Take Your Passion to the Next Level: Help Improve Your Local Events

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In the world of motorsports, progression is a constant theme. A next level always beckons, promising higher speeds or higher stakes. Autocrossers want to try track days, then find themselves using those skills to go road racing. Regional champions hope to become divisional champions, and divisional champions hope to become national champions. Conquering a 3-hour enduro only fuels the desire to conquer a 6-hour, 12-hour or even 24-hour enduro.

I suffer from this malady, too. Part of it is a natural competitiveness, but my desire for progression goes a bit beyond simply competing. More than bigger venues or better prizes, I want deeper involvement.

When I was 16, I started autocrossing. When I was 19, I was the co-chair of my local region’s autocross program. When my wife and I adopted parrots, we joined a local parrot enthusiast club so we’d have a support network to help us understand these complicated creatures. A couple years later, we found ourselves starting a club of our own closer to us to help out local parrot folk. And when I perform standup comedy locally, usually I’m the first one to the room, making sure the tables and chairs are arranged correctly, setting up the sound system, and helping the other comics get organized and figure out a show order. Heck, I wasn’t content to simply subscribe to my favorite magazine: I had to come work here.

Maybe I’m a bit of a control freak, but I think the real truth is that when I find something I love, I want to be involved in as many phases of it as I possibly can.

And I’m here today to tell you that this route can lead to true spiritual satisfaction.

That doesn’t mean the pursuit of perfection behind the wheel should be abandoned in favor of the pursuit of perfection in the timing trailer. If your goal is to become the best driver on the pavement, I encourage you to stick with it. I have a similar dream and continually strive to improve my skills in the cockpit.

But remember that these sports we love so dearly are, for the most part, run by armies of volunteers. There’s satisfaction on both sides of the equation.

For me, the peak of my behind-the-scenes career was at the 2015 Solo Nationals. Although I’d taken away a few trophies from autocrossing’s premier event over the years, it didn’t translate to deeper involvement. And sure, my status with the magazine always afforded me pretty good access–or at least an excellent parking space–but for all intents and purposes I was just another competitor.

That changed a bit in 2014, when we teamed up with BFGoodrich Tires and the SCCA to revive the once-loved BFGoodrich Talent Show. Now known as the Grassroots Motorsports Tacos and Talent Welcome Party With Prizes from BFGoodrich–or just Tacos and Talent for short–we tried to co-opt the party atmosphere of the Solo Nationals and give folks a chance to show off their chops a little in front of their friends and competitors.

For the first time, I felt like I was not only a part of Solo Nats, but a part of making it a little more special than it otherwise would have been.

In 2015, I upped the ante a bit more. I hosted Tacos and Talent again, this one a rain-soaked bacchanal every bit as iconic as Nine Inch Nails’ mud-covered Woodstock performance (maybe I’m overstating things, but it was raining like hell, and it really seemed to make everyone up their game). I also did a stint behind the mic as an announcer for several of the classes at the championship event.

Just based purely on statistics, I’m probably never going to win a Solo National Championship. But I left the 2015 Solo Nationals with a profound sense of satisfaction: I’d had great fun competing, and I’d done my part to make the experience a little better for my fellow competitors.

And I’ll just leave that there to percolate in your head a bit. Chances are, you’re not going to get noticed by that IMSA scout or be offered a ride at Le Mans because of your performance at a ChampCar event. But you can be the man or woman who brightens up these sports from behind the scenes. So the next time you want to raise your game to the next level, remember to think in terms of contribution, too–not just competition.

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