Time Trials Nationals 2021: Friday Notebook

Time Trials Nationals 2021: Friday Notebook

Lord March founded the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 1993, which is a well-known automotive celebration that takes place in West Sussex, England. Here in the United States, there is Sports Car Club of America’s “Festivity of Speed” — better known as the Tire Rack Time Trials Nationals Powered by Hagerty, founded in 2018 and being held over the next three days at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

What’s the difference between the two events? First the obvious, they are conducted on two different continents. Second, there are a lot of fancy hats and dudes wearing tweed at Goodwood, whereas Time Trials Nationals attendees are more the jeans and baseball cap crowd. Third, Goodwood has finger sandwiches and cups of tea as compared to the BBQ and bubbly beverages of Time Trials Nationals.

But more important are the things the two events share. Both have really neat cars, celebrate driving and the automotive lifestyle, and have a party atmosphere filled with people having fun.

And the First Award Goes to…

Trophies are certainly not the only things that matter at Time Trials Nationals, but they sure are cool to receive. And while top finishers across the 18 different car classes will collect trophies late Sunday afternoon, event staff also like to celebrate others who further the “essence” of Time Trials.

The first accolade, Holley Performance’s “Off On the Right Foot” Award, was handed out Friday morning to 24-year-old Ryan Mukherjee of SCCA’s Central Kentucky Region. John Hunter, SCCA’s National Time Trials Manager, said the honor recognizes an individual who is new to Time Trials Nationals but immediately “gets” the vibe of the endeavor both on and off track.

“Ryan received the award because in both grid and impound he has been awesome to work with. He has been just such a super-easy guy to get to know and hang out with. And he’s run some really good times on course,” Hunter said. “We just want to celebrate those who are having fun, and Ryan came out of the gate having a great time.”

Mukherjee leapt into motorsports a year-and-a-half ago with autocross, and has now added Time Trials to his repertoire. He has previously been on the 3.15-mile, 23-turn Grand Full Course at NCM thanks to a regional Time Trials event, but this is his first appearance at Time Trials Nationals.

“This is only my fifth event ever. I just decided to dive right in and meet all the awesome people here,” Mukherjee said after collecting the award. “I’ve learned to work with traffic, learned to work with guys on grid, learned the strategy of the gap lap, and learned how to set your fastest time and make the most of your first couple flying laps.”

Driving in the Sport 6 class, which has nearly 25 entrants, Mukherjee will have the chance to make plenty of new friends this weekend. But he has done well enough so far to be bumped up from the Novice Group to the Intermediate Group after just one day of practice. Way to go, Ryan!

Intrepid, Embedded Journalist

Some journalists watch things happen. But that’s not the case when it comes to J.G. Pasterjak, production manager and art director for Grassroots Motorsports and Classic Motorsports magazines who also pens articles for both publications.

Now working his 31st year in publishing, Pasterjak first joined SCCA in 1987 and has road raced, done RallyCross, participated in HillClimbs, identifies as an autocrosser, attended Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack, and is competing for a third time at Time Trials Nationals in a LeMans Blue Chevrolet Corvette that is also a “project car” for the magazine.

It was 2018 when Pasterjak attended the very first Time Trials Nationals at NCM, and also ran the following year. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, he had to skip the 2020 event. But he’s back this year and has already noticed a pretty significant difference between year one and year four.

“Things seem to have changed last year,” Pasterjak noted. “This went from an event sort of trying to find an identity to a very, very serious thing that is still a lot of fun. It’s not a thing people are gritting their teeth over, but it’s something that now people from other clubs and other disciplines are saying, ‘Oh, I got to be at this event. If I’m going to be legitimate in this space, this is the event I need to be at.’”

“Coming back this year, it’s almost like relearning how to be at this event. It’s like the most intense summer camp you’ll ever go to,” continued Pasterjak. “There’s a lot of intensity here, but there is also a lot of camaraderie here.”

Working for three decades in any profession can cause burnout, but that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to Pasterjak. Even though magazine production, writing and attending events eats up much of his waking hours, he still loves what he does and appreciates that he’s been afforded the opportunity to work around cars, motorsports and automotive enthusiasts.

“The next day at work is always the most fun day at work,” Pasterjak said with a smile and a shrug.

Built for the true sports car enthusiast, Grassroots Motorsports has one mission: Be your personal guide to the sports car world. Whether its online, in print, or in person, the car nerds at Grassroots Motorsports take you behind the scenes and show you how to make your car better. Along the way, they'll give you a taste of everything else this hobby has to offer, from 1000-horsepower track monsters to cool street cars built in driveways. Grassroots Motorsports also maintains a collection of staff-built project cars because hands-on technical articles aren't typed behind a desk, they're scribbled down in the garage.

Oh, and SCCA members receive a discounted rate of only $16.99/year on Grassroots Motorsports subscriptions. So, that’s pretty cool, too.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday

The “scored” portion of Time Trials Nationals began Friday with Time Attack. Entrants had three, 20-minute sessions on NCM’s Grand Full Course to set their single best lap time. Saturday will see drivers participate in the unique TrackSprint portion of the weekend, where laps are timed on two different, shorter circuit layouts. Then the pressure is on when Sunday rolls around with another go on the Grand Full Course, but participants only have three laps in each of two sessions to put up their best performance

The lowest single time from Friday’s Time Attack, the best time from TrackSprint 1, the top time from TrackSprint 2, and the best performance from Sunday’s Time Attack are “scored.” Those four different times are added together and become an entrant’s “overall” time. Those with the lowest overall times in each car class are declared champions.   

Track Time Trials Online

The Tire Rack Time Trials Nationals Powered by Hagerty continues Saturday and Sunday from NCM Motorsports Park. The event is open to spectators who want to come and be part of the fun. Those who can’t make it out to Bowling Green, Kentucky over the weekend can listen online to play-by-play audio from Gregg Ginsberg and Larry McLeod right here, and a couple special guest pop-ins are anticipated. Live timing can also be found at the same weblink above.


Photo by ABI Photo