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My NASA Eastern Championships Adventure

By Carl Long

I and the rest of the Performance Innovations team had the privilege of attending the Eastern States Championship at VIR.


I raced my BMW M3 in GTS 4 and Brad Pocock competed in the Circuit Cross with his Dodge Challenger. This was one of the best run race events I have ever been to thanks to Jon Felton and all of the other awesome NASA volunteers.

My trek to VIR began on Wednesday afternoon. My first stop was to get a last minute wheel alignment for the M3.

As I traveled west there was heavy rain and wind. Then about 20 miles from South Hill a trailer tire exploded. A lot of other drivers shared the same fate on their trips to VIR. Maybe it had something to do with temperature changes caused by the storms. I pulled into a rest area and changed the flat. As I finished up I noticed the tire beside it was also flat. After stopping at a truck stop and taking a scenic trip through downtown South Boston, I couldn’t find anyone to fix the other tire. Note to self: carry two spare trailer tires. I finally decided five out of six isn’t bad and headed on to VIR.

Tire

An electrifying feeling overwhelmed me as I arrived at the paddock on Wednesday night. Was it the awesomeness of being at Nationals for the first time or was it because I was standing on wet pavement as I plugged in my trailer? I ate my frozen dinner and went to bed. Thursday morning Nicolle Schumacher and Brad Ailles arrived at the PI paddock. Nicolle is an official NASA official and was there to work the grid. Thanks to Nicolle and all of the other officials and volunteers that make these events possible. Brad was there to help me with the M3.

PI Tent

PI Tent and Trailer

The first session out on Thursday I had the privilege of mowing the grass on the outside of turn 1. The left rear left tire locked up. So when I hit the brakes hard I went for a spin through the grass. Note to self: fully engage ABS at the beginning of every session when going slow. I typically do this but in all the excitement of getting on track, I forgot. Never will again. So had the rest of the day off while we waited for reinforcements from home.

Thursday night Brad Pocock and Jake Pocock arrived with the test set from the shop and two new trailer tires. They quickly diagnosed the problem and the decision was made to run new wires to the ABS left rear ABS sensor. Next, the crew made a midnight run to Walmart to buy wire. A few hours later the repair was finished and everyone crashed in the trailer.

ABS

I tested the ABS during Friday morning practice and it was working correctly. Thanks to the PI crew for getting the car fixed in time to race. I was all set for the qualifying races on Friday and Saturday.

After the Saturday qualifying race, it was off to the Circuit Cross on the Patriot course. Brad entered this event with his new Dodge Challenger. I rode with him the first two sessions and was amazed at the amount of torque this car makes. Brad drove the wheels off of the car and brought back in one piece.

Charger

Charger on track

The next stop was the go-kart track. Rumor has it Jake beat Brad for the first time. It was a certainty everyone had a great time.

The GTS racers and crews ate our meals together in the paddock. It was a great time to build comradery and have some fun. Thanks to Eric Wong and Tina Wong for hosting all of the meals. Also special thanks to Eric for being the director for GTS in the Mid Atlantic. Thanks to the many others who helped out and contributed. All of the food was awesome. The highlight for me was Saturday night when I was presented with a Birthday cake from the PI crew. Thanks.

BBQ

Hanging out

Paddies

Grilling

Sunday morning we prepared for the GTS championship race that afternoon. The weather was awesome and we spent most of the day watching the other race groups. What a blessing to be able to watch such great racing and then climb into my own race car and head out onto the track.
I was able to finish the race 5th in class and 12th overall. It was a privilege to race with the other GTS drives. It was clean racing with some of the best drivers in the country. What more could you ask for.

Side view

On the track

On the turn

Zipping by

Victory Lane

Thanks to everyone who helped make this trip and race possible. Be sure to come out and join us at VIR for Oktoberfast on October 10th and 11th.