Cat Wrangling

Much as I am loath to admit it, producing an event is one of the things I am least qualified to do. To me, it’s always felt akin to trying to stuff five feral cats into a duffel bag. Once you think you have all of them in the bag, three jump out and you’ve got to wrangle them all over again. And you’re bleeding. The details that go into event planning seem endless. I’ve had jobs before in which event planning was a small part of what we did, and I farmed out those responsibilities to other staff as quickly as I could.

Of course, NASA’s principle business is putting on racing, TT and HPDE events, but luckily there are people who actually are qualified to produce events on NASA’s staff.

I bring up this subject because the NASA staff is in the final stages of closing out the 2019 NASA Championships Presented by Toyo Tires, which was the 11th Championships event I’ve attended. I’ve raced in two and covered the other nine for Speed News, but this year felt exceptionally well oiled to me, so it seemed like it might be worth sharing with NASA members what goes into an event of this scope.

To begin, you need a point person, and this year it was Marie Adams, NASA’s national project manager, who started last year with the Championships event at Circuit of the Americas. She coordinated with NASA vice president Jeremy Croiset, chief technical officer Roman Vaisman and sales and marketing representative Aldrin Villanueva, who were responsible for setting up the livestream broadcast, which included 10 cameras placed around the track, two mobile crews, four in-car placements and one drone.

Also in on the effort were NASA Texas Regional Director Will Faules, who used to be the national event manager, and NASA business operations manager Dave Ho. I was in on all the conference calls laying out this year’s Championships, but all of the praise should be directed to the rest of the NASA National staff.

If you were at Mid-Ohio this year — or you’ve attended any NASA Championships — try to wrap your mind around what it would be like to plan that event. It’s like hosting a four-day party for thousands of people at someone else’s house across the country.

Every detail has to be planned in advance, and this is the kind of thing that makes my head explode because it’s so difficult to be sure if you’ve covered everything. As lawyers say, that includes, but is not limited to, trophies, extra-large podium checks, podium hats, just-in-case podium photos, camera placement, T-shirts, on-air talent, goodie bags, parking arrangements, garage assignments, golf carts, staff lunches, entertainment, fun post-race activities, rental cars, credentials, welcome packs, hotels, contingency programs and payouts, champagne, special awards, location scouting, VIP accommodations, tech location and equipment, and on and on.

If Marie reads this, she could probably highlight how many items I left off that list, which is entirely my point. The NASA Championships is a massive undertaking, before, during and after. I know it is for competitors, too, but putting on an event like that is something of a minor miracle, and it takes months of planning and follow-up.

So, the secret is out. I’m an abject failure at event planning, but another secret also has emerged as a result of my confession. The rest of the NASA National staff is exceptional at event planning, and I’m grateful to be part of it, even if it is in a limited capacity.

Next time you’re on the podium enjoying a dousing of some of the sweetest champagne you’ll ever taste, bear in mind how much work it takes to get all those cats in the bag. See you in 2020 at Utah Motorsports Campus where we can do it all again.

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