A lot of drivers have rituals.
Some listen to a certain type of music. Some have to pack their own chutes or mix their own fuel. Some just don’t want to be bothered.
And then there are some that just have to beat on the car to make sure it is put together.
Matt Hagan has been racing for a long time, but one thing that has never changed is his pre-race rituals. He has to touch the car. He has to make sure it is going to keep him safe. And he has to put his race suit on left side first. If not, he is a mess inside the car.
“I think most everyone has a pre-race ritual. I put the left side (of my race suit) on all the same all the time. Left boot, left glove, left everything and then the right. I also like to walk around the car and even stand on the wheelie bar because I have seen guys leave it loose and ride a wheelie at the hit of the throttle,” Hagan said. “I grab the wing and shake it and pound on it a little bit. If something is loose, it can lead to a nasty wreck out there. It is the little things here and there, touching the car, making sure everything is good. And then I take a prayer before I get in the car.”
Of course, once he gets in the car, the rituals continue.
“I like to chew on my mouth piece and get up on the wheel,” Hagan said. “I really grind my mouthpiece. I’ve already gone through like three mouth pieces this season.”
Finally, after he is comfortable, he begins working his knee to really get ready for hitting that throttle and powering down the race track at more than 300 mph.
“I get in and hit the throttle and get a feel for it. I get my knee warmed up a little bit,” Hagan said. “My knee takes abuse. That pedal is solid and you are solid and your knee is the weak point. It is what takes all of the shock, so I get it warmed up. Then I pull up to the line and zone everything else out.”
Of course, that is in a perfect world. Sometimes there are distractions, such as an odd burnout or an off-sounding car or even the changes of running in the four-wide races that can throw that routine off. That is when all bets are off.
“You’ve had so many runs, you just adapt and try not to freak out in there when your routine gets thrown off,” Hagan said. “If something changes or you forget this or that, you just kind of roll with it. Hell, I left my visor up the other day. It was the four-wide and I am thinking about which lane I am in and what bulb I am looking at versus thinking about going through your routine. I left my visor up and halfway down through there I was like, ‘why is it so loud? I better close that.’ It is just dumb stuff sometimes, you just have to adjust.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019