How can a NASA region find new members? It’s a question on the mind of every Regional Director nationwide. In the Southern California Region, one NASA instructor is taking the matter into his own hands and going about it in a unique way.
Patrick Orozco has been attending car meets around the Ventura County area, working with local car clubs and spreading the word about NASA. Many of the members of these car clubs have sunk sizeable sums of money into their cars in engine and suspension modifications, but they don’t have anywhere to use all that power and handling. So, they end up using it on the street, which isn’t the smartest thing to do with a fast car.
On March 8, Orozco held a car meet of his own at his shop, the In The Doghouse Garage in Oxnard, Calif. The meet featured an open house for In The Doghouse Garage, a DJ spinning techno music, a competition on the racing simulator, a car show with a few local clubs, and vendor booths from Borla, Vortech and D2 Racing suspension.
“We’ve been trying to do a lot of promotion for NASA. I’ve been trying to help Ryan Flaherty expose the NASA name, especially out here, so we’ve been going a lot to the local car meets,” Orozco said. “We show up with the cars that we have and we try to help promote NASA. We’ve become friends with a car club called So Proper, and they’ve been coming out and hanging out at the shop. We get some work out of it, so we decided to put on a car meet and invite all the local car clubs to the meet to help promote NASA and rally against street racing. As you know, out here, they do a lot of that and a lot of kids get hurt.”
The NASA booth was front and center of “the Doghouse.” Orozco’s daughter Victoria was handing out NASA pamphlets, explaining how the HPDE system works and taking applications for a reality television concept Orozco is working on. Of the more than 200 people who attended the car meet, 55 filled out applications for the four spots up for grabs.
“We’re trying to find people with stock cars, and who have little to no track experience,” Orozco said. “We’re trying to find four candidates who will be in HPDE1 program with NASA. We’ve had conversations already with NASA on this and they’ve given us the green light to do it here in SoCal. So far we’re trying to make a sizzle reel (in May) to show to the people we’ve been talking to in the television industry.”
The show’s concept is to take the four students and introduce them to NASA’s HPDE program. Then, as the students’ skills progress, outside vendors will help students modify their cars appropriately for track use as they climb the HPDE ladder. Throw in some drama, an eventual winner and you’ve got a reality television show car guys would watch. Even if an applicant is not chosen for the sizzle reel, Orozco pointed out that all of them have now been exposed to NASA.
The members of these car clubs have spent money on parts that they think are just for looks or stance or for going fast on the street. When they learn they can take their cars on a track — as equipped — their eyes light up.
“We’ve been to so many of the car meets in Ventura, and these kids were telling us about their shocks, and springs and I told them, ‘Dude, you already have a track car,’” Orozco said. “By us telling them, ‘Look, you can do this,’ we had a lot of good response. They’re like, ‘Oh, really I can go on a track with my car the way it is?’ ‘Yes you can, absolutely.’”
At the car meet, Borla Exhaust also brought its “track team,” a group of time attack cars and drivers sponsored by Borla. None of the cars competed in NASA Time Trials, but Orozco threw down the gauntlet, challenging the drivers to come to a NASA event to see if they can beat our TT drivers. In the end, Orozco pulled together a disparate group of people, car clubs and vendors and turned a car meet into something greater than the sum of its parts. Even if he doesn’t get anyone to bite on his reality television concept, there are now some 200 more car enthusiasts who know what NASA does and how they can become involved.
“That was one of the things that brought me to this reality television thing that I’m trying to put together,” Orozco said. “A lot of people think if you’re going to go out on a track, that you’re going to go racing, that it’s very expensive and they need lots of modifications to my car. In reality, it’s not. What some of these kids spend just on their street car, they could put that money into building a car that can be driven on a track for very little money and not have issues. A lot of these kids don’t know that.”
Thanks to Orozco and In The Doghouse garage, they do now.
In The Doghouse Garage
Patrick Orozco just wanted a place where he could play with cars. What he ended up with was a side business: In The Doghouse Garage. Located in Oxnard, Calif., In The Doghouse Garage is part workshop and office, part man cave and part social club all rolled into one.
“Some of the NASA guys here in Ventura, we all had cars, we’re all working in our garages and the neighbors complained about the noise, you know, the normal neighbor stuff,” Orozco said. “Then we sat down and talked about getting our own place where we can work and have beers and just chill out. So, basically, that’s how it started.”
When nobody wanted to sign a lease, Orozco stepped up, then started looking for people who needed a place to store their cars. So far, seven people store their cars at In The Doghouse. Orozco also took on some mechanical work to help pay the bills. The shop is restoring a 1939 Ford sedan, completing a kit car that looks like a McLaren F1 supercar and is building a BMW E36 racecar for competition in NASA SoCal. NASA member Bill Green built the man cave portion of the garage. The name, Orozco said, came from his daughter Victoria.
“Whoever comes here, we talk about cars, and stay away from wives and issues. They just come over here and relax for a while,” Orozco said. “We can work on our cars, have a beer, hang out, watch a game and nobody will bother us.”
Orozco usually takes in enough to cover expenses. Sometimes he has to reach into his own pocket. Regardless, In The Doghouse is a pretty cool place to be. — BB