Annie Sam Project Racer

Project Racer- Back to the Track With NASA

By Annie Sam

All this talk about the car! What about the driver?! It’s been several months since we’ve had the opportunity to take our little NX2000 back to the racetrack. Many countless hours were spent WORKING on the car rather than DRIVING the car, leaving us fiending for speed like any addict suffering from withdrawal. So for a breath of fresh air, I’ll bring this month’s column back to track to talk more about NASA's High Performance Driving Events (HPDE).


Follow Annie's travels in the world of Motorsports here!


NASA’s High Performance Driving Events (HPDE)



Of all of the various sanctioning bodies I have run with, I feel that NASA has the best program for the beginner driver by far.  NASA’s HDPE or High Performance Driving Event program can take a driver safely from a raw beginner to an experienced track driver ready for driving school and wheel to wheel racing.


Annie Sam Project Racer
Digging in our archives, we found this really old picture of Annie back in her HPDE days.


I know I’ve mentioned this before, but let’s give a brief run down of each level of HPDE and what to expect at each level. Initially, you will be given a booklet in which you will log your track time. Consider this your report card as you pass through each level. As you become more experienced in driving, your head instructor will allow you to proceed to the next level by signing off your passport.


HPDE 1 – Learning the car

In this level, you will always ride with an instructor; I preferred to have the instructor drive my car for the first session on the track so that I could get an idea of how I was supposed to drive.

NASA HPDE Passport
This little booklet is your NASA Passport.  It will stay with you through your learning experience and will be used to document your progress and experience all the way up to getting your racing license.

Here, passing is extremely limited. Passing zones vary from track to track, so be sure to attend each driver's meeting, as they will determine the passing zones for your run group. Usually for HPDE 1, the passing zone would be the straightaway of that track designated by certain landmarks. Your goal here is to become familiarized with the track settings, and to learn your car. As you become comfortable with those two factors, work your way up to more technical aspects of driving. Be wary of faster cars; it doesn’t hurt to be liberal with point by’s. I would mention that people in high powered vehicles should let by faster drivers in lower powered vehicles, but usually those guys don’t realize they’re slow.   So let me reiterate from my previous articles, check your ego before you get on the track.

NASA HPDE Passport
This is what the inside of your passport looks like.  It has several evaluation areas for your instructor to score you with and instructor notes.


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Thursday, December 02, 2010 8:24 PM
Maybe NASA is better in SoCal, but in NorCal its a joke. I've run with all the local track organizations, and the NASA drivers are by far the least skilled and mature. Even HDPE 4 can be a total free-for-all. At Infineon in October, the entire HPDE 4 session got black flagged because many people ignored the yellow flags, and even passed under yellow! There was also a few spinners on cool-down laps.

It doesn't speak well for NASA's training program if people in HPDE 4 aren't aware enough to see flags or keep the car on the track.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Friday, December 03, 2010 4:49 AM
NASA in Southern California is very well run with an awesome HPDE and race series. They have a dedicated group of qualified instructors and good control on the track, better than other groups. NASA So Cal is the most organized, best run and safest group out there for beginners.
Friday, December 03, 2010 5:28 AM
Well-run in the Northeast, too. One of the better graduated systems. Tend to agree they position the TT correctly, too, since if you cannot run HPDE 4 then it's unlikely you'll be competitive in the TT series. Some groups look down on the TT series as "Beginner's Racing" compared to Sprints, Enduros, etc. until they start seeing the lap times turned by un-trailered, quasi street-legal cars who basically show up, change wheels, tweak a few other things, and race.
yo vanilla
yo vanillalink
Friday, December 03, 2010 6:13 AM
I'm not even sure if there are any NASA bodies around here. If there was... this would be a lot of fun at Road America!
Friday, December 03, 2010 7:07 AM
@Cameron If you are an experienced driver I would highly recommend driving in the TT session in Norcal.

HPDE4 means ure comfortable with open passing, as long as you're aware of traffic. Plus most competitive TTers pull in after 3 laps anyways so if you hang around you can get a number of clean laps later into a session.

Friday, December 03, 2010 8:03 AM
Agree that NASA SoCal is a well run ship. Not perfect but respectable.

Props too for NASA AZ, they seem to be spot on whenever I have ran with them.

Just my .02
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Friday, December 03, 2010 9:34 AM
The only race track near Washington, DC that I know of is Summit Point in West Virginia. I know SCCA has events there; I'm not sure about NASA.
Friday, December 03, 2010 1:50 PM
NASA runs at NJMP, I believe, and at the Glen besides Summit Point. Probably VIR, too, check their site.
Friday, December 03, 2010 4:35 PM
Here in AZ we separate HPDE4 and TT run groups. We actually have a big enough TT group where it's split up in two groups. Big bore and Small Bore. I really need to get out to the SoCal events. It'd be interesting to see how their DE4 compares.

Great writeup!
Monday, December 06, 2010 2:23 PM
@Justin, thats freekin awesome,
i take it forced induction cars are counted as big bore? Or are the TT run groups divided also by lap times?
Annie Sam
Annie Samlink
Friday, December 10, 2010 11:58 AM
@ yo vanilla: Check out NASA's organization in your area... I do believe that they have Road America in their schedule.

Sunday, December 19, 2010 10:21 AM
Great series, Annie. I just read through all of them. I never did drag or auto X, but have been running with Speed Ventures since my first track day last August. That first track day was really just to stretch my car's proverbial legs and see what it could do. I had no idea how addicting it would be.
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