Danny Waters, Jr. Guest Editorial
"Finding your Comfort Zone"
By: Danny Waters, Jr.
First and foremost, I'd like to say thanks to Luke and the entire TIBR gang for allowing me to be a part of such an outstanding, informational, and educational web program. It is an honor to be here! I am confident the information shared by Luke, as well as this elite group of racers he has assembled, will benefit our sport and help each of you to become better bracket racers. I’ll be the first to tell you, no matter how much you know, there is always more to learn. I’m sure some of you may be thinking, "who the heck is Danny Waters, Jr.??”. For those that don’t know me (as well as those that do), be sure to check out the instructor's bio page, you will find all the dirt on me there. I hope you will find the information I share to be useful, as it has been to me for many years, and has contributed to my most enjoyed success in getting to the winner's circle. Please feel free to direct any questions on this subject or any others to me, and I'll be sure to respond in a timely manner.
As Luke and Jared have both stated before, some of you may read this column and think, "Heck...I've already got that figured out". If you are one of those racers, it still never hurts to touch base on the items, as you can easily get out of a good habit and into a bad one in a matter of just one run. With that being said, please take the time and review these most important items.
To be able to perform in a consistently competitive manner, I believe you must have confidence in yourself as well as your race vehicle. I don't mean to be cocky or arrogant, but confident you can beat the guy/gal in the opposite lane. To establish this "confidence", I always refer back to my 3 C's; Cool, Calm and most importantly, Comfortable. Again, these are all part of a foundation you MUST have to consistently be able to turn on a win light. The fundamentals of bracket racing are just as important as those of other great sports (basketball, baseball, golf, soccer, ect.) and we must adhere to them.
The reason I say comfortable is the most important is simple. How confident can you be in your racecar if you are not comfortable? If your trans-brake button is in an awkward location and you can't apply it the way you would like, then your end result is not going to be as good as it can be. I’m not saying you can’t race like that, I’m saying you will not be able to do so at your maximum capability. Does your seat sit too low, too high, too close or too far away? If so, then your ability to drive the finish line will not be as good as it can be either. These are very basic issues, but of the utmost importance in creating a comfort zone you can be confident in and help you perform the best you can on either end of the racing surface. As close as bracket racing has become, we need to take every aspect into account and use it to our advantage.
When I think of being comfortable when racing, it's not just physical thing, it is a mental state as well. You should race both ends within your means, no matter the opponent. Not to go too far into the different strategies of driving the finish line prematurely, but my suggestion is to only do what you know you are capable of doing during a round of eliminations. For instance, just because you know your opponent is able to run a 4.65 and is only dialed 4.70, that doesn't mean you should do the same, unless you are comfortable enough with your finish line abilities to get your racecar slowed back down to get back to your dial in. Again, I probably shouldn’t go too far into that now, as we need to make sure these "fundamentals" are set before we get on the subject of holding .05 (or dialing up/sandbagging, carrying .05) and knowing how to get rid of it. My advice to those of you eager to start learning how to drive the stripe is to first off, make sure your race vehicle is consistent. If your car will not run the same thing twice, then holding numbers will not help you too much. To help in this process, a solid routine is in order. Things such as a consistent burnout, staging the same every run, staging at the same engine and trans temperature, maintaining the same fuel level, keeping accurate tire pressures will help in this matter. If your car is already consistent, then you will want to spend some time at the track, maybe on test and tune nights, to try and learn how to kill numbers at the finish line. It is important to know how much lifting or patting the gas will kill versus riding or jamming the brake. I prefer to call this “hitting my marks”. If you want to hold .03, then you must learn how to comfortably get rid of it and still be able to hit your targeted dial in. The finish line game will not do you any good until you can do this with ease. You need not have an opponent in the other lane to practice this. I also urge you not to be too aggressive at the finish line, as it is easy to lose control of your vehicle. Ease yourself into these tactics and you will quickly start to get the feel for each of them. Trust me, there is a lot more to this subject. We just need to establish a good starting point first.
My other 2 C's sort of coincide. Cool and calm are also a huge part of building your confidence, along with being comfortable. Over the years, I've seen many times, a racer get beat because he/she lost their cool and were rattled when they strapped in. They were all but beat before the burnout. You may have a lane preference or staging preference, but you best learn how to race without them as both are minute in most cases and will be lost at some juncture. Do you have a racer that always talks smack to you and gets you all bent out of shape before you get in the car? If not, you will have several to try it at some point in your racing journey. If you want to talk smack and let it get you all bent out of shape, go sit in the stands and bet with the boys, as it will say you money in the long run. If you want to win consistently, you must do your best to remain cool, calm and comfortable as often as you can, even if someone tries to rattle you. Make this a part of your routine and it will help you become a better racer!
Once again, I'll be glad to answer any questions you all may have on this subject or any others and look forward to being a part of TIBR when we get into the more advanced information in the very near future. I am anxious to hear some of the results from racers that have been exercising there new found wealth of knowledge. Best of luck in 2009 and beyond!