Early in the 400-mile Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Michigan International Speedway, Kevin Harvick had to make an unscheduled pit stop and appeared out of contention for the win.
But at the end of 400 miles, the California native stood in Victory Lane, thanking his crew and those who supported his efforts.
One of the most important lessons motorsports can teach anybody is how to formulate and execute a plan to overcome adversity. And certainly, in motorsports, the athletes involved face adversities that are unknown in other sports.
Sometimes ball-and-stick athletes suffer equipment failure, but not usually to the degree that it ends their participation. A ripped shirt, broken shoelace or helmet strap doesn’t usually force a competitor out of competition.
When you’re running a marathon, you don’t usually have to contend with a fellow athlete knocking you off the course or running you into the side of a tree or building. But in motorsports, the outer edges of a circuit – often tire barrier or SAFER barrier – are used to keep competitors from executing a pass, or used to force the completion of a pass.
Motorsports are usually not individual contests. You don’t see too many competitors arrive by themselves and attempt to compete without some help. It happens at the local level or in amateur motorcycle competition sometimes, but it doesn’t happen often.
Motorsports are team sports. If the person in charge of tuning the engine doesn’t do his or her job, the entire team suffers. If a driver makes a mistake and speeds on pit road to receive a penalty, the entire team suffers. If a spotter doesn’t make the right call in a tight situation on the track, many teams can suffer. And in motorsports, you can have dozens of teams competing at one time.
Yes, you hear of people in motorsports who simply do not like to be near each other. They are and always have been competitors, and really don’t seem to like each other. But if it really came down to it, I think you’d find they’re more like feuding siblings than mortal enemies.
Then again, Cain and Abel were feuding siblings. Rivalries in motorsports can be heated, and run deep. Petty vs. Pearson, Petty vs. Allison, and Petty vs. Yarborough. Rusty Wallace vs. Darrell Waltrip. Kyle Busch vs. just about anybody else on the track.
Obviously, those rivalries extend to more than stock car racing, or auto racing in general. Recent battles in American Flat Track with rivals Jared Mees, Brad Baker, Henry Wiles and Briar Baumann are becoming legendary. Likewise, Supercross battles among riders such as Eli Tomac, Cooper Webb, Marvin Musquin and the ageless Chad Reed attract crowds nationwide.
Even powerboat racing has its stars. Current Unlimited Hydroplane champion Andrew Tate ranks right up there with past champions Dave Villwock, Steve David, Mark Tate and Chip Hanauer.
There are even stars in the world of airplane racing, whether it’s at the Reno Air Races or around pylons at the Redbull races held around the world.
All of these motorsports are team sports, but just as a quarterback feels he is the leader of his team, a race driver takes that role in motorsports. And just as a driver may have to deal with not having the best powerplant or the best suspension specialist, the quarterback may deal with not having the best receiver or offensive line.
I guess the point of this week’s column is that if you don’t have a good team behind you when you need it, you’re not going to be able to overcome adversity and have the same outcome as Kevin Harvick had in Michigan.
At this point, I’d like to thank Richard Storm and the entire safety crew at Dominion Raceway for their quick response Saturday night. I had a medical issue while sitting in the stands, and Dominion Raceway’s team did their jobs in a professional and efficient manner. One second I’m sitting in the stands next to a racer’s dad, the next I’m in a hospital room 24 hours later with my wife asking me if I’m OK. I had no warning, and still am not sure what happened.
I am sure that without a good team behind me at the track, you would not be reading your column this week. We may not be Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch, but like Harvick or Busch we all depend on people to help us stay in contention for the win. Take time this week to thank those people.