Who Wants to Win a Championship?

This year NASA drivers are headed to the NASA Championships Presented by Toyo Tires at Daytona International Speedway. How I wish I were one of them. Oh, the elusive championship. Drivers spend countless seasons pursuing it. Some make it to the top while others are left clamoring in the dust. Granted, there’s some luck involved, but getting yourself in the right place at the perfect time isn’t about luck. It’s about tenacity.

te-nac-i-ty, noun — 1) the quality or fact of being very determined; determination. 2) the quality or fact of continuing to exist; persistence.

Every driver I’ve ever known dreams of winning a championship. After all, the underlying goal of every sport is to win as much as possible. Whether it be a trophy, a medal, or anything in between, the dream is the same. While many may have this dream, few will ever actually have the chance to race for a championship let alone know what it’s like to stand on the podium at the end of it all and hold the big trophy over their heads.

There are so many things that need to happen to make winning a championship possible. It’s something I have personally thought about a lot during my racing career. I’ve been fortunate to have had the ability to experience the feeling of winning championships at different levels of different sports as I worked hard to make my way through the ranks. When I look back at the successful campaigns I was a part of, there was one common denominator: losing. Tennis legend Billie Jean King once said, “Champions keep playing until they get it right.”

She’s right. Winning can come only as a result of lots of failure. Boy, did I wreck a lot in the beginning, but the truth is, any driver worth his salt learns from his mistakes and, simply put, the more you wreck, the more you learn. Boy, have I ever had fun learning, and isn’t that what makes the NASA experience such a positive thing?

A big part of winning a championship is simply being there at the end. It took a lot of hard work, devotion, passion, ability to overcome adversity and lots of determination and willingness to chase a dream. But don’t come to Daytona to win a championship if you don’t have a team that doesn’t work well together. Take it from me: You will never get to the level it takes to win a championship if you and your team don’t have chemistry. Looking back at my experiences, there was never a time when I could say we had the best team throughout the entire process. The one thing we did have was the best chemistry.

A favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quote of mine is, “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” This statement is as important to the team members as it is to the driver.

As I write this, I find myself filled with great satisfaction. My head spins as I remember close races that had to be won if I were to stay in the running for the season championship, and especially the rush after having done so. I can relive all of those moments of those all-too-important qualifying races and, of course, the problems that always seemed to arise, leaving me with only minutes to resolve them. The seemingly constant pressure … you either fold because of it, or you thrive on it.

And now, I’m jealous. What I would give to be any one of those drivers and teams headed to Daytona this year. Here’s wishing them all good luck. I tip my hat to them one and all.

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