FYI WIRZ: NASCAR, NHRA and IndyCar Drivers Define the Feel of Racing Momentum

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIMay 14, 2013

Legendary Mario Andretti takes a call while grandson Marco Andretti prepares for a practice run in St. Petersburg.  Credit: Dwight Drum
Legendary Mario Andretti takes a call while grandson Marco Andretti prepares for a practice run in St. Petersburg. Credit: Dwight Drum

Encarta Dictionary defines momentum as the power to increase or develop at an ever growing pace. They also call momentum the speed or force of forward movement of an object.

Both elements have an influence on motorsports drivers where momentum is a product of their engine speed, plus momentum has a resulting human effect of good results and wins.

It’s no secret that drivers in top professional sanctions like NASCAR, NHRA and IndyCar have to contend with the disappointing reality of rare wins. Drivers also must bring extremely competitive resolve with them. Their makeup seems to require an edge that takes them to the brink of their limitations—often.

That fierce mentality seems to work in many sports and in any variation of motorsports.

This report will compare comments from drivers in top sanctions. NASCAR is the juggernaut organization for circle-track oval racing. NHRA is the premier host for side-by-side straight track competition. IndyCar is the open-wheel circuit that requires fast turning for streets, road courses and oval tracks.

Here is an impressive list of skilled drivers that were quizzed about momentum over a few racing event months. Obviously, to bring eight great contributors to one article takes considerable interviewing opportunities and time.

NASCAR’s Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne commented. NHRA’s Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Troy Coughlin spoke up. IndyCar’s Marco Andretti and Helio Castroneves had thoughts. NASCAR family great grandson and K&N Pro Series East competitor Ben Kennedy and open wheel and sports car specialist Katherine Legge chimed in as well.

Please note that a common inquiry with some variation was asked to all eight drivers. The two-part question:

Do you believe in momentum? What do good results do for you and your team going forward?

Matt Kenseth

This NASCAR champion is known for his no-nonsense comments.

I believe in momentum to a point. I don't believe in momentum as far as finishes necessarily. But I certainly do when it comes to performance. I think when you're running good on a track, when you're having good pit stops, when you have all the stuff going right that's kind of all timing and confidence and all that stuff.

I think that—I believe in that to a point. Certainly, I think you can go somewhere one week and finish last and win the next week; I mean, it happens, or the other way around. I don't know, for me like I said, everybody's different.

For me it's good—when things are going bad, I try not to get too low and when things are going too high, I try not to get too high. Try to keep it right in the middle and that seems like the easiest way to deal with the good surprises and the disappointments.

Kasey Kahne

Kasey Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis bring a proven bond to NASCAR competition.

Yeah, I definitely believe in momentum. I know I've tried to work hard over the years to get more consistent because that was definitely my weak spot since I've been in the Sprint Cup Series. Yeah, I feel really good about where we're at right now, and the momentum is huge. Confidence, momentum, from the driver to the pit crew to the crew chief, I mean, every aspect of putting our car on the track, I think when you have momentum and confidence it helps. I've been in situations before where I've felt like everything was fine, like I wasn't—like I was driving every bit as hard as I usually do and all that, and then I won a race and realized, man, now I'm like rejuvenated and have a boost of energy again to race and things.

So I think it definitely helps, and sometimes you don't realize it, but when you are on the upswing and things are going well, everybody feels it, and it's a big part of running well.

Jeg Coughlin Jr.

This five-time NHRA champion takes JEGS.com family team tradition of testing what they sell to the fast Pro Stock Car class.

I believe momentum creates two things: confidence within the team and respect from your competitors. Both of those typically translate to win lights.

This team is focused on winning rounds, winning races to challenge the 2013 Mello Yello championship. We're in a great place right now and the confidence we have in our abilities is there. We just never stop fine-tuning.

Troy Coughlin

This Coughlin and TeamJEGS team took a chance on a unproven Corvette and won the colorful NHRA Pro Mod class championship in 2012.

Yes we definitely believe in momentum. There's no doubt it's a morale boost for both myself as a driver and the guys on the team for the hard work that they do.

After winning Charlotte race (last race in NHRA Pro Mod Series and second of the season), that race right there built a lot of confidence in the program that we have in place today, We are learning a lot with the rule changes from 2013, and we believe going into Englishtown that we have a good fighting chance to get back up into the top two or three in points! We are excited and ready to go!!

Marco Andretti

This young Andretti brings a huge name to a very fast open-wheel sport and carries his legacy with skill and showmanship.

It's a very confidence-driven sport. Yeah, I believe in momentum. Sometimes the momentum shifts and you don't know why, you don't know what you're doing different.

It's really great to know I'm doing something different and getting positive results. It's just driving to the limit of the car instead of asking for something that's not there and actually creating a lot more problems for myself.

A typical weekend for me is practice one, we're always somewhere in the top five or 10. Then every practice leading up to qualifying, I go backwards, backwards, as I'm driving harder and harder.

Now I'm listening to the car, the tire, what it's going to give me, doing my job better.

Helio Castroneves

This charismatic dancing star brings seasoned skills to the IZOD IndyCar Series. His fence-climbing after wins is legendary.

It helps starting the season strong. It helps through the beginning and to the middle. It sets a little tone out there. Again, it helps in the championship, when you start battling for the championship.

So hopefully that's going to be the case. This second place will be worth a lot of points in the end. And as you said, the momentum. It's great to set the momentum for the next race, keep the team's spirit up. Everybody knows what we can do. In our case, we feel very strong.

Ben Kennedy

The great grandson of NASCAR’s founder, Bill France, has a lot of advantages, but competition on NASCAR tracks takes a huge effort. Kennedy took his resolve to his recent NASCAR K&N Pro Series win in Pensacola, Fla.

I definitely think it's a source of motivation moving forward. We've had our ups and downs, more downs than ups, I guess. But you know that's all part of racing and that's all part of the sport. This will definitely motivate all the guys and hopefully get us determined to go out there and win more of these races and eventually run for the championship at the end of the year.

We got off to a sour start in Greenville and Bristol, but I think we can push through that and really make some headway here as far as the points and everything goes. But having a win like that behind us and having everyone in the shop all fired up is something really cool for everyone.

Katherine Legge

This experienced IndyCar and Champ Car driver is now adjusting to sports car racing.

Oh, absolutely I believe in momentum. I think that it goes both ways. When you seem to be stuck in a rut, you can't normally get out of it.

At the moment, there's so much positive momentum going on. I was very down at the beginning of the year, just before the IndyCar season with what happened. I had to pick up the pieces and I had to call everybody I knew and try and get a ride.

It gave me an opportunity to look at sports cars, to be honest. So I've done that and I've created some positive momentum. DeltaWing are doing that at exactly the same time with what they're doing. So I think that it's buoyed both of us. For me it's positive, for them it's positive. We seem to be getting more and more positive. As you say, it's forward momentum.

I want to stay laser focused on that positive momentum and keep it in that direction because I believe that you're happier as a driver, as a person and the team is well, and that's when you get results, as well.

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of motorsports topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanctions, teams or track representatives.


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