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Lessons learned: Rookie at a regional race

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  • Lessons learned: Rookie at a regional race

    Lesson Learned from a Rookie's first experience at a regional. This will be a long post. I've tried to jot down some thoughts on our recent experience at a regional event. The attempt is to help other rookie teams know what to expect for their first big race and also what tracks and other, more experienced racers can do to help make the experience a more positive one for these newbies who will in some cases be the top competitors in WF and/or Heavy 160 someday and rookie handlers who will be club officers some day.
    First: Prepare yourself for a very long day! We left for the track at 4 AM. Sign in was at 7:30 AM, heat race at 11:45 and feature at 8:30 PM. We got home at 1 AM. And this was for an event that only ran rookies and the Honda classes on the day we attended. All the other classes ran the next day.
    Second: Things will not happen in the order you are used to. Our Red Rookie heat race was race #8 out of 15. I assume there were lots of drivers who were in multiple classes so the race director tried to move races around to accommodate the most number of people. I don't really know. It wasn't advertised or discussed even at the drivers meeting. So stay flexible. Also, be ready for lots of E, D, C and B mains in the more popular classes. Obviously they will run these between the heat races and the start of any of the A mains. The Consi races take a VERY long time. The racers seem to dump and wreck other racers A LOT in these lower mains as they fight and claw their way towards the A main. I think this is typical and generally accepted since there weren't any disqualifications for it. However, this generates lots of restarts which slows down the event considerably.
    Third: You will very likely not see anyone you know. Even the people you might recognize from your home club will likely not recognize you since you are just a rookie or will be very busy during the day and will likely be pitted far from you. Bring a book to read or family games for you and the kids. Walk a round alot, insert yourself into others peoples conversations (even if it is a little awkward), it will help you get to know people. All they know is they don't know you. They don't realize that you don't know anybody or anything. After you have been racing for a number of years, you will develop friendships with other families and have folks to pass the time with. Hang in there.
    Fourth: Plan out what event you are going to then via their club website, track down and email as many of the host club officers as you can. Try to get setup and gear ratio recommendations from them. Most won't remember what they ran in red plate, but it is worth asking if you get some tidbits of help. You know nothing about the track you are going to and in a lot of cases, you will get zero track time before the heat races. In our event, there weren't even 2 minute warm up sessions before the lineup and no courtesy laps given to work on the cars during cautions during the heat races. In a lot of ways, I am thankful for that because it would have made a long day even longer but car setup is a challenge for a rookie team that has never turned a single lap at the track.
    Fifth: There will be a few bad apples and hot heads, but 99% of the drivers, handlers and families are awesome people. There will be guys that bring baggage from the last regional event they went to when another driver dumped their driver while their driver was leading the B main. There will be guys yelling at the race director and being escorted off the property because their kid was disqualified. Avoid these people.
    Sixth: Remember, this is fun. Yes, it is a miserably long day for your very young kids, but they will grow to love these events. Yes, you will do a terrible job setting up your kid's car to run on a track you've never seen before, but you will learn a lot and do better next time. Remember, your kid isn't the only rookie on your team.
    Now on to the host track and more experienced teams. Here are somethings you can do to help out your visiting rookies:
    1. Club: When a red or blue rookie team preregisters for an event, it would be helpful if the rookie director or an experienced handler with recent rookie experience reaches out to these visiting rookie families several days before the event and the morning of the event. We would very much like to learn from your experience.
    2. Club: Advertise your race running order ahead of time. If possible, don't make preregistered teams sign in 2.5 hours before the first engine is fired and certainly not 4 hours before that racer hits the track. If we could cut down just a couple hours from a very long day, it would make it much more enjoyable for all.
    3. Racers: If you see a rookie from your home club, go out of your way to talk with them, help them and answer any questions they might have. Try to put yourself in their place and anticipate what they might need to have a better experience.
    4. Racers: If you are from the host track, whether you are an officer, or just a club member, seek out the rookie families visiting your track and get to know them and offer your advice.
    5. Tracks and competitors alike: Reign in the overly aggressive driving in the mid- to top classes. Maybe I don't remember how bad it was when I drove or maybe it is worse today than it was then. That is debatable, but I heard two handlers giving their kids explicit instruction on how to move other cars out of their way if they needed to. I can't say I ever remember hearing any dad say something like that when I was a kid. Our dads would have been ashamed of us if that is what we resorted to that to win. They certainly wouldn't have been the ones telling us to do it. I recommend tracks be quick to disqualify competitors if warranted. Yes, the Race Director have a few people VERY mad at him or her, but from what I could tell, you aren't hurting for car counts. Yes, sometimes it is hard to tell whether it is the kid being malicious or just stupid, but either way, a disqualification will be a very efficient lesson to teach them what NOT to do. Only then will their handlers teach them what they SHOULD do.
    Armed with some of these lessons as mentioned above, we are already better prepared and looking forward to our next regional event.
    Last edited by bodnarjw; 08-02-2017, 11:35 PM.