Back in the day, yours truly used to spend a few hours each Sunday morning (and afternoon) parked in front of his computer with his hands gripped firmly on a steering wheel. The right foot placed squarely on a gas pedal and a left foot gently easing on the brake when needed.
On the screen was a racetrack. My point of view directly from the driver?s seat. Sometimes there were cars behind in the rearview mirror, but usually I was looking squarely at someone?s bumper. Occasionally I could grab a glimpse to my right at the car high? or peer left to see another car low. Always the speakers were cranked and I could hear literally nothing but the screaming wail of racecar engines.
Surround sound is good.
Connected via the internet, myself and 15 to 18 others across the U.S. (and abroad sometimes) would dedicate a healthy portion of our Sunday running a racing simulator, running anywhere from 100 to 300 miles at a predetermined track we?d spent the previous week practicing on.
Some people fly kites or paint landscapes. I raced online. It was my outlet.
The game/simulator allowed the user to set up every aspect of their racecar, from the gears to tire pressure and from the toe to the springs and camber, it was a difficult and painstaking task trying to set your car up just right for race day. With all the adjustments one could make, you always had to factor in the weather as well, something that could throw a great setup off just enough to make the car junk.
Needless to say, some guys quickly became experts when it came to making a racecar handle.
Others struggled for a top 10 finish.
With the thousands of hours spent tuning a car, practicing and racing, I feel I got a greater appreciation for the sport and what happens during a race.
1) You know who has the car to beat.
During the practice session before a race, it was pretty easy to figure out who had the best car in the garage. Not only were they at the top (or near) of the chart in practice times, it was pretty clear they could put their car where they needed it on the track and it would still drive like it was on rails. That's when you started thinking, 'I have a top 5 car' or 'I have a top 10 car.'
2) Dropping back doesn?t always mean it?s over.
There were literally hundreds of times I would fall back several spots and give up my position during a race. Once I got in my groove and saw someone gaining ground on me, I?d move over and let them go because I knew they had a faster car. And what?s the point of fighting a losing battle? They?re faster? let?em go! Of course with a race being in the closing laps, it?s different and you fight for what you have.
But early in a race there?s no point? plus it gives you a chance to see what someone else has. I try to keep this in mind when I?m watching my favorite driver slip from 4th to 8th in a couple of laps. Not always easy!
3) Fans? What fans?
During a race everyone is so in tune to what?s going on during the race, you don?t ?see? the fans in the stands. Yes, you see the stands, but your focus is on the car in front of you? behind you, to your left, your right? the gauges, how many laps until you pit, etc. So if there?s a hundred fans screaming your name or cursing the ground you walk on, the driver doesn?t see it, sure as heck doesn?t hear it? and couldn?t care less about it.
4) Tempers flare. QUICK.
98% of everything that happens on track is personal, whether it?s personal or not. It doesn?t matter if it?s a bonehead move or just what happens during a race. 98% of it will be taken personally. Usually it's quickly forgotten because an expletive instantly takes care of it!
It wasn?t uncommon for there to be a small ?flame war? on a message board after an online race, especially when two drivers made contact (see #4!). But more often than not it gets quickly settled and you move on to the next race. I always figured that if there were ?real fans? of our racing league they?d be spreading rumors about how driver A and driver B hate each other and they couldn?t wait to see what happened next week. If only?
6) Stats: Who cares?!
Drivers don?t get worked up over stats. There are so many streaks and stats for every little thing in the sport it?s impossible to top them all. Drivers focus on their car and the race at hand. If they fall out of the top 10 for the first time in ?x? amount of years, chances are best they really don?t give two shakes.
Who does give two shakes: The stat keepers and the fans.
By the way, before the league I raced in closed shop, one of the members made a video of one of our races: The Daytona 250. Yes, 100 laps around Daytona. VERY grueling! The video can be seen at: http://video.yahoo.com/watch/266667/1957700
That?s me in the Chevron car!
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