Speed Secrets: Pick Your Battles

By Ross Bentley

January 14, 2014

When was the last time you were stuck behind cars on the track that you knew you were faster than? You had to fight tooth and nail to get ahead, but it wasn't enough. Stuck in mid-pack with a voice on the radio telling you to work harder and move up in the pack but, ugh! It was just arduous....

What was your passing strategy? In many cases, the drivers with whom I've worked did not pick their battles wisely. They were counting the spots they needed to make up, then attacking them, one competitor at a time. "I've got to get past this car and then I can work on the next. One spot at a time and I'll make my way to the front." But the "front" never came. The front didn't materialize because they were picking too many battles. Each car to pass is a small battle, and the effort became harder and harder with each battle.
This is not a very efficient or effective strategy. It might seem like it at the time, when we're in the heat of the battle, but it simply makes our work harder. When I've done this in a race or my coaching clients have done it, we were not thinking far enough ahead. Just as our physical vision needs to be well ahead of the car, our mental and strategic vision does, too. The further ahead we focus our eyes, the quicker we become. The same phenomenon works with passing competitors in front of us by using our mental and strategic vision.
Instead of picking the car directly in front of you to work to pass, pick a car, three or five cars ahead, and make that one your target. Focus your attention on passing them way up there. Keep your mental and physical vision processing that far ahead and the cars in between will start to fall away. You'll find that they simply become obstacles between you and your goal (instead of BEING the goal), and you actually get by them with much less effort. The ground you are looking to make up is five cars ahead, so your subconscious and conscious mind start to work out a solution to get you way up there. Everything in between becomes somewhat ancillary. You'll find that the most minor mistake by the driver directly in front of you becomes exponentially profitable toward meeting your longer-term goal of the car five cars ahead. By picking this larger battle, if you will, you'll get larger results. 
As you approach your target (say they are now only two cars ahead), move your target. This keeps you striving for that larger goal, and removing as much effort from the strategy as possible. 
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying it's always going to be easy to get by those competitors directly in front of you. It will become easier, though,and you'll spend less physical and mental energy going by them, in a much more natural way. Those passes become by-products, not goals. They become "assumed" passes, which lead to more successful passes, with less effort.
So next time you're in the thick of things striving to get to the thin, clean air out in front, pick a battle that will move you forward with less effort. Do it by picking the battle that is way forward, so you can move... way forward.
If you need a rabbit, pick the best rabbit over the closest rabbit, and you'll become everyone else's rabbit.
Here's to your safe and successful race results!
- Chuck Hawks
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/chuck.hawks
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/realitycheck
Twitter: @chuckhawks
Website: www.teendrivingsolutions.org
Exerpted from Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets WeeklyFor more tips and additional articles on the art and science of racing, click here to subscribe.