Speed Secrets: How to Get Lucky

By Ross Bentley

November 08, 2017


I suspect most people in racing have at one time, heard the saying, “You make your own luck.” I wonder how many of those people, though, understand what that really means.


I’ve heard racing people define the saying with the qualifier that it’s preparation that leads to good luck. I agree completely.


But I believe there is more to good luck than just being prepared. It also has to do with your belief system….


Anticipation: Why is it that some drivers always seem to miss the big crashes just in front of them, slipping through a hole in the melee that wasn’t there even a tenth of a second ago, when other drivers, like magnets, are attracted to trouble? Some people would say it was luck, or great reactions. I’m not sure it’s either.


Part of it is the driver’s ability to read the situation well ahead of time. Simply by watching the lines and the attitudes (balance) of the cars in front, some drivers can predict when a car in front of them may crash well before it actually does. Of course, much of that comes from simply looking far ahead.


Let me use an example to demonstrate. You are racing on an oval track, about to pass a car on the inside line. The car you are passing begins to drift up high. At that very instant, an experienced oval track racer may think to themself, “If they get into the gray (the marbles, or loose bits of rubber and dirt and dust), they might get sideways and shoot back down on me.” If you know that possibility exists, you can anticipate. In this case, you may ease up a little to give them a bit more room; or, you may squeeze on the throttle to get past them enough that they can’t hit you if they do get loose – even if that means having to ease back off the throttle later in the corner.


Belief system: Another reason for the ability to avoid trouble is a driver’s belief system. If a driver honestly believes, deep down inside, that they have a special knack for avoiding trouble, odds are they will. The reverse is true as well. It is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe even by fluke, a driver gets caught up in another car’s crash. Then, a while later, it happens again. Now the driver begins to think, “Why does this always happen to me?” They begin to believe that whenever and wherever there’s a problem, they will find a way of getting involved in it.


Another driver may have a similar situation occur in front of them, and be almost lucky to avoid it. They begin to think that maybe they’re good at avoiding trouble. Then another car crashes in front of them and they avoid it. Now they know they’re good at missing other cars’ problems. And because of that, they are.


It seems that most of us are "superstitious" to some degree. We tend to perceive that luck, good or bad, is a result of some type of "mystical alignment of energies" that affects what happens to us and that we can maybe make a change in this alignment to "good" luck if we wear the same pair of underwear under a driving suit, or we put a special stuffed animal in the seat of the car, or, as in the movie Bull Durham, we touch our bat with a "voodoo doll" for good luck, etc. Or conversely, we’ll have bad luck if we don't have our lucky hat to wear, or don't have the ring given to us by our grandfather when we won our first race, etc.


Understand that superstition is an effect. The cause is our belief system. If you believe, really believe, that your ability to win a race is impacted by not having your lucky underwear, it will be almost impossible to win. Because at the subconscious level (in addition to consciously focusing upon not having your underwear), your mind is not congruent with being able to win.


When you look at superstition from this perspective, you can realize that the superstition effect is absolutely valid. But rather than being something that is mystical, and totally dependent upon the alignment of the planets, it’s the impact upon your belief system that (very objectively) makes a difference in your capability and the resulting performance.


My final thought on luck is summed up in this Speed Secret: You’ve got be close to take advantage of luck.


Never give up, no matter how far behind you are, no matter how unlikely it seems you will catch the competitor in front of you. Keep pushing until the checkered flag falls. You never know if the competition is having problems that might be terminal if they have to drive hard to fend you off. How many times have you seen the leader of a race have a mechanical problem with only a few laps to go? You will never be able to take advantage of their problems if you are not close.



Ross Bentley


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