Another NHRA Full Throttle drag racing season is winding down. It causes you to sit back and reflect on how time flies.
Talking with some of my friends who race in the IndyCar and NASCAR series, we all agree it's amazing how quick time will go by when you're so involved in what you do. In the world of motorsports, in order to be successful, you have to wake up thinking about your racecar, you have to go to bed thinking about your racecar, and, unfortunately, if you take a minute to sit back and reflect on any success you had, you'll start to feel like the competition is getting one step closer to you.
This year, especially, has really flown by. We have the Countdown to the Championship format, which is much like NASCAR'S Chase. You work all season long to try to put yourself in position to win a championship and then you have a quick – and when I say quick, I mean it is over so fast – six-race playoffs.
In both the Countdown and the Chase, there were guys who had dominated all year long or had done well, and it ended up not really meaning a whole lot until the playoffs began.
I guess the great part about being at the top of your game is that you're able to reflect on what you've done all season long. For us, the ESPN coverage, all the media, including the articles and magazine pictorials, have provided me and my family a neat way to sort of scrapbook my life. And that is very special as you make your way through your professional career, even though it seems to be going by in a flash.
One example for me is that I can use my own family life as a marker. I have a 14-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy, and it seems like the last five years have completely flown by; they have grown so quickly. As a race driver you get so involved and so deep into your passion for the sport you feel like any time you go to the starting line someone could be taking food out of your kids' mouths, if you don't win. That's how you approach every race.
I can remember when I first started driving, I wasn't worried about a family. Any time I lost I felt that I failed only myself and it was hard for me to sleep because I hate losing so much. And I can tell you that any successful driver probably feels the same way. You get so engrossed in what you do that winning becomes everything.
It used to bug me hearing NASCAR drivers say they had a great top-five car that day or they were happy with a top-10 finish. How could a race driver say that he/she was happy with a top 10-finish? With NHRA pro drag racing it's a little different, because there's one guy standing at the end of the day in each category. And if you're not one of them, you feel like you may never win again, because the competition is so tough.
It's like that in a lot of motorsports, and in other sports, for that matter. But, you try every single race to do the best you can and the ultimate goal is to win the championship for everybody.
It's amazing that we live our lives sort of in a fish bowl racing every weekend all year long. And, before you know it, November rolls around and it's the off-season for everybody. When you're supposed to be enjoying the holidays with your family – and I can tell you most racecar drivers are the same – you're thinking how am I going to be better the following year. You start working out harder in the gym, practicing on the simulator harder and focusing on the next season to start.
Crew members are also working harder in the off-season to make a better racecar, and crew chiefs are designing a better racecar and engine program. No wonder the time just flies by.
It's a constant struggle to be better. And it's a double-edged sword, because there are times when I'd like to just to take a step sideways and enjoy what we've accomplished as a team this year and the past years. But, you can't. You have to keep your head down and stay focused because that championship is not going to come if you're not completely, 100 percent determined to win it.