Can there possibly be a more defining word in the English language than “anticipation” to describe a racecar driver? I don’t think so. What is anticipation to a racecar driver? Well, it all started a long time ago, but it goes something like this.
A boy starts dreaming of one day having his first go-kart, then waiting to see his first race in person, the dreams of one day actually racing on a racetrack. Those days waiting for his first NASA HPDE driving experience, the weeks spent preparing the car for the upcoming race, the night before the race, lining up on grid and finally, when your crew chief fastens your window net, gives you a fist bump and says, “Go get ‘em buddy.” Your eyes turn to the flagman as you make sure you’re in first gear, your hand grasping the wheel, your foot on the clutch, you begin to hear race engines revving up. Your heart pumps as fast as your fuel pump, your breathing stops and all those moments of anticipation are for just one thing … that awesome green flag!
The best thing about anticipation is it never stops and there’s always more. The first turn, the first lap, setting up someone for a pass, hitting your rev limit and topping out in high gear, but as soon as you reach the finish line, you’re already thinking about the next race or better yet, standing up on the podium. Is this an amazing sport or what!
In the early 80s, while on a fishing trip in Alaska, I had the pleasure of meeting famed Alaskan artist Charles Gause. Charles is an amazing artist, one who in my opinion has a gift of being able to actually paint anticipation. Charles graciously invited me to his home studio where he had just completed a painting titled “Anticipation.” Having immediately recognized the location of the amazing work, I asked Charles to tell me about it and the three signatures on it.
The painting shows an old timer working on his dog sled in front of his one-room log cabin, overlooking the Kenai River, while his team of huskies mill about. As the old timer and the huskies gaze upon the distant Kenai Mountains with a dusting of snow, they can feel the imminent heavy snowfall, which is soon to come. Preparation is indeed quickly becoming a paramount concern and has brought on anticipation in every sense of word.
The painting was signed by Doug Swingley, a four-time winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across Alaska, Colonel Norman Dane Vaughan, who in 1928 dropped out of Harvard to participate in Admiral Byrd’s first expedition to the South Pole and later competed in 13 Iditarod races. Eventually a mountain was named after Vaughan in the Antarctic. Naturally, the artist Charles Gause signed as well. Charles eventually made limited-edition prints, all of which were signed by the same trio, but I’m pleased to say that I purchased that original work and still have it on my wall to this day as a testimony of my own appreciation for anticipation.
I believe Charles Gause, Doug Swingley and Colonel Norman Vaughan, each saw and felt the same appreciation for anticipation that the old timer and his dogs felt, just as NASA drivers do when they too are in a state of anticipation while waiting for the green flag. They are excited, maybe a little nervous, and filled with expectations about what the next few seconds, minutes, hours or days may hold.