NASCAR Racing with Mental Clarity
One of the most important factors for me in racing is mental clarity. Just as you have to be strong physically, you need to be strong mentally to perform at your best. I would say that for me my mental state has more of an impact on how I perform than my physical state. In racing, you have to make split second decisions and deal with 39 other drivers trying to do the same. One wrong move can have a huge negative impact on a race, and you need mental clarity to make the right decision.
Although its my name on the door of the car, NASCAR is very much a team sport. It takes the right people and relationships to help make the cars go fast. Communication between myself, my crew chief and engineers is what’s going to make the difference, and I think having a good relationship and the right attitude is what makes it happen. I’ve always been a bit of a pessimist in life, so it takes a little more work for me to be mentally prepared for a race. I try to visualize the entire weekend, focus on what I can control, and concentrate on keeping myself calm in tough situations.
Racing has always been my addiction and I’ve never felt the sense of clarity that I do when I’m in the car. It’s really hard for me to explain, but all of my thoughts go blank and I really feel like a lot of the things I do inside the car are automatic. I’m thinking about my cars handling and how to make it better and how I can make it go faster, but it feels like that use of brainpower doesn’t interfere with my driving at all.
Handling the Hard Stuff
The hardest part about racing to me is all of the things that happen outside of the car. There’s always people doubting you, questioning your ability, and putting pressure on you to be better. The rise of social media has definitely made it a lot tougher, and early on I had a hard time taking criticism. As I’ve grown as a driver, I have gotten better at filtering out all of the negative comments, all of the hard times and tough losses in my career. Watching my brother go through everything in 2013 when he lost his ride at MWR, and watching him and Sherry go through everything with her cancer battle and how they made the best of it all has really helped me put things into perspective.
It’s always important to decompress and rest your body and mind after a physically and mentally taxing day at the race track. I’ll rewatch the broadcast and debrief with my team, and take notes of what I think I did right and wrong. Once that’s done, I try to take a day and relax and do things I enjoy to mentally recover. Hanging with friends on the lake, taking my dog for a hike, or soaking in my Marquis hot tub and listening to some music to clear my mind and relax my body is what helps.