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Pobst Position: The Big Picture
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Pobst Position: The Big Picture
So here I am, mired in mid-pack. I'm working on the guy ahead of me, who's being held up by the guy ahead of him. We're "The Battle for Twelfth." There is a solid line of cars up to about fourth. That's eight cars, folks. I do not like it back here. It's kinda crazy. There are three more behind me, and I'd love to get some breathing room. Everyone is desperate to move up. Most of us do not believe we belong back here, including me. First is eleven places away, so if we're gonna win this thing, we better start passin' cars, NOW. Uh, oh.

I can see that guy ahead of the guy ahead of me is holding us up onto the long straight. We've been bumper-to-bumper as a result. I cannot pass a similarly powered car on the straight if I limit myself to his speed at the apex of the corner, so I let off a little early to try to get a run. On the second or third try, it works. It's not much, maybe a mile-an-hour or so, but combined with a draft, that's all I need. I stay tucked in, hoping not to telegraph my plans too early. The guy ahead moves inside to protect, but leaves a car width plus, and at the last moment, I go for it, a dive bomb down the inside. Its tight, I'm a little worried about maybe going over that inside curb, but the other guy sees my nose inside and leaves me a car-width-and-an-inch. Instant respect for you, Bro, thanks for good racin'. I'm in that grey area, maybe I can complete the pass, maybe he'll hold me off, but we ain't gonna touch...then WHUMP, I get it right up the back bumper. Ba-bunch! I'm shoved into the door of the guy I was trying to pass, bending up my whole left side and starting a slow leak in the left front of a counterclockwise track. Crap. I wave out the window as I pass my newly respected competitor who now probably hates me. Not me, Bro, not me, don't kill me!

The rest of the race is interminable. Handling ruined and deteriorating, every lap someone else getting by, a slow slide rearward, Chinese water torture. Finally, mercifully, the checkered ends the misery, like shooting a horse. My mood is dark, I'm pissed and frustrated when the guy that hit me walks up to apologize. Play it cool, Randy, it's just racing, he's good, and has been your friend for years, don't be too hard on him. Hold on, did I say apologize? Holy cow, he is red-faced, pissed, wound up. He's spittin' mad at me! What? "You were short braking me, you were with me. You pulled in front of me!" What? My head spins. What is he talking about? I should be furious with him, not vice versa. HE punted ME right into the guy with whom I was working a clean pass attempt.

We part, both angry, and then understanding begins to seep in. He was so wired in to my back bumper, that he did not see the Big Picture; that I was working to get a run on the guy two cars up, and maybe he could have come with me. That's why he thought I was playing ugly racer games with him. Now as far as pulling in front of him, let's consider this: 1) Any time you attempt to pass me, expect that I will probably move inside to protect. Me or just about any other serious racer, count on it. You've gotta get in there before I do, and hitting me on the back bumper means you did not make it. 2) Attempting to pass someone fast who is attempting to pass someone fast is playing some long odds, Brother. Shoot, I was not all that sure there was room for one car in there, where the heck did you think you were gonna find room for two? Big Picture. See ALL the circumstances. Oh, and how about number three: 3) It's for twelfth place. Gimme a break. Is it worth it to crash going for eleventh on lap six? See the Big Picture.

Originally printed in Sportscar September 2007
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