Getting It

When I was at the combined regional event at Road America the first weekend of August, I had the pleasure of meeting Great Lakes Region Spec Miata racers Chris Williams, Jonathan Davis and Chris Price. They welcomed me into their pit space, offered me a bottle of water and let me cool off in their trailer for a bit.

These three guys regularly run up front, and after reading about them in Speed News so often, it was kind of like meeting celebrity drivers. They were telling me that they don’t have a crew or spotters — and Road America is so big, they’d need 14 spotters — so they all set their radios to the same frequency and talk to one another all race long.

When someone goes two or four off, or has some control issues, they’ll hit the push-to-talk button and tell that driver to “Gather that $#^% up.” If someone goes all the way off, they’ll chime in with a “Thanks for playing. Better luck next time.”

What resonated with me was that they did it all in good fun. They didn’t actually tell me they stopped short of chattering to the point of distraction, but I got the feeling they thought enough of one another not to do that.

But something else they did tells me that not only was there a healthy sense of competition among them, but also a measure of respect. When the front runner among them comes upon a yellow or debris flag or something the guys behind him need to know, he radios in. When the guy at the back has some faster traffic coming through, he radios in. So in addition to the playful banter, they also looked out for one another, and to me, that’s just one of the coolest uses of racing radio I’ve ever heard of.

Later that day, I walked over to the garage where all the Camaro-Mustang Challenge racers were pitted. I didn’t think to ask if they talked to one another on the radio, but it quickly became very clear these guys enjoyed racing together. Two of them grew up together and had been racing against each other for 20 years or so — and it shows because the Great Lakes Region is home to some of the best CMC racing in the country. I shot frame after frame of these guys bumper to bumper in the corners and many times overlapping at the apexes. Fantastic racing. It was the same core group of guys you read about in Speed News’ regional race reports. We’ve seen all of them sideways and on fire — you know, out there having fun.

These guys get it. They understand the true spirit of NASA road racing, and they’re getting the most from the experience each time they set out. They’re out there competing fiercely, driving the wheels off cars that demand it to set fast lap times, yet they have lunch together and look out for one another.

It was such a pleasure to meet them and everyone else I came across that weekend, and it’s safe to say it’s one of the perks of this job. Sure, I enjoy putting each month’s issue of Speed News together, but getting out to meet people from different regions motivates in ways I never imagined.

They inspire me, to be a better racer, to help people in my region enjoy the NASA experience as much as they do. When I come home from those trips, I’m charged with such energy, it lights a little fire under me. I still have a couple of trips left to make this year, so that should keep the fire burning into the new year.

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