Recently we were hard at work on Project DLM preparing for our next race at Ocala Speedway. I had this story idea in my mind for some time so I decided to pitch it to Editor Rob Fisher while he was working underneath the car at 3 a.m. I asked him, "How do you setup a driver?" I can't print his answer but when he figured out I was serious and actually had a story idea wrapped around the question, he seemed to wake up.
The answer to the question is actually pretty simple . . . setting up a driver has to do with the driver's state of mind. And the driver's state of mind or driver setup actually starts back at the shop during the week as you're working on the car making repairs, changing oil, or tweaking the chassis setup. Here's just one example. A few years ago I went to my local race shop to pick up a few things I needed.
Editor Rob Fisher, seen working (yeah, we're surprised too) under Project DLM, reacts to t
At that time, the shop was owned by another racer who also happened to be our local track champion. I explained to him about a part on my car that I had noticed appeared to be worn. I asked if he thought I should worry about changing it. His answer was very quick and simply put, "If you question a part or have any doubt about anything on the car, replace it." He went on to explain, "when we are racing or on the track, we need to have a clear mind and total faith in our equipment. If in the back of your mind you are thinking about a part that you are worried will fail, you will try to compensate or won't drive as hard."
That piece of advice has helped me throughout my years of racing. Think about everything that is going through your mind when you are on the track. We have to think about track conditions, other drivers, maintaining the correct line, is the setup working, what do we have to do to make the setup work better, and so on. The last thing you need to worry about is your equipment on your race car. Before you ever arrive at the track you must have complete faith in your car and its ability to do what you want when you get on the track.
Proper driver setup can lead to a happy racer. Tanya Clark
Don't Think About The Car Now, once we've worked to get the car absolutely right and we are on our way to the track, I try to get my mind completely off of the race car. I focus on other things or talk to my crew about anything but racing. We try to keep our trips to the track fun and laid back. I insist on this because over the years I have noticed that if I think about the car too much I will start to second guess myself. I'll do this even if I know everything checked out and is correct. Call it the natural tendency of a racer to try to change things for the better or whatever you want, but it is not a good feeling to make an hour-long ride to the track second guessing everything you've done over the previous week. With some mental discipline I have been able to leave the second guessing behind.
The bottom line is to arrive at the track with little to no pressure. The key to achieving that is to get the car perfect before you ever leave the shop. When you get to the track the only thing you should be doing is minor adjustments to the specific track conditions of that night.
Visualization Now you are at the track with your clear mind and are ready to race. At a dirt track you will see a lot of drivers walk to the edge of the track or the grandstands and look the track over for a good period of time. Most of the time, they are alone. Back when I started racing I asked some veteran drivers what they were looking for. I was told numerous times they do two things. First, and this would be the obvious one, they look at the track conditions. Based on the condition of the dirt on the track, they will try to determine tire selection, whether or not they need to groove or sipe their tires more and possibly any last minute changes to the chassis setup.