When the University of Georgia plays the University of Florida each year in Jacksonville, the closest to midway you can get between the schools, it’s anything but collegial — on the field and off. They take their college football seriously in the South.

Southeast2447 copy

They take their NASA racing seriously, too, but off the track, it’s like a gathering of old friends. As the day’s racing comes to a close, you can smell wood smoke from the barbecue and hear the telltale cracking of beers throughout the paddock. NASA Southeast and NASA Florida joined forces at Road Atlanta in September — the weekend after the National Championships — for a combined event of HPDE and racing.

Southeast2244 copy

You know you’re in the South because the waitresses all call you darlin’ and there are Waffle Houses on both sides of the freeway exit to the track. You come home with red Georgia clay clinging to your shoes and you have to look up what “kudzu” is in the dictionary.

Southeast260 copy

You also can tell you’re in the South because of the number of old Sprint Cup cars on track. Atlanta is just four hours from Mooresville, N.C., where you can pick up used stock cars for a song, and they often live long second lives in amateur motorsports.

Southeast1410 copy

The draw is the racing, of course, and Road Atlanta is something special unto itself. Billed as one of Car and Driver magazine’s six top road courses in the United States, Road Atlanta is a spectacular facility, with a 2.54-mile ribbon of asphalt and 12 turns making excellent use of the rolling north Georgia landscape. One of the signature stretches of track is “The Esses,” which winds downhill and back up, and it’s one of American motorsports’ most enduring images.

TrackAerial

Built in 1970, Road Atlanta is a fast track. In fact, there are really only two slow corners. Turn 7, which leads on to the long, high-speed back straight. The straight is so long, it reportedly was used as a landing strip for drug smugglers’ planes in the 1980s. That’s another story altogether, but yes, the back straight really is that long. Then there is the 10A and 10B chicane that lead under the bridge, over the blind Turn 11 and into the fast downhill Turn 12.

Southeast2177 copy

Road Atlanta is a take-no-prisoners track. Get it right and you feel like a superhero. Get it wrong and the consequences can be grim. Of the nearly 300 cars that set a wheel on the track that September weekend, we counted seven that left on a flatbed. NASA Southeast Regional Director Jim Pantas and Florida Regional Director Jon Felton had no trouble filling the paddock of this bucket-list track, and they put on a huge Carolina-style barbecue Saturday night as the two regions celebrated a weekend of fantastic racing. Our thanks go out to Jim and Jon and the racers in the Southeast and Florida regions for the warm welcome and the spectacular racing.

Southeast1395 copy

We hope readers in all regions enjoy this story as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Southeast1767 copy Southeast675 copy JonFelton copy JimPantas
American Iron and Outlaw Vintage cars head down into “Gravity’s Cavity,” the downhill portion of the esses at Road Atlanta.
American Iron and Outlaw Vintage cars head down into “Gravity’s Cavity,” the downhill portion of the esses at Road Atlanta.
Southeast0641 copy
Time Trialers head out for the first session of the day.
Time Trialers head out for the first session of the day.
One of the American Iron cars featred a Lightning McQueen theme. Look for a full story on this car in a later issue.
One of the American Iron cars featred a Lightning McQueen theme. Look for a full story on this car in a later issue.
Southeast1325 copy
One of the fastest cars on track is Joe Freda’s Outlaw Vintage Camaro, which had a significant tire rub in Turn 1 in one of Saturday’s morning sessions.
One of the fastest cars on track is Joe Freda’s Outlaw Vintage Camaro, which had a significant tire rub in Turn 1 in one of Saturday’s morning sessions.
This work-in-progress Mustang fastback looked and sounded great.
This work-in-progress Mustang fastback looked and sounded great.
These cars are quick with four cylinder engines. The addition of an aluminum LS V8 made this HPDE car even faster.
These cars are quick with four cylinder engines. The addition of an aluminum LS V8 made this HPDE car even faster.
They have lots of old Sprint Cup cars in NASA Southeast, but this Daytona Prototype was a show-stopper.
They have lots of old Sprint Cup cars in NASA Southeast, but this Daytona Prototype was a show-stopper.
NASA Florida’s Chris Wells trailered his TTE Miata to Road Atlanta from Orlando, an eight-hour tow.
NASA Florida’s Chris Wells trailered his TTE Miata to Road Atlanta from Orlando, an eight-hour tow.
Some guys have all the luck. Paddock life at Road Atlanta.
Some guys have all the luck. Paddock life at Road Atlanta.
Southeast230 copy Southeast232 copy Southeast239 copy Southeast240 copy Southeast245 copy
The Saturday evening party consisted of Carolina-style pulled-pork barbecue, which you could either wash down with beer or some of the Southeast’s finest sweet tea. The lines were long, but the pig was worth the wait.
The Saturday evening party consisted of Carolina-style pulled-pork barbecue, which you could either wash down with beer or some of the Southeast’s finest sweet tea. The lines were long, but the pig was worth the wait.
Start them out young. Start them out right.
Start them out young. Start them out right.
Come race time, spectators drive up to the hilltop overlooking the esses for one of the best seats in the house at Road Atlanta.
Come race time, spectators drive up to the hilltop overlooking the esses for one of the best seats in the house at Road Atlanta.
HPDE drivers can learn a lot about heavy braking going into the Turn 10A chicane at Road Atlanta.
HPDE drivers can learn a lot about heavy braking going into the Turn 10A chicane at Road Atlanta.
Southeast1152 copy
Call these before and after. Early in the day, this Honda Civic was chasing Thunder Roadsters in Turn 1. By the end of the day, Road Atlanta had claimed it.
Call these before and after. Early in the day, this Honda Civic was chasing Thunder Roadsters in Turn 1. By the end of the day, Road Atlanta had claimed it.
Southeast2348 copy Southeast2358 copy
Call these before, during and after. Team Patton’s Checker Cab-themed Spec E30 was punted into a wall heading into the 10A chicane. This one likely won’t buff out.
Call these before, during and after. Team Patton’s Checker Cab-themed Spec E30 was punted into a wall heading into the 10A chicane. This one likely won’t buff out.
Lunchtime run in the pit cart.
Lunchtime run in the pit cart.
We have yet to see a car that doesn’t look good in Gulf livery. This SN95 TTS Mustang is no exception.
We have yet to see a car that doesn’t look good in Gulf livery. This SN95 TTS Mustang is no exception.
Road Atlanta is just four hours from Mooresville, N.C., where you can pick up used Sprint Cup cars from NASCAR teams for less than you might think.
Road Atlanta is just four hours from Mooresville, N.C., where you can pick up used Sprint Cup cars from NASCAR teams for less than you might think.
One of the prettiest Spec Miata’s we’ve seen in any region.
One of the prettiest Spec Miata’s we’ve seen in any region.
Thunder Roadster is a growing class in NASA Southeast. It also showcased some of the closest racing of the weekend.
Thunder Roadster is a growing class in NASA Southeast. It also showcased some of the closest racing of the weekend.
NASA Southeast has one of the largest Spec E30 fields in the country. More than 20 cars took the green flag that weekend.
NASA Southeast has one of the largest Spec E30 fields in the country. More than 20 cars took the green flag that weekend.
An ocean and a whole country away from home, this right-hand-drive Nissan Silvia was a rare find in Georgia.
An ocean and a whole country away from home, this right-hand-drive Nissan Silvia was a rare find in Georgia.
Comments
Images courtesy of Brett Becker and Google Earth