How to Win the First Race of the Season


“Recipe for success:  Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare while others are playing; and dream while others are wishing.”

--William A. Ward

This is a description of the first race of the season at the three mile Thunderhill Raceway near Willows in Northern California.  We raced in a vintage road racing event in the Historic NASCAR group against 17 other competitors.  In Saturday’s heat races we finished 4th and 2nd and on Sunday’s main we finished 1st by large margin.  We are not telling this story to brag about how great we are but to describe the elements that resulted in our success to help you improve your racing efforts.


1988 Olds Cutlass Nascar Vintage Stock Car

The elements for our success started several months ago at the end of last year’s racing season.  It started with our team sitting down and evaluating the past season.  We discussed what we did right and what we did wrong and what we could do to improve our results.  We created goals which would improve our results.  We then created a game plan for the off season to accomplish those goals.

During the winter we thoroughly inspected every part and component of the race car and made the necessary repairs.  We have a five page checklist which covers every part of the race car.  There is a copy of the checklists we use on this website under the heading "Car Set-up and Tuning."  We do not just use the checklists for the winter rebuild but we use them before every race.  We keep records on the engines, transmissions and rear ends to determine when they need to be rebuilt.

In addition to the above mechanical maintenance, the driver (that’s me) goes to the race track regularly to practice my driving to stay sharp and improve my skills. Racing is like any other sport in that it requires practice to maintain your skill level or improve.  I try to attend at least one advanced driving school or hire a driving coach once a year.  We participate in open track events and test days to work on improving the car and driver.  We utilize both in-car video and data acquisition to accomplish both. I also regularly teach at driver schools and open track events as I find that it helps me to be a better driver.

Don’t forget physical fitness for the driver.  The better your physical fitness the better you will drive.  Some people think that racing is not a physical sport.  I would challenge those people to race a car that is 130 degrees inside during the summer.  I exercise several times a week and do short high intensity workouts.  I subscribe to a dozen car and racing magazines to keep current on the latest developments and trends related to racing.

If all of the above sounds a little like work, that is because it is.  To be successful in a job, profession or sport requires the same elements; a significant commitment of time, effort and work.  If you are going to be successful in this sport, you will need to make the same commitment because I guarantee that many of your competitors are doing this.  Our goal is to help you to get involved in our wonderful sport and be successful at it.  We will be covering these topics in more detail in future articles and videos.