Rules of the road from NASCAR drivers
NASCAR drivers feel the need for speed when they’re racing on tracks like Daytona and Talladega. But when they’re motoring around their hometowns or neighborhoods, these drivers have learned to take things slow — or least slower.
How NASCAR stars behave when they’re driving alongside regular Joes and Janes can teach every motorist a few lessons about automotive safety — and those lessons could keep your auto insurance rates down. These tricks help NASCAR drivers toe the line when they’re not trying to cross the finish line.
“I’m often tempted to blow by someone going below or right at the speed limit,” says Scott Wimmer, who begins his 10th NASCAR season in February 2011. (The NASCAR season revs up Feb. 20 with the Daytona 500.)
|“I’m often tempted to blow by someone going below or right at the speed limit,” NASCAR driver Scott Wimmer says.|
To keep from pushing the pedal of his everyday car too far, the 35-year-old Wimmer plays devil’s advocate with himself.
“I ask myself, ‘Is getting past this person it really worth it since they’re probably going to catch up to me at the next stoplight? How much time am I really saving?’” Wimmer says.
Wimmer, who lives in High Point, N.C., says the devil’s advocate always offers the same answer: “Speeding is not worth risking my life or a ticket.”
Fellow NASCAR driver Scott Speed of Mount Holly, N.C. — yes, that’s really his last name — says that when he’s tooling around town, he plays his own version of “Name That Tune.”
“I try to guess the name and artist of the song on the radio as quickly as possible,” Speed says.
That helps the 28-year-old Speed stay relaxed on the road.
“It keeps my mind off of getting ticked off at the antics of other drivers and driving too aggressively,” says Speed, who joined the NASCAR circuit in 2008 and formerly competed in Formula One.
Paul Burton, owner of Southern California’s West Point Driving School, recommends some behind-the-wheel stress relievers: “Listening to your favorite song, as long as it doesn’t rev you up and encourage you to speed, taking a few deep breaths or even a personal mantra like ‘If I tailgate, then I’ll crash’ can help keep you from crossing the line to rage.”
On the track, drivers have a slick term for tailgating: drafting. While it effectively gives drivers an edge on the track, driving too close to the car in front of you can cause an accident.
“It’s tough to avoid tailgating,” Wimmer admits. “Doing so on the track is different. We’re all going at about the same speed and trying to get to the place the fastest. On the road, those same rules don’t apply.”
Wimmer says he tempers the urge to tailgate by counting to 10. He envisions how the driver in front of him might react to tailgating.
“I know if they hit the brakes because they’re irritated that I’m on their bumper, I’m going to roll right over them,” Wimmer says.
|To help stay calm, NASCAR driver Scott Speed says he plays a game of “Name That Tune” while driving his everyday car.|
Wimmer also allows himself a brief cooling-off period if a car in front of him is moving too slowly or is in his way. “That’s usually enough time to make a safe plan to get around the car,” he says.
Distractions are one of the biggest challenges on the track, Wimmer says. NASCAR drivers are monitoring twice as many gauges than there are in a street car, are chatting with the crew chief over the radio and are watching for debris that might fly into their path.
Oh, and then there’s the flagger, the crowd and the announcer.
“You have to stay sharp all the time, even under (the caution flag). There is no room to break concentration even for a second or else you can get into big trouble,” Speed says.
Off the track, NASCAR drivers encounter similar distractions. They stay focused by relying on the tricks they picked up from driving instructors and mentors.
“A lapse in concentration, even a brief one, can cause you to not see a light change, miss a car that’s turned in front of you and several other potential dangers,” Burton says.
Wimmer says he frequently scans his side and rearview mirrors to stay informed and alert.
“I take driving seriously. It’s not a time to have a deep meaningful conversation, and it’s certainly not a time to text,” Wimmer says.
Speed says he stays focused by staying off the road when he’s exhausted. “That’s when you’re more likely to break concentration and make a stupid mistake that can cost you big,” he says.
|NASCAR driver Scott Speed says that when he’s behind the wheel of his race car, “there is no room to break concentration even for a second or else you can get into big trouble.”|
If you follow these NASCAR tips, you could avoid big costs on your auto insurance.
Chad Bitterlich, vice president of Navion Insurance Associates Inc. in Anaheim Hills, Calif., says too many traffic tickets or accident claims can send your auto insurance rates up as fast as a NASCAR vehicle zooms along the track.
“Car insurance rates are based heavily on your traffic-ticket and accident history,” he says.
A bad driving history could put you in “the pit,” just like a NASCAR driver with a blown tire.
Steve Brooks, president of B & B Premier Insurance Solutions, a brokerage in Agoura Hills, Calif., says a history of reckless driving could prompt an auto insurer to cancel your policy. Or you could be labeled a high-risk driver and end up paying as much as 20 percent to 30 percent more on your auto insurance premiums.
“Depending on your state, you could pay double for your premiums,” Brooks says.