The drivers meeting typically is where racers get information on run groups, starting orders and flagging specifics. In October, racers in the NASA SoCal Region also learned that they would be getting a new Regional Director.
Ryan Flaherty has spent two decades as the SoCal Regional Director and NASA National Chairman. He introduced the new Regional Director, Mike Collins, and added that he would be actively assisting in the transition as the 2021 season begins.
“After 20 years of hosting events in SoCal and providing executive leadership at the national level, I felt it was time to focus my attention in one area. This will allow me to concentrate on NASA National business, and keep the SoCal region growing for the next two decades,” Flaherty said. “I think it’s important to note I am not going anywhere, and I’m focused at the national level. Best of all, I will be at the track and have the time to drive and socialize with all of the great friends I have made over the years.”
The new Regional Director Mike Collins has been involved in racing for the last 20 years. He first raced in Spec Miata with NASA Mid-Atlantic and was instrumental in making it a nationally recognized class in NASA and the SCCA. It’s the only shared class between the two sanctioning bodies.
Collins served as chief of tech for Spec Miata at two NASA Championships at Mid-Ohio and at what is now Utah Motorsports Park. He also was president of SCCA Pro Racing for a few years in addition to working on world-class events for a company in Washington, D.C.
“Before I changed careers and went into motorsport events full time, I spent 20 years in the event business,” Collins said. “I’ve done five presidential inaugurations, G7’s, G8’s. I’ve worked for the RNC and the DNC, the Super Bowl. We did some work for the Olympics. So I bring a lot of event background to motorsports and that’s how I was originally able to make my change to motorsports.”
Asked for concrete ideas to increase car counts in the racing classes for SoCal, Collins said he would be reaching out to car communities in Southern California — Cars and Coffee, marque-specific clubs, etc. — to show them how easy it is to get on track and to come out and participate in amateur motorsports with NASA. Collins also wants to bring in more sponsors at the regional level and to continue the rigorous organization that NASA SoCal events are known for.
“I’ve had a good relationship with Chris from the NASA Mid-Atlantic region and I’ve known Ryan for 20 years,” Collins said. “Ryan and I have been talking for a few months and we were able to put something together where he’s going to be able to race, and I’m going to get some guidance and some knowledge from him, and we’re going to try to steer the ship straight. He’s done some things really well, but wanting to up the game, we added two more events for next year and we’re pretty excited about that.”
Collins said it’s also important to maintain a healthy HPDE field and to continue to foster the family and community feel that NASA members experience at each event.
“People come for the cars and stay for the people. And if we can get more people interacting with each other and make it a little less of a secret and how to make it work, we’ll get more involved in inviting other groups out to see what’s going on, whether it’s a drift group or somebody else just to get exposure to as many people as possible,” Collins said. “I think setting things up as an event, giving events names, having a purpose for things that are easy to do, get a sponsor for an event and throw a party at the event, because they’re going to get the recognition within the SoCal community for doing that. Whether it’s a car dealership or a manufacturer or a parts manufacturer, there’s a lot of opportunities there, where, they really want the face-to-face. A lot of the car manufacturers like to bring their cars out to do ride and drives, to show their cars to new people.”