Jeg Coughlin, Jr. Guest Editorial
Being a subscriber to ThisIsBracketRacing.com I have had the opportunity to read the previous features from Luke, Jared, and Danny. I share much of the same passion and philosophies as we have read and would like to add a few thoughts for you to consider.
Preparation is king when approaching a race weekend of any magnitude. First things first; you must be one with your car. It has to be maintained and ready for action so that all of your mental energy is harnessed to focus on the driving aspect of the race. Of course, this isn’t always the case; you can have unexpected breakage that forces you to perform between run maintenance, ideally you can be prepared prior to the race and eliminate possible breakage and distractions.
Weather can play a factor in a race weekend. What I like to do is look at the ten day forecast prior to the race so that I can start to formulate a pattern of the weather and forecast what I think my car will run in those conditions. I even like to look at the hour by hour temperatures and humidity levels to further detail how I could run. I keep written record of this because you could be at a race while preparing for the next. The weather forecasts aren’t always correct, but the important thing, in my mind, is that you have already started to race mentally and you haven’t even left the shop or reached the next race yet. Sound familiar to an earlier topic: having a gameplan?
Once at the track, even if it is your weekly track, take a good look at the starting line; in particular the tree. Make mental note throughout the day what the tree looks like in different light conditions. Most races run within the expected time, but some run later in the night or earlier in the morning, so the more knowledge you have the better. The key is to have as few surprises as possible, so the more you can absorb while outside of the car the better. I mentioned weather earlier; I suggest taking weather samples and logging them every 15 to 20 minutes. This can give you an idea how quickly the weather is trending in any given direction and can help in dialing later in the event (same or next day).
Time runs have begun and you are now gathering real on track data of how you and your car are performing. My philosophies here are to keep things as simple as possible! What do I mean by that? Each run you predict what you can run, before making the run, by looking at the weather and factoring any track changes. Once you have completed the run analyze the time slip and see how your results compare to your prediction. Hopefully, you are predicting your performance, both on the tree personally and with car on the ET slip side. Most races you get one or two time runs to dial yourself and the car; that is the very reason I believe it is important to challenge yourself on your predictions. In my case; I work to be .010 on the tree and run dead-on to my prediction.
Hitting the tree is an art of several compilations and complications. One, you have to be very mentally focused for that minute or so of time, two you must stage the car very consistently each time (however and whatever your technique is) and three the goal is to know your reaction time when you let go of the button. You might ask; “know your reaction time when you let go of the button”, that is one of your strongest allies to cutting consistent and competitive reaction times. My brothers and I used to roll down the road and not only hit the tree (a Protronics practice tree with a four digit Meziere delay box wired into it (thanks to “Peanut” Dixon)), but call what your light is before the display shows it. The significance to that is being able to use the bump to your benefit. Like I said, in my case, I set up on .010 and use a bump down philosophy (I bump .004); if I let go and think I hit the tree as good as I can then I should be .003-006; I will not typically use the bump. If I let go and think I am .010 then I will hit the bump once or sometimes even twice to correct my light closer to .003. If I let go and think I missed it then I hit the bump as many times as I think to correct as close to .003 as possible. Predicting your reaction time as you let go of the button is one of the toughest things to accomplish. Think about it; it only takes the tree 1.5 seconds to count down in its entirety and you are making round winning decisions in less than tenths of a second.
How can you make this work for you? Pick up your JEGS pocket tree and make hit after hit; your goal is to have as little as variance as possible, but don’t worry if you have variance (couple hundredths for example); continually race yourself by letting go and verbally saying your reaction time out loud. When predicting your reaction time out loud it really doesn’t matter what the number is; the goal is to predict with in .003 (either way). So, let go, call out your thought, say it felt like .012, and then see what you come up with. If you are further out than the .003 then continue to work your reaction time and predicting skills to be within .003. Once you repeatedly predict your reaction time then you can use the bump to hone your actual tree; the important thing here is to have complete trust in your split second instinct. Trust me; this is one of the best exercises you can do to hone your game day reaction times. I think it is important to mention that this is my philosophy and you may be slightly different and need different numbers or goals.
You can apply a very similar philosophy to dialing your car. As I mentioned above make your time runs and predict your cars ET. Predict to the thousandth of a second and make your goal to predict within .002 to .003. This exercise will not only strengthen your mental approach it will also help you find issues with your car if it is not predicting within this tolerance. If your car is predicting you now have an excellent opportunity to put both ends of the track together before you leave the pit area. Some have said I am very tough to race because when I pull into the lanes the number on my dial-in board is usually exactly what my car will run and that is exactly my intent.
There is a lot to bracket racing and my thoughts mentioned are what I truly believe and live by to challenge for round and race wins. I hope this brief dissertation to bracket racing can help you both mentally and physically prepare for your next race. Good luck and see you at the track.