When we have our driver’s meeting in my region, Southern California, our race director always leaves us with a version of the same nugget of wisdom at every event. “Look out for one another out there,” or “When you’re out there, take care of one another.”
I really like the message, and I can appreciate the sentiment. I know a lot of young NASA racers are eyeing a spot in the ranks of professional racing, but most of us are out there to have fun, experience the unrivaled joy of racing and competing, and the camaraderie in the paddock after the racing is done for the day.
During my time in racing, I’ve never seen a driver get “scouted” to race professionally, so I think it’s probably more important to focus on the racing we’re doing here and now rather than what might never be. That’s why our race director asks us to look after each other while we’re out on track.
He will usually provide a brief explanation of what it means to look after each other when we’re out on track, so I thought I’d take a few moments to put together a sampling of what he’s been telling us over the last few years.
One of his repeated suggestions for looking after each other is to attempt passes you know you can make. See if you’re familiar with this on-track scenario. You’re battling with a competitor and doing everything you can to keep him behind you, and you’re having the time of your life. As you approach a turn, you see that he’s coming up on your inside, but establishing proper overlap is going to be sketchy. Then you hear his inside front wheel lock up and you know he can’t make the turn, so you drive off the outside of the turn to avoid contact.
That leads to one of his other words of wisdom: If you go four-off the racing surface, be sure to come back on track safely. We’ve seen this time and again. In a heated battle, the red mist gets as thick as a San Francisco fog. You miscalculate and go four off — or go off to avoid contact — and you want to get right back in the thick of it to reclaim the spot you probably just lost. The problem occurs when there are other cars still on the racing surface right where you’re planning to rejoin the action. Well, they have the right of way, and any contact that results from you coming back on track is your fault. It’s unnecessary, careless and avoidable.
Any driver who has gone four-off — and that’s all of us — might leave you room to get back on, but the onus is on the driver doing the agricultural work to re-enter the track safely.
Leaving ample racing room is also another way we can look out for one another. Yes, the NASA rules say three-quarters of a car width are all you need to leave, but unless you’re fighting for a regional or national Championship, or a place in the Teen Mazda Shootout, or something genuinely important, isn’t it better to leave a competitor a little room and keep it fun? Contact breeds ill will. Ill will means you’re no longer racing with friends and, to be honest, racing is too expensive and time consuming to leave the people you love at home to go racing with people you don’t like.
It’s part of being a good sportsman, and although I don’t think our race director has ever covered that in our meetings, it is covered in the CCR. So, let’s do both. Let’s be good sportsmen and look out for one another out there.