how we run things.”
Autocross is open to most automobiles, although trucks and SUVs are generally excluded, and drivers walk the course before running laps. Drivers drive the course one at a time against a clock. Helmets are required but organizers can provide loaners, Felton said.
For more information, visit www.drivenasa.com.
No matter where you live in the United States, chances are there will be a drifting event that’s an easy drive from home. Drifting, which involves intentionally oversteering in turns to lose traction at the rear wheels, was brought into the mainstream by Hollywood movies.
Brian Eggert of U.S. Drift said that drivers should always walk the course before participating. Once out on the course, which could be on a racetrack or a stadium parking lot, drivers need to stay within their ability. If the car goes out of control or off the course, they need to come to a safe and controlled stop, Eggert said.
“We want to educate people and teach them about the car,” he said. Eggert also says that drivers often forget to bring an extra set of tires for the drive home. He also suggests extra clothes to accommodate weather changes throughout the day.
For more information, visit www.usdrift.com.
Now in its third year, AutoCon has become the must-attend event for automotive enthusiasts in Southern California. Slated for early December at Spyder Auto in the City of Industry, the show brings together showpiece cars, sought-after vendors and lots of great food. And some of the proceeds go to charity.
The signature event of the show is a 16-foot by 40-foot stage, which features various cars from the show.
“It gives us the opportunity to highlight some the vehicles for the audience,” said AutoCon Vice President Nathan Leon, who founded the company with President Justin Fong. “Eventually we want to get where we do the judging on stage.”
AutoCon has vehicles from old Camaros to new SUVs but the focus is on newer cars, Leon said. If you can’t make AutoCon this year, the company’s website is a one-stop shop for car events around the country.
For more information, visit www.autoconevents.com.