Bad results suck. You spend your whole weekend practicing and tuning your kart. You put in a quick qualifying lap, then make up a few spots in the pre-final. The race starts, and you’re hoping for a podium, but instead, a mechanical issue stops you on track, or worse, you get taken out by a competitor making a desperation pass on the first corner. You watch the rest of the race from the sidelines.
Every racer faces disappointment, and sometimes we blame the people closest to us for problems on the track. Our dads, our moms, our team. Some race weekends I see kids younger than me screaming at their parents. The gear was too low! The tire pressure was too high! Someone’s to blame for what happened out on track!
I’m guilty of having temper tantrums after bad sessions too. When I raced cadet karts, I would shake my fist at rookies blocking me in qualifying. With only a five-minute session, I would take it personally if someone messed with my chance at pole position. When I’d get back to the pits, I’d unleash the angriest rant at my dad. He had nothing to do with what happened on track, but he had to listen; he’s the one who drove me to the track! Instead of feeling better, I made myself miserable. So much of what happens on track is beyond our control, but we can always control how we react.
Throwing your gloves and tossing your helmet doesn’t show you’re passionate about racing. It shows you’re letting things get to you.
Disappointment is harder to handle when something is entirely your own fault. A few weeks ago, at a big regional karting event, I was running mid-pack during the final. I went for a pass on the inside of the hairpin, and as the kart ahead moved to defend, I locked up trying to avoid a collision. I ended up on the grass watching a freight train of four or five karts pass me before I got up to speed again. When the race was over, I was furious with myself and showed it by sulking for the rest of the day. What good was beating myself up about it? A team won’t rally behind someone who’s always being negative.
This month, James Hinchcliffe didn’t qualify for the Indy 500. That was pretty shocking for everyone, because Hinch is a former polesitter at Indianapolis, and is a consistent threat for top finishes in IndyCar. However, questionable strategy calls and mechanical issues with his #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports ride meant he didn’t make the start, while his teammates did. Obviously, that’s disheartening for a driver, not to make the field of 33 starters for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
But when Hinchcliffe climbed out of the race car, he didn’t have a bad word to say. Not a single negative comment about his team, other drivers or the series. I’m sure inside he felt bad, but he acted like a professional. “We win as a team; we lose as a team.” Hinch continued, “But we’ll put our heads down, we’ll take a look at it, and we’ll learn from this experience. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, for sure.”
When something doesn’t go my way at the track, I’m not going to let out my anger on myself or the people around me.
It won’t make things better. Instead, I’m going to keep the let-downs in the back of my mind and use them as motivation to power me forward in the next race. I’m going to think of what Hinch has been through and come back stronger from the disappointment.
– Daniel Demaras