Four top racers share their secrets forsuccess at the forthcoming NationalChampionship Runoffs at Road America
WORDS James Kearney | IMAGE Jeff Loewe
Some things you remember clearly even though they happened long ago. Myfirst trip to Nelson Ledges wasthe first time I raced outside myhome track of Summit Point.Nelson is a fabulous layout withthe highest average speed in theNortheast Division, but it wasthe slow final corner that wasconfounding me. I approachedCarl Salamon who was on the FVpole and seemed quite at home.
I introduced myself, complimentedhim on his qualifying run andsaid, “Can you tell me what lineyou run through the last turn?”He didn’t hesitate. On the dustyhood of a nearby parked car, hedrew the turn, then added his line.“Try that, you’ll like it,” he said. Itworked like a charm. My motorblew up, but that wasn’t on Carl.
It is easy to overlook theresources the Club racer hasavailable in the paddock, ifonly they reach out – and mostcompetitors are like Carl. I think hefigured that if I got faster, it wouldpush him to be better himself.Mind you, he was no pushoveron track, but his response set thetone for me of how a true racerinteracts with competitors.
How many would-be racersgive up because they feelfrustrated and overwhelmed?Over the years I probably ransome 30 races at Nelson andclaimed my fair share of FVcheckers. I never forgot whatCarl showed me. And, in 32years of running, whenevera competitor asked me aFROM GREEN TO GLORY
(LEF T) Those at the front of the pack atthe Runoffs rarely wing it. If you want tobecome an SCCA National Champion,you need to do your homework.
Author’s note: In regard tothe four drivers who workedwith me on this article, I bothadmire their success and deeplyappreciate their willingnessto share tips with their fellowcompetitors. Racers helpingracers is a Club Racing traditionof the highest order. It is a verycool thing that we should nottake for granted or overlook.Club racers are in it together.question, I’d try my best togive them a straight answer.
When I finally hung up myracing gloves, a number of driversthanked me for how much I’dhelped them in racing. I justthought they were being polite.Mild mannered Ray Qualls got allin my face about it. “You need tounderstand, you can explain thingsso we can get it. You should be aninstructor!” Driving home thatnight I thought about giving thedriver coach role a try. Six weekslater I worked with Rick Shields inFV when he won the 2010 Runoffsat Road America and receivedthe Kimberly Cup as the SCCA’smost improved driver. In six priorattempts, his best finish had beenninth. I had a great time. As onedoor closes, another opens.
And it all began with a questionasked. So, in that vein, we positedquestions to four graciousSCCA racers to discover theirsecrets of succeeding at RoadAmerica this October when theSCCA National ChampionshipRunoffs returns to the circuitfor the first time since 2013.