A little while back, I posted something on my Facebook page about racing. I don’t remember whether it was some sort of meme or a video or what, but one of the responses I got from and old classmate from journalism school was something along the lines of, “So that’s all you guys do? Drive around in circles?”
I was trying to craft a response to explain how road-course racing involves much more than driving in circles. Then I started thinking of all the other fine points of road racing. The problem was that I couldn’t fit it all into one easily digestible Facebook post or even where to begin.
Then another old friend of my chimed in with, “They just don’t get it, do they, Brett?” His response was so appropriate, I decided to leave well enough alone.
Lots of people don’t get racing. They look at it and think it’s just running around in circles. They look at racing and think it’s easy. They have no idea of the speeds we’re carrying. “It doesn’t look fast in the videos,” they think to themselves.
But NASA members know. Whether you race or run HPDE or in Time Trials, you know there’s a whole lot more to racing than just running around in circles. Track time aside, there is also a social aspect to racing that even I was completely unaware of when I started in HPDE. You meet the best friends you never knew you had.
I had gone probably a without making any new friends. Good friends. After college, it seems like the only people you meet are at work or through work. It’s either that or meeting the parents of your children’s friends. And if they’re not into cars, what is there to talk about with them? I often describe it like this: “Come for the racing. Stay for the friendships.”
Racing also helps people in other areas. I can think of several guys who improved their health through the crucible of motorsport. After an event, they’d need a day or two to recover. Realizing that their racing would benefit if they improved their physical fitness, they started hitting the gym and reading about nutrition and really looking after themselves. Their racing improved and being in better shape improved every facet of their lives. Name me a self-help book that can do that.
Racing improves your focus. It teaches you to set goals. It shows you how to live in the moment. It lets you live fully. It also teaches you about time management. Balancing work and family with racing is as much an art as it is a science. Rob Krider goes into more detail on that subject in this month’s “Toolshed Engineer.” Check it out on Page XX.
Another place I see racing make a huge difference in people’s lives is in the young people who take part in this sport. To put it bluntly, most teenagers can be exhausting to be around — annoying, even. I hold this opinion for a few reasons. One, I was a know-it-all prick when I was a teenager, and I have long admitted that. Two, I am the father of a teenager. Three, after grad school, I taught several units of freshman and sophomore speech classes and two units that were only available to juniors and seniors. Man, what a difference between freshmen and seniors. At the track, however, the teenagers I meet are cordial and respectful. They’re responsible and humble, yet fast. Usually very fast.
No psychology book I’m aware of can provide the kind of self-help you get when you become part of the racing community. There’s so much more to it than driving around in circles, and if you get it, consider yourself lucky.