Racing is a Mental and Physical Game

(Andy Forsberg of Auburn, CA, has been driving sprint cars since 1994. A second-generation racer, he’s won an unprecedented 10 Civil War Series dirt sprint car championships. He’s claimed multiple track titles at Placerville and Chico and has 170 main event victories across California and Oregon. This is the eighth of a series of columns.)

Dylan Black jumps over the ragged edge at Tulare.

Dylan Black jumps over the ragged edge at Tulare.

Tear Offs • by Andy Forsberg | Driving a dirt sprint car is as demanding mentally as it is physically. During some nights a track’s surface will require more brains than brawn (and vice versa), depending on the track and which line is working best. If the track is super rough and heavy it can be physically demanding. The arms can get tired. We call it noodle arm.

Otherwise, it’s mostly a mental game.

Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare is one of those tracks where it’s a double whammy. It’s a place that mentally and physically wears me down because of the lines you have to run to be fast. It’s like a video game! The Thunderdome, as I call it, is off the frickin’ chain. I can’t say I’ve traveled around and been to a lot of racetracks, but I’ve been to probably 45-50 different tracks in my life, maybe more, but nothing compares to Tulare.

Growing up in racing, I was taught if you hit the wall, you need to move down a few inches so you don’t hit it again. That makes logical sense, right? But at Tulare if you hit the wall, somehow you need to figure out how to go eight inches higher and hit it even higher on the next lap. It’s a complete 180 of everything I’ve ever watched or learned in my 40 years of being involved in racing.

At Tulare, typically the groove is up against the fence, and beyond. During a night, the cushion just molds up into and above the wall, like a motocross berm, and keeps going. You just drive up on it. It’s the craziest thing. One night a few years ago we were there for Trophy Cup, and we were literally driving up the wall and back down just to restart a race.

… all I can say is they must have rocks in their heads.

This last time I was at Tulare for the Sprint Car Challenge Tour (May 17), I hit the wall in qualifying on my first lap. So I moved down a little bit and got about two inches from the wall and my second lap was slower. The logic is ass-backwards, but we qualified ninth quickest, .001 seconds behind Kyle Hirst, who’s won a few races at Tulare.

Brent Kaeding, who’s won more races there than anybody, watched me qualify. He said he saw me hit the wall and he just shook just his head, because it doesn’t make sense to him, either. Everything you know you can just throw out the window at Tulare.

Some people say Tulare is their favorite track, but all I can say is they must have rocks in their heads.

But it’s funny, I can run the ragged top at Placerville Speedway, my home track, and not get tired one bit. It’s easier. But if I need to run the bottom, it’s more work and much more of a challenge. There are times when I will talk to myself during a race, saying, “Don’t over-think this too much …” And there are times when I’ll put down 15 laps in a row and I won’t think about what I’m doing at all. Then there are other times when the yellow flag will come out and I’ve done maybe five laps and I’m about ready to fall out of the car. It’s not because I’m physically tired; it’s because I’m mentally drained and I’m not letting things happen naturally in the car. I’m forcing the car to do different things that are not comfortable. You have to let the car drive itself, so to speak. It’s a natural feel and it comes with experience.

No matter what, it’s important for me to stay physically fit. I have good genes so I don’t have to work at it too hard, fortunately, but I do have a regimen to help with endurance. It helps me so that I’m never out there huffin’ and puffin.’