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Wednesday, June 3, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

Emulate the racers

It’s the off-season for NASCAR, but I just read an article reminding me that the hiatus will be short-lived as the 2020 season opens in Daytona Beach this February.  Having wrapped up 2019 in November, teams have just filled the 40-car entry list for this year’s Daytona 500 opener.

As everyday drivers, we negotiate our vehicles through various maneuvers, and drive at numerous speeds, amidst dense traffic.  It’s important that we conduct these tasks with precision to avoid crashes.

In doing so, I like to emulate the precision driving exemplified by NASCAR drivers.  NASCAR, the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, founded in 1948, is the largest sanctioning body of motor sports in the United States.  They host three major racing series:  Gander Outdoor Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and the granddaddy — Cup Series.

Drivers for these racing leagues, like us, take their vehicles through maneuvers, at speeds, amidst traffic.  The difference?  Their speeds top 180 mph, their traffic is two to four abreast, and following distances are literally nil.  Among their necessary feats besides avoiding contact with the wall and other competitors are: shutting down from 180 mph to a pit speed of 55 mph or less, making a precision stop in a spot barely big enough for a car, receiving a tank of fuel plus four tires in around 13 seconds, and blending with traffic on the track ASAP without exceeding the pit road speed limit.

I don’t have the time to follow all three NASCAR Series, but have been an avid fan of the Cup Series — which has been Winston Cup, Nextel Cup, Sprint Cup, and Monster Energy Cup, but now, simply Cup — for many years.  During these years, I have developed tremendous respect for the drivers in Cup cars, and I use their models of precision in my everyday driving.

Cup drivers exemplify ability and concentration while driving — the physics of the sport demand it due to a perform-or-perish reality.  With the speeds they run and the immediacy of their decisions, attentiveness and proper judgment must not lapse for even a moment, or disaster ensues.

Therein lies one of the difficulties for everyday drivers.  Unlike the NASCAR boys, we have many uneventful moments while driving — ones which allow distraction and complacency.  The race drivers have no such moments, and can never let down their guard — we should take that lesson from them.  Even though our driving emergencies come in waves, we should be ready for them at all times.

When a NASCAR driver makes a mistake in a race, even more so than in everyday driving, results can be disastrous.  Simply applying too much throttle when tires are cold can take a driver and adjacent competitors out of the race with a crash. “Pushing” another racer from behind too closely in a turn can wipe out the field if it happens among the leaders.

Success in NASCAR requires perfection, and for the average event, demands it for three to four hours.  I don’t think asking a similar devotion to the task at hand is too much to ask for street drivers.

Other racing fans I know are, like me, quite serious about their driving.  Among us, I believe that tendencies to know our vehicles, understand the rules of the road, and practice skillful vehicle operation are high.

If more drivers became race fans, I think we’d improve our collective good-driver quotient.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.