The big news around the Becker household last month was a photo on Facebook of me standing on the top step of the podium after the Sunday race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Yes, I won a Spec Miata race. My first.
That weekend was huge. I earned my first pole position and podiumed with a third on Saturday, and then took home a win on Sunday. That was a feeling like no other and a long time in the making. I typically post something from most race weekends on my Facebook page — and you probably do, too. Those posts highlight the bright spots of our racing lives. They range from prerace photos with sentiment that we’re ready to go, or post-race pictures with comments noting all the hard work, how much fun the weekend was and how great it was to hang out with our racing buddies again.
Race weekends are the best, and we love talking about them. We enjoy posting pictures and wowing our nonracing friends with tales of bravado, near misses and, when possible, victories. That’s what we want people to see, but those moments are preceded and followed by a thousand other moments that never get any exposure on social media. Our families, our close friends and our racing buddies see them. They know. They understand. You do, too.
You understand that for every few hours on track, your car spends countless days on jack stands in your garage. Few people see you spending hours on your back dialing in the smallest details. Your hands are too dirty to handle your phone, and you’re too busy to take a photo to post online anyway.
Few people see you sitting in the car on a hot grid with your eyes closed, visualizing laps or saying a quick prayer before you go out. They don’t see you wailing on a fender, banging out dents or scouring the junkyard for spare parts. That stuff never gets posted on Facebook.
Few people see you studying video or staring at squiggly lines on a laptop trying to figure out how to go faster through a turn. They don’t see you spending hours with a driving coach, working hard to fix mistakes it took you years to perfect. They don’t see the hard work. They don’t see the low moments, either.
They don’t see you stripping a totaled racecar, saving any usable parts so you can cobble together another one. They don’t see you busting your tail all night long to fix a damaged car so you can race the next day. They don’t see the difficulty of self doubt that creeps in after a particularly bad weekend on track.
Those moments usually are not shared, but without them, there are no podiums. Without them, those highest of highs never come. Without the hard lessons learned with each hurdle you leap, with each difficulty you overcome, the glory of the podium would not hold as much meaning. It wouldn’t be nearly as special.
In his book, “Best Damn Garage in Town,” legendary NASCAR crew chief Smokey Yunick said something to the effect of, “If you never had any bad days, you wouldn’t recognize the good ones when they came along.”
If you race or run in HPDE or Time Trial, a bad day or two along the way is inevitable. That’s what happens when you push your limits as a driver, and to a certain extent, as a person. But those days are essential to give meaning and significance to the high moments, the moments we post on Facebook for all to see.
I have read that Facebook is essentially a person’s highlight reel. I believe that. I also believe that for every highlight reel there’s a corresponding collection of hardships that went into creating that highlight reel, which is something few people ever see.