Becoming a champion at any level is difficult and riddled with challenges. I should know — I’ve never been one! I’ve set track records, won countless races in cars I’ve built, won numerous races in team cars, including ES class in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, worked as a suspension development and race driver for performance aftermarket manufacturers and teams both on and off road. I set a land-speed record at more than 200 mph and even drove a Ford Ranger to 182 mph down a Nevada highway, but I’ve never been a champion as defined by a sanctioning body’s rule set.
If you set your goals and achieve them, you are a true Champion because you have beat all odds to reach your goals, even if no one else knows it. However, if you want notoriety, you have to focus on a recognizable championship, such as the NASA National Championships held last month at the gorgeous Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. Many champions were crowned from all across the country because they played the game better than anyone else when it counted.
How did they achieve such prestige? First, they worked hard for it. They likely knew it would be theirs at the beginning of the season, if not before. I’m guessing many of them utilize a time-tested method I firmly believe in: visualization.
Visualize yourself standing on the top step of the podium at the conclusion of the Championships, next to the Toyo Tires trophy girls, spraying champagne over the cheering crowd while you revel in your accomplishment. What a great view you have from that coveted top spot. Before that, all season long you have to see yourself winning races for your fans and sponsors, maybe even your kids.
If you set out just to compete and have fun, that is what you will do. There is nothing wrong with that in any way, and I encourage that approach because it can make for a much more enjoyable and relaxing time at the track. However, we are talking about becoming a champion, so if you truly want to be a champion, you must see it first then work to make it a reality.
Champions overcome all challenges. No matter which direction they come from, no matter how insurmountable they seem, all challenges must be conquered. Everything becomes a means to the end, and that is not for everyone. In fact, it’s only really for the few who can put almost everything else on hold while they move from champion dream to champion reality.
If you are not in a place in your life where you can give a championship run 100 percent effort next year, do not let that stop you from marching in that direction. One of the most valuable assets needed for such a lofty goal is seat-time and that can be gained in HPDE, TT or racing. Champions are not just ridiculously focused individuals. They are also talented drivers who have put in their time behind the wheel.
If you are just getting started or have been at it for a few years and are ready to focus on becoming a champion in the eyes of others, get yourself to the track and drive your car as hard as you can each and every lap. Don’t be late for grid or sit out a session because it’s raining. Jump at the opportunity to drive a test and tune, and run every enduro you can because that seat time is invaluable to helping you hone your skills as a precision driver.
Whether you are working on your own private championship or looking for the celebrity status gained from the cameras, focus, visualize and see your dreams come true — then work like mad to get there.