You Scratched. I Win?

Have you ever shot a game of pool with someone, and your opponent made a bad shot and knocked in the eight ball and ended the game? Were you really the winner? Of course you weren’t. The guy who hit the eight ball in was the loser, but you were by no means the winner or the best. It’s confusing, isn’t it?

What I’m trying to point out here is that you really didn’t exhibit any skill or ability to beat your opponent. It was the opponent who exhibited his ability or lack thereof, which evidently was because he made the mistake of knocking in the eight ball and ending the game. Funny how this same thing can carry over to competing in motorsports.

In all reality, no one in the world can beat any of us. Stop and think about that for a moment. We may lose a race or miss an apex, but we can blame no one except ourselves. We were the one who turned the steering wheel or lifted off the accelerator too soon. Our opponents played no part in those actions. We beat ourselves.

Let’s examine this a little further. Why did I lose the race? Was I mentally prepared better than my competition? Did I train harder than my opponents? In the final analysis, you are the one who drives the car, and pushes the envelope. When all is said and done, you are the only one who determines whether you win or lose — not your opponent. It’s important to have the mindset that you are the most important person on the track. This is why you should only concern yourself with your own driving on the track. Why worry about someone missing a corner or how many other cars they’ve passed — you have no control over their skills, or lack thereof.

All of this may sound sort of silly, but believe me it is important in racing if you want to win. Why worry about what lap time your opponent turned? Instead, go out and do your best to be perfect and to run the best lap like it will be the last one you will ever run. If you do succeed in turning the perfect lap, your opponent can only tie you. If you worry about your opponent, believe me, you will beat yourself.

So, next time you miss an apex or brake too soon, forget the excuses, or what your opponent did. You were the one driving the car! If you lost, it’s not that you were beaten by your competitor, it’s because you beat yourself. Just like shooting a game of pool, when your opponent makes a mistake or has an off-track excursion, don’t start getting excited that you’ve done something good when you passed him. You didn’t do anything.

Years ago, my football coach told me that if both teams play a perfect offense and defense game, nobody would ever score or win on the gridiron. The same is true in motorsports. If each driver turned perfect lap times, they could only tie each other. Your beliefs and your values can create a platform to explain why you do what you do differently than your competitors, as well as the greater results that you are able to produce by possessing those beliefs and values.

These are hard differentiators to defend against. Ask yourself, “What makes you unique?” and consider being able to adapt to new situations. For example, you could say, “I embrace change and am always eager to learn new skills.” If you don’t make changes, you’re always just going to be that guy waiting for the other guy to knock in the eight ball.


  1. The shooting pool analogy is not a good one.

    Ask an F1 or Indycar driver if they believe they’ve ever done a perfect lap and most will tell you they’re still chasing one. A “perfect lap” is an enigma.

    Even in spec racing no two cars are going to be exactly the same. Even if both drivers have their cars prepared similarly well, the setups can be different or one driver’s car’s engine can be built closer to the nth degree of the regulations.

    Now let’s assume the cars are exact with exact setups and everything. In the first scenario, neither driver makes a significant mistake like spinning or going off course. The winning driver out drove the losing driver. The winning driver drove better and beat the losing driver. Maybe they started ahead and kept that position. At this point the losing driver has to tip their hat to the winning driver, still be happy and proud with their performance and then try to figure out where that driver was just a tad marginally better than them for next time.

    In the second scenario the losing driver makes an UNFORCED error. Then like in your pool example the losing driver beat themselves vs you beating them.

    In the final scenario, the driver that’s behind is putting big pressure on the driver ahead filling the mirrors and placing the car is if they’re making a pass. The driver ahead is driving in their mirrors and makes a mistake that they otherwise wouldn’t have made. They brake later than they should and completely blow their apex and/or go off track and/or spin. They lost that race, but you won it because you caused that FORCED error. For the winning driver that’s probably the sweetest kind of victory. For the losing driver it’s one of the worst, especially if they gave up more than one position because of the mistake.

    I understand the point you’re trying to make. But you can be proud and happy without being 100 percent satisfied with your race, even if you win the overall class. Now if you win without making any significant mistakes, maybe win by a significant margin and maybe set a class record lap while you’re at it, then you should be satisfied. Did you drive every lap perfectly? Probably not. Did you drive the perfect race? Maybe, maybe not. But you should still be satisfied and you should still be extremely happy and proud.

    This sport, especially at the amateur level, should first and foremost be fun and enjoyable. Once its not and the only thing that matters is winning or even just being a certain position, you should go do something else for a while.

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