Press On

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

That quote comes from Calvin Coolidge. I had it taped to my wall throughout my years in college, and I found it particularly uplifting when I was dealing with some of the more difficult classes I had to get through before I could get to those in my major.

It was helpful to me then, and it’s just as valid now. In fact, I see it at work at NASA events all across the country— and if you think about it for a moment, it’s easy to recognize those two qualities very much in play whenever and wherever we go racing.

For example, I can think of three drivers off the top of my head who have demonstrated persistence and determination to improve their driving and racing. Two of them undertook the time, effort and expense of hiring a coach. From what I can gather, their efforts have been worthwhile, because those two drivers have been finishing higher up in their fields, including podiums and wins.

I also know of a third driver who was so determined to win a NASA Championship that he not only got further coaching, but also raced and practiced at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca every weekend he could during the year leading up to the Western States Championships Presented by Toyo Tires. His drive paid off, and you can read about his big win in our Spec Miata race report in the Western States Championships on Page XX.

It’s so encouraging to hear stories like that. Racing is great fun, sure, but it’s also immensely difficult to do well and to succeed on a national level, especially with a talent pool as deep as we have in NASA.

You also see persistence and determination at work at every race, not just Championship-caliber events. You see it when a racer has an off and tears something up. Or when there is a racing incident and some metal gets bent. You’ll see people pitching in to help get a car back together in time for the race. You’ll even see competitors helping get a guy back on track, only to face off against him when the green flag flies.

Of course, you always see these forces at work on track, too. How many times have you seen a race won by a last-lap, last-corner pass? Or how often do we read about a driver who was nursing an ailing car, but went on to take the win anyway? Check out the story on the Super Unlimited race in our coverage of the Western States Championships to see how one driver pressed on in the face of serious mechanical adversity.

Persistence and determination are immensely powerful, fueled by the passion for racing and the will to compete. Think about the people you race with, and the persistent and determined acts you’ve seen. Odds are pretty good you could tell a few stories similar to those I’ve tried to illustrate here.

What I didn’t know back in college, but I learned when looking up the exact quote for this column, is that there was another final part to the quote from Calvin Coolidge. It goes like this: “The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

The same holds true for the human racer.

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