“When you’re racing, it’s life. Anything that happens before and after is just waiting.”
That quote is from the 1971 movie “Le Mans,” which starred Steve McQueen as Michael Delaney. When I first started wheel-to-wheel racing, this quip was my mantra. One Monday a month was filled with putting away the trailer and ordering the gear needed for the next race weekend. The days between race weekends found me either elated from the previous weekend’s success or thoroughly pissed at how poorly I had finished. My family could tell what sort of results I had at the track by whether I walked in the door on Sunday night smiling and chatty or sulky and silent. The receptionists at work got used to stacks of newly delivered tires sitting in the office lobby and I became logistically adept at charting schedules and maneuvering assets to ensure that I could beat the awful Los Angeles traffic on the way to the track.
Competition of any form or even wheeling a car through a season of HPDE requires an intense and unwavering focus if you plan to be successful and suffer a minimum of “5P” failures (“Poor Planning Precedes Poor Performance”). Worn parts need to be changed, stressed components must be religiously inspected, and all the systems on the car and even the tow vehicle need regular eyeball passes to ensure you don’t end up on the side of the track or the side of the interstate. Racing does indeed need to become life at times because the time and attention required to do it right are not trivial.
However, after 20-plus years of being in the game, I feel that true mastery of motorsport comes when you can find balance between the intense hours of weekends on track and the quieter hours spent with friends and family that serve to fill a life well spent. I have in recent days seen friends and family deal with terrible illnesses and even endure the deaths of loved ones. This has made me very grateful to have had not only the tremendous experiences I have enjoyed in motorsport but also the wonderful adventures with folks I care for far away from the hue and cry of wheeled competition. I would feel pretty silly to have only a pile of trophies and a stack of used-up R compounds to point to when Saint Peter asked me just what I had done with my time on the big blue ball. With that said, the ability to focus, the skills, and the sheer joy those track weekends gave me certainly have made the road traveled that much better.
Am I telling you to hang up your helmet and head down to the local motor appliance lot to trade the bright red sporty car for a metallic beige minivan? No way. You’d be missing out on some truly soul-filling fun that can only be had at the track with your favorite crew of hooligans. What I am suggesting is that you poke your head out of the garage every now and then to see what’s going on with those you love. Put the wrenches down, wash off the grease, and make sure to spend some time where lap times, camber settings, and wing angles are the last thing on your mind.
I guarantee that you will come back to the track relaxed and focused. Even if racing has become life, make sure not to get too wrapped up in 200 mph tape and find some time to drop down a gear on the quieter path where the only prizes for the winners are great memories and treasured moments with folks who truly matter.