Pitt Race with NASA Great Lakes: Beating the Heat

No, I’m not here to talk about a crossover with four wheels. Not yet, anyway. The Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions of the National Auto Sport Association put their heads and promotional skills together to create a “crossover” event between the two regions, at Pitt Race, west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Some of the Mid-Atlantic GTS2 racers attended this event last year, myself included. It was a mixed bag then, with my friend Scott getting the nose of his Hellrot M3 taken off by an errant racer, and all of us learning the track for the first time.

This year, however, I was back with some excitement, eager to re-attack the 2.8 mile course that I remembered fondly from twelve months prior. Pitt Race is composed of 19 turns, many of which are off-camber, blind, or both. It’s nerve-wracking at first and quite fun once you get the hang of it.

After an easy tow from the DC area in a 2019 Toyota Sequoia, we unloaded next to a competitor and friend, Jason. There would only be three of us competing in GTS2 for the weekend, as several others had to drop out at the last minute. No matter, we were anxious to get on track alongside fellow Great Lakes competitor Nate.

jb nasa gl pitt 7 19 1

Saturday morning brought some brief rain and schedule confusion. Jason and I switched to rain tires (mildly unnecessary) and missed the first half of our practice session (oops). The skies cleared in time for qualifying, and with all of us at grid on time, running slicks of our choice, it was “go time.” I qualified third, with a 2:06.59, and vowed to push harder now that I remembered where the track went.

Saturday’s race started strong, though I didn’t pick up as much time as I’d hoped. My fastest lap was a 2:04.33, which didn’t see me as competitive as I knew was possible. No matter, Sunday would be better.

Saturday wasn’t exactly balmy in the first place, but the sunshine and heat were even more intense on Sunday. With fresh ice in my Cool Suit cooler, I pulled over to grid for our morning race. My spotter (thanks, Joe!) did a great job at the end of the pace lap, and with a pack of Mustangs snoozing on the start, I blew past Jason and Nate. Jason caught me within a lap, but I pressed on and battled with Nate for the entire 30-minute race. To Nate’s credit, he put up a great fight and stayed in my mirrors, pushing as hard as he could on the final lap. He snuck by on the final turn of that final lap, edging past to take second place. It was an epic battle, the kind of racing that you hope for at every event.

My personal best lap time was improved during that morning race, too, dropping to a 2:01.15. Between the hard-fought battle and lap time improvement, I finished Sunday morning very pleased.

Sunday’s racing wasn’t over, though, with a third race that afternoon. After another great start, conditions quickly soured as rain moved in across various parts of the track. Our collective pace slowed, and my focus shifted to “just finish, and clean” as I knew season points were on the line. Grip was low and Joe was in my ears sharing conditions from his vantage point, which were generally lousy. After he called the third or fourth car off in the grass, I elected to dial the speed down, which was smart. Turns 17 and 18 had no grip at all, which forced the car to plow straight ahead for a bit before tires could bite for the turn. Thankfully, I finished the race unscathed.

Sidenote: My car is no longer “Cosmos Black with sides of spray paint” as it’s been since 2013! Maaco of Winchester, VA did a wonderful job on this color change back in June, and I’m really digging the new Plum Crazy (yes, it’s a Dodge Challenger color) hue.

Big thanks to the NASA Great Lakes staff for hosting us from the Mid-Atlantic region! The weather was brutal and the volunteer efforts exuded by everyone who helped with the event were appreciated – as was the cold water bottle after each race.

Next up in a few short weeks, NASA Mid-Atlantic is back at Virginia International Raceway!

Pitt Race purple E36 M3 Jake Thiewes

3 thoughts on “Pitt Race with NASA Great Lakes: Beating the Heat”

  1. I agree with Dan (is that dad? Lol) on the color choice. Looks fabulous. Blind + off-camber corners? Yikes! Looks like you handled them with style and grace. I couldn’t help but notice that you were following a 4G TL for a bit there on the track in the video!

    • That 4G TL shows up from time to time! We’ve seen it out at VIR with NASA Mid-Atlantic as well. It was running in the “ST4” class, which is power to weight based like GTS, but open to all brands – not just Germans. I’ve raced in ST4 before, although my/our GTS2 M3s are not super competitive as they sit. Not quite enough power if someone properly set up for the class shows up. But yes, the TL is out there and pulling its own! I’d be curious how the SH-AWD holds up on track, it is very well-reviewed for back roads and the way it works is neato.


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