Survive Your First Race

If you’re strictly a basher and tend to run alone or hang out with only a couple of fellow drivers, it might surprise you that you can drive with up to 10 (or even more) people in one heat at the race track. Or you may realize it—and that’s why many people shy away from racing. A large amount of people running beside you can be intimidating for some drivers. I, myself, felt this way when I started out at the track. Over the years, I talked with fellow racers with similar years of experience as myself. They told me that they too had troubles with this when they started. Check out these tips on getting past the new-racer jitters and learn how to truly be successful your first time out.


Be Prepared
During qualifying, the heats can be thinner, but in the mains things can often get crowded as the higher mains often have more trucks. The number of trucks in each main is the discretion of the race director, but can often be influenced by all the racers involved and things can be talked about at the drivers’ meeting before the day starts. Be prepared to run in a crowd. The key is to not let it get in your head.


Don’t Get Distracted
Once the race day gets started, many people find all the things going on at the track with the spectators, dogs, kids and other busy pit activity can also get distracting and can end in disaster during a race. Keep your focus on you and your rig during the race. Don’t worry about what happening around you. I say this with a nod to common sense in regards to not ignoring things around you. If someone yells “fire!” don’t keep driving.


Be Prepared, Part 2
Make sure your gear is set the night before. It’s the same as packing a lunch for work or school. It’s a pain the morning of and you’ll usually forget something. Speaking of food: don’t forget to actually pack a lunch. Not all tracks have a food vendor (look into this a head of time), and nothing sucks more than being at the track all day knowing you can’t recharge your own personal batteries to keep going. Back to your gear: Getting your truck ready and batteries charged up the night before will greatly help reduce the possible overwhelming feeling some get the first time at the track. A checklist before leaving isn’t a bad idea. I’ve seen more than one person show up to the track without a radio or a charger.


Practice Makes Perfect
Practice is good. Some may believe extensive pre-race practice sessions should be avoided due to a risk of breaking and being out of commission for the day. The fact of the matter is the benefits far outweigh the risks. Let’s talk about some basics here. First time out, take it easy. Let guys pass you. Take the turns, jumps and course with ease. Work yourself into it. Slowly increase your pace. So what if guys are passing you? The better control you develop now, the better the qualifiers and race will be overall for you.


Stick to the Schedule
Take a look at the race schedule once it’s available to racers for the day. Knowing where your heat and class is will be the more important thing. Giving yourself enough time before your heat will make things run smoother. Once the qualifiers are underway, that feeling in the gut may hit you the first day. Nerves want to take over, but keep your composure and keep the whole thing in perspective. You’re there to have fun, not win the Indy 500. Stay cool, and work each heat/race out one at a time.


Great Expectations
You won’t get first place your first day—maybe not even the first season. But that’s OK because you’re new, and the true hobbyist at the track will respect that and often help you out. These types of people are great to get to know at the track. They’ll work better with you out on the track and they’ll probably help you a whole lot more off the track if they see you making the effort to race clean and just do the best you can.


Getting Better
Keep a close but constructive eye on your lap times. Don’t starting changing your setups right away to get “better” or “faster” the first time out. You will naturally get faster without touching anything. Trust me. Only after clean and consistent driving is achieved should you start thinking about going faster. Look over your rig at home and diagnose where you could get better speed, handling etc. The guys at the track will often discuss pointers for you during the day so, if you want write them down. If they are obvious changes that need to be made to your rig, then that says it for itself.


Do Your Part
Be a team player, and always remember to marshal. This duty is a hot topic with some guys—plus lot’s has been written about it before. You will learn a lot by watching, and consulting with the race director for any questions you have with the task. Not everyone does it right, or at all. It’s easy to spot the good from the weak. Follow suit of the experienced ones.


The Big One
It’s main event time. Make sure the transmitter batteries are good and that the battery in your rig is fully charged up. Using our own RC Truck Stop Tip of the Week that suggests the use of bread bag tags works great. “Tag” the charged batteries so you know what ones are good to go. Don’t wait until the last minute to give your truck a quick look over. Make sure everything is working correctly. Check the suspension and drivetrain, but do it with plenty of time to make any necessary repairs. As far as racing in the main goes, follow the same driving attitude that you should have used throughout the day—slow and steady. It’s your first time out. Keep things clean, and you will save your pennies and earn respect at the track. Every time out at the track after the first day, you will learn something and gain experience. Even myself, years after having started, I always keep an open ear and mind to the ones that have been doing it for a while, and if they are truly good, they will share their wisdom and fun tips to make the whole experience more fun and exciting.

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  1. Great article !! I was a racer for many years until I moved into rock crawling and scaling. I can remember my first race and how terrified I was. Luckily I was reasonably prepared and everyone at the track was very helpful and supportive. Reading your article made me wish someone had written one years ago. Thanks !!

  2. Thanks John, many years ago my first race was intimidating and nerve racking. Since, I too have helped tons of people in the hobby. So nicely so, I dedicated 3 years to the local hobby store. Since then I’ve had a blast sharing my experiences with Matt and RC Truck Stop, IM glad you enjoyed the read.

  3. I agree with all of the ideas you offered in your article. Still, racing is sometimes too quick or hardcore for novices. That’s why I like to see rookie or novice classes offered. Thanks for the article.

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