...get black flagged and f-bombed for a pit lane speed violation.
Team Axis, The Freep, Pete and myself, were at New Jersey Motorsport Park this past week end for the NASA North East season finale.
Great time to go, a freak early NorEaster storm hit the east coast covering much of the East Coast with a half a foot of snow. We were lucky in southern New Jersey, only torrential rain and 30 degree temperatures. Perfect conditions for a track day, don't you think?
In any case we soldiered on, I ran the trials and won my class (mostly because most other competitors would not come out and play in those conditions) and Pete won his Spec e30 race in the deluge.
Sunday saw temperatures barely in the 40's but with sun and drying condition. Pete qualified 3rd overall in his run group and was ready to go out without any intention of taking prisoners when disaster struck: on the way to the grid, the engine in the 343 BMW died.
We all hopped out of our cars to help: jiggle this, bang on that, pull this fuse, whack that fuel pump. As the field rolled out of pit lane, a DME was swapped in and the car roared back to life. Freep did a valiant job zip-tieing the DME in place, doors were slammed and off Pete went. This is where you pick up the action in the video below.
What happens next is awesome and dismal at the same time. Pete launches out of the pits and catches the field just as the green drops, he passes 14 cars in one lap, 15 if you could the end of the front straight. slashes though the field and is about to catch the leading group when he gets black flagged.
His crime? you guessed it, speeding through the paddock. Fair enough, for sure he was faster than the prescribed 5 or 10 mph. I believe that is an offense punishable perhaps with a drive though. But what happened next, is inexcusable.
The NASA race director meets him in the pits and accuses Pete of speeding and "...almost taking out two officials'. This is clearly shown as a complete fabrication by the video.
What is worse is that said race director tells Pete, a client of NASA after all, to the "the F-ck off the track". This is simply not acceptable and unprofessional.
Later he threatened to ban Pete for the 2012 season.
While we understand many of these positions are manned by volunteers, NASA is a for profit business, NASA racers are customers and customers should be accorded some respect by the organizations they choose to patronize, not be hectored by hysterical frustrated people lacking facts.
Anyway, that's our story, here's the video, you tell us what you think.. Pete's version of events is after the jump
"This past weekend, NASA NE hosted its last event of the season at Thunderbolt Racetrack at New Jersey Motorsports Park. After Freep and I packed up at the secret warehouse, it was off to the rack to meet up with AC.
I excited about the event, expectations were high. I had been watching videos and going over data for the prior two weeks, trying to find new speed. But all those notes went in the garbage with a weather forecast for Saturday calling for lots and lots of never ending rain and near freezing temperatures.
I wish I could say Saturday practice was uneventful: first trip into turn 1 and I quickly found my brakes and tires were not up to temperature. I locked up the rears and spun a 720 ending up in the run off area.
Note to self, Brakes, especially rear brakes need careful warming on freezing days.
Deep water streams were running through the track. So much water we were getting wheel spin in 4th gear down the main straight, this with a 155 RWHP car. I qualified on pole but I was very disappointed the e30 field went from 8 to 3 due to breakdowns and the snowpocalypse north of the track
The race saw the same crappy weather but was able to take the win even with a spectacular mid race spin. A new braking line into turn 1 resulted in a spin right into a gigantic puddle. I was told the water went pretty high into the air. (Ed.: it was a spray about the height of a two story building! we thought he was a goner) Most went inside the car and soaked me, great feeling on a 33 degree day!
Sunday,the rain was finally gone but temperatures were barely hitting 40F, Our cars and anything we had left outdoors were covered with ice.
Qualifying took place on a near damp track, with some standing water. I again started at the top of the spec e30 pack and had a great overall spot of p3 on the grid.
Right at race time, luck ran out. As I drove 343 to the grid, the car sputtered and shut off maybe 200 yards from the track entrance.
It became immediately apparent this was not a simple bad electrical connection, it was something worse. Quickly AC, Freep, Johnny A from Drivegear and I, went into diagnostic mode. Just as we narrowed it down to a faulty computer, we heard cars rolling off the grid for the pace lap. Then, just as the pace car led the field through turn 3 on the track, the Axis 343 fired up! Freep frantically secured the DME as I pulled on the belts. I was so excited!
I'm off to the long pit lane. Excited to be on the track, I began to push the car on very cold tires to catch up with the pack. Somehow I managed to catch up just before the last corner.
Green flag and I was on a mission to pass everyone! Up to 4th overall in just 2 laps, I began to throw down qualifying pace laps trying to catch the first 4 cars.
Just as I was getting close to the P3, a car that was smoking and blowing oil on the track, I got a black flag pointed at me at start/finish line.
I thought that it was a mistake but at turn 6 the corner worker had my number and a black flag.
So now I know that black flag is for me and I start to wonder if something is wrong with the car , maybe my hood is open.
I roll into pit lane thinking it was something simple and kind of enjoying the prospect of going out and having to pass more cars again, which is always fun to do.
Not so. I am directed off the course and accused of almost hitting two officials in the pits. I was confused so instead of making a big deal out of it, i just went to the pits to check the camera: it had been a chaotic start of the race and I had been very focused on getting in the race so wanted to make sure I hadn't done anything wrong.
After checking the video, it was clear I was not even close to anyone, much less almost "taking out" not one but two officials.
I approached the race director, same one that told me to get (the F...) off track, to try and figure out what the problem was. After politely starting a conversation, I was quickly blown away with the completely disrespectful attitude that I was getting from him. Listening to him curse and preach safety, I quickly had enough all his BS. Did I mention that he stated he was banning me for the 2012 season over this?
I took the matter up with the owner of NASA NorthEast. He was aware of the problem and addressed why I received the black flag but had no real answer as to o why I was kick out of the race.
He said thatI would not banned for 2012, which was good, but if things dont change with his staff, I won't be back anyway. The rude, cursing race director is an employee of his, and I am one very unhappy customer at this point. What a disappointing end to a season. This is a good example of why Chris Cobetto and his NASA Mid-Atlantic group, draws in cars from all over the country. When you drive in a NASA Mid-Atlanticevent, you treated with upmost respect!