Spillover Benefits

In and of itself, racing is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. If you’re reading this, you understand. You also know there is so much more to racing than just going to the track and driving fast.

There are the obvious benefits such as new friendships and camaraderie, but also more subtle bonuses that come with the pursuit of the podium. They’re not as obvious, but they are just as valuable nonetheless. Economists call them spillover benefits, and I can think of three examples off the top of my head. First, racing keeps you humble — at least it does me. Second, it helps keep you healthy and, third, hopeful. Let me explain.

There is a sort of Socratic humility that comes from racing, that doing so makes you acutely aware of how much you don’t know. First, I am surrounded by guys who are genuinely fast drivers. It could be in Spec Miata, the class in which I race, or any of the other classes NASA offers. There is no shortage of talent in the paddock, and I always try to find out how they got up to speed so I can emulate them. I am sure they spent a lot of time and effort, and endured a few humbling episodes of their own to become as accomplished as they are, but all I see is their speed.

The mechanical aspect of racing can be just as humbling. As long as I have been playing with cars, I still have a lot to learn. I always pick up a lot from the tech stories we run in Speed News, but even mechanical projects I’ve done several times over can bite back. For instance, I have changed the clutches in three different Miatas and swapped transmissions on a few more, yet as I write this, my car sits in the garage with the transmission lying under it because a buddy and I couldn’t get it back in before we ran out of steam. We wrestled with it till we were dog-tired, and it just wouldn’t slip into place. Today, my neck and shoulders ache as a result.

They would ache even more if I hadn’t committed to a fitness regimen when I started racing. I used to return home from a weekend of HPDE and more recently racing, just destroyed from the physical toll it took on my body. I’d wake up Monday morning battered and sore. If I were going to keep racing, I knew I had to invest in my own health and fitness. Boot camp three times a week and a bicycle ride on the weekends has boosted my health and maybe, just maybe, helped me be a better driver.

Racing also makes me hopeful because there’s always something to look forward to. Whether it’s another project to make the car better or the next race, the racing lifestyle sharpens your focus on what lies ahead, which is where it should be. The inverse of the humility that comes from realizing how much you don’t know is the prospect of learning something new, and racing presents scores of opportunity for learning.

Those are just the three that immediately leap to mind, and I imagine everyone takes away something unique and personal. The sport certainly has enriched my life in more ways than I ever thought possible and grounded me in ways I never imagined.

Overall, the spillover benefits of racing have been overwhelmingly positive. I’m glad I can see things that way because right now there’s a recalcitrant transmission on my garage floor with my name on it.

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