Fast Lane: Striving For Perfection In Motorsports Isn't Enough
By Jim Walbolt
To be successful in any business, you must strive to be the best at what you do. However, to be successful in motorsports, you must actually BE the best at what you do. Continued success in the racing industry means that you must continually make your customers winners, and if you do that, then you will have racers beating down your doors each season.
But what does "being the best" actually mean? Well, in many cases it can depend on what playing level you're operating. Motorsports has many different playing levels: a driver can start at a local track driving, say, a street stock race car, and could potentially advance all the way up to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
Along the way however, the competition becomes tougher and tougher as the weaker drivers are weeded out. If you're lucky enough to be one of the survivors, you'll still need to be your best each and every day to stay there. You'll also need to be tough mentally, because where you were winning at street stock level at maybe a 75 percent rate, expect that percentage to drop by about 90 percent and in fact, you may only win once every few years or so, if at all!
Does that mean you aren't as good anymore? Not likely. It isn't that you've lost your edge - you're just competing against the cream of the crop.
If you follow motorsports at all, you have noticed veteran NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers racing in the NASCAR Busch or NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races. Normally, they win those races. When Ken Schrader has a weekend off from NASCAR, chances are you'll find him driving in an ARCA race or almost any other series, and in most cases, he'll end up the winner. But Schrader hasn't won a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race for years.
It's much the same in the "stick and ball" sports. At the high school level there are hundreds of thousands of opportunities for players, even mediocre players, to look good on the field. But when that player reaches the college level he or she will find much tougher competition, and may even wind up playing second string. The players who reach the professional ranks are the elite; they are the very best at what they do and they also must work extremely hard to stay there.
Professional baseball is a perfect example of this. Many have been making a big deal out of the number of home runs being hit and the fact that Roger Maris' home run record was broken several years ago. Are the athletes that much better today than back when that record was set or are there other factors? I tend to believe in the "other" factors.
Today's athletes are bigger, with better training and diets, but there are also twice as many teams as years ago, meaning there are twice as many players. In my opinion, this dilutes the product somewhat, considering that half the players playing today would not have made a team 40-50 years ago.
Everything is relative, of course, and while this isn't intended to be a commentary on the state of baseball, much of this can also apply to the motorsports industry. Because of the huge growth of the industry the past 10-20 years your competition has also grown. In order for you to continue your success, you must realize that you cannot rest on your laurels - instead, you must continue to seek perfection. If you want to be a "survivor" you must be the best, each and every day.
If you build "street stock" engines for just one track or one driver, strive to be the best at that. If you build sprint car engines or late model engines, strive to be the best at that level. Work to be the best at whatever level and at whatever type of performance work you do, whether you build NASCAR engines, manufacture performance parts, or even if you are a rebuilder of stock components and engines. Regardless of where you fit in this industry, you can strive to be the best.
Being the best also means having the best people. You should always hire the most qualified employees. Long term employees are also among your most important tools when you are striving for perfection, so do what it takes to retain them. You should have a program in place to keep your employees trained. Remember, as this industry grows, it also changes. Your parts suppliers and machinery manufacturers can be some of your best resources when it comes to training and keeping up with industry changes.
Striving for perfection also means staying involved with the industry associations such as AERA and PERA. If you are involved in high performance work, investigate AERA's Vanguard group, where you can not only network with your peers, you can learn tips and tricks for building high performance engines.
Regardless of whether you play in the "minor" leagues, the "big" leagues or you're looking to advance to a higher level, you must continue to offer the best you have to each of your customers. Sure, it's a lot of hard work, but great things usually are. If you're willing to give 110 percent each and every day, success will follow.
Jim Walbolt, a professional writer and photographer covering motorsports activities, is from Custar, OH. email@example.com