November 6 NASCAR Championship Weekend
Michael McDowell


NASCAR driver Michael McDowell – a product of Glendale, Ariz. – and former NASA astronaut William Gregory will meet fans and answer questions about the thrills and challenges of their respective fields at “Gears and Galaxies” Night on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at Challenger Space Center in Peoria. 

Gregory, who piloted Space Shuttle Endeavour flight STS-67, said “Gears and Galaxies” will be a very special event for everyone involved:  "Speed, excitement, and a whole lotta noise.  Sounds like NASCAR in two dimensions and a shuttle launch in three." 

The family-oriented event runs from 4-8 p.m., with Gregory and McDowell hosting a joint Q&A session for ticketed guests from 6-7 p.m.  Valley TV and radio motorsports personality Wally Cahill will serve as emcee for the evening. 

"Gears and Galaxies" also features the unveiling of a new, on-loan NASA exhibit showing a real Space Shuttle tire, a NASCAR tire, and a replica lunar rover tire, along with items flown in space from Mr. Gregory's personal collection.  Phoenix International Raceway’s Official Pace Car will be on display in the parking lot.

Challenger Space Center rounds out the evening with fun family activities including space-themed movies, an Extreme Space Weather demonstration, arts and crafts projects, prize giveaways and more.  Among the prizes is a pair of reserved grandstand seats for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race on Feb. 27, 2011, including two pre-race pit passes, courtesy of Phoenix International Raceway.

Tickets for “Gears and Galaxies” are available on a first-come, first-served basis at  Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children and include admission to the Q&A session and an autographed photo from both the astronaut and the race car driver. As part of the event, Challenger also has a special ticketing option for NASCAR events at Phoenix International Raceway as part of the Nov. 11-14 Kobalt Tools 500 race weekend. To purchase tickets, contact Jonathan Stone at 623-463-5672.

Beginning Nov. 1, the public can bid on eBay for an opportunity to “Fly with the Pros” – which offers a very special, one-hour simulated mission into outer space with Gregory and McDowell. The two will personally fly the mission with winning auction bidders (ages 9 and up) from 5-6 p.m. on Nov. 10. “Fly with the Pros” utilizes Challenger’s million-dollar spaceflight simulator platform and tasks participants to use teamwork to rendezvous with a comet's tail and successfully launch a scientific probe.  Mission seats are not included in “Gears and Galaxies” admission and must be purchased separately on eBay.  A link will be posted on by Nov. 1 to the eBay auction. 

Tickets to the Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race and WYPALL 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race are also available on Challenger Space Center’s web site through a special arrangement with Phoenix International Raceway.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit Challenger AZ’s educational programs.  Visit to purchase online; tickets will be available for pick up at the PIR will-call window.

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