Monday, June 15, 2009

Thought from NASCAR yesterday

Yesterday afternoon, while working on trip planning for the SBC, I had the NASCAR race on in the background. Excuse me, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Lifelock 400. Sorry, don't want to be non-specific.

Anyway, as the race is winding to a close, about 10 laps left, I started to actually pay attention. First of all, it was one of the rare times in the race that Jimmy Johnson wasn't in the lead. Second, I heard the announcers talking about the race leader, Greg Biffle, being short on gas. That caught my attention.

Why? Well, because it adds drama. Too many times I've had NASCAR on because it makes great nap TV. Think about it, you watch, they're all turning left, you close your eyes, you open your eyes, everyone's still going in circles to the left. It's like Congress, but I digress. Then, you get to the end of a 400-mile race, a 500-mile race, and in the last 20 miles, people decide to start racing each other. Sometimes, at least. I watched the last 10 laps of one race where a guy with a faster car tried to pass the leader, and would have done it. He was about 2 seconds back, and was a half second faster than the leader per lap. Problem was, he laid back until there were 3 laps left. 3 times one-half equals one and one-half, he came in second, one-half second back. If he had tried 2 laps earlier, he would have won the race. So, sometimes the end is good, sometimes it's bad.

This Sunday was good. The race leader is running low on gas. By extension, lots of cars are starting to run short, because this has not been a slowed down wreck-fest with lots of time for pit-stops. So, race leader Greg Biffle is trying to conserve fuel, while Jimmy Johnson is trying to pass Biffle. Of course, at the same time, Johnson's got to conserve fuel.

So what happened? 3 laps left, Johnson passes Biffle, and a lap later, Johnson runs out of gas! So, Biffle passes him as he sputters to a stop. Then, not too many seconds later, Biffle runs out of gas! So, Mark Martin passes him to win. Jeff Gordon comes in second. Biffle's momentum kept him in the top 10, but Johnson had to stop for gas to finish the race! What did I learn from this?

1. Jimmy Johnson: Don't quit. Do what you need to do to finish what you start. He stopped for gas, got enough to get back out, and complete all the laps. It had, according to the announcers, no effect on where he finished, only that he was able to claim he finished all 400 miles. Seem silly? It's not. It is not always easy to follow-through your commitments, but do it. Lately, I'm feeling like I'm low on gas, but I was reminded that, while it may not matter that much, it shows what type of person I am if I will gas up and go finish anyway.

2. Greg Biffle: Don't let somebody push you around. Biffle's crew knew Johnson was as low on gas as he was. But, Biffle got into the contest with Johnson over speed, which burned up both of their tanks. Neither won. If Biffle had let Johnson go by a lap or two earlier, Johnson would have run out, and Biffle wouldn't have. Life's not quite a car race, but the principle is this: Don't waste your energy competing in someone else's game. Do what you know you should do.

3. Jeff Gordon: Came in second. Finished the race with gas in his tank. Why? Because he was trying to conserve resources. He probably could have passed Mark Martin, but didn't. He brought fuel back to the truck. Why? You have a limited amount of resources, yes, but you can't take any of them with you. Use them to do what you're there for.

4. Mark Martin: Stick with the plan, and do the best you can. Sometimes you can do something about the opposition, and sometimes it will do itself in.

5. All of the drivers: there were some post-race interviewees that talked like Johnson shouldn't have pushed Biffle. I think he did the right thing. People don't go to races to see amazing fuel mileage. They go to see cars race, and if fuel comes into play, so be it. Race the car, and see what happens.

In life, we have a certain amount of time and energy. Some of us have limited physical resources, like money, fame, good looks, and talent. Use what you have. I want to use my time, energy, and what I have of the other 4 to accomplish the strengthening of God's kingdom. I don't want to run out now, and putter through the rest of life, but I also don't want to get to heaven and hand over to my Lord all the fuel He gave me instead of giving Him the trophy from winning, or at least finishing the race.

(and I won't smash it at the awards ceremony either, Kyle, but that's another post for another day)

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