2nd position with 1 to go most interesting

By: 

Scott Owen, Leader Columnist

The white flag waves.

This one eloquent motion by the flagman begins the lap that determines the size of the check. This moment begins the one singular lap that decides whether or not a racer parks in victory lane. This begins the lap in which a racer can go from hero to zero or vice versa in a scant few seconds. The lap is decided by split-second decisions.

Many times, racers are confronted by lapped traffic. In dirt racing, no one has a mirror, so the leader might have no idea if there are competitors looking to steal the leader’s thunder.

Being in the lead is not always the best place to be as the white flag waves.

You are the driver with the pressure. You are the only driver that has a race to lose. You don’t know who is on your bumper.

If you are the racer in second place, you are in the catbird seat. You have studied the leader’s line around the track. You have the ability to use lapped traffic to set a pick. Best of all, you have nothing to lose.

While in second on the final lap, you are playing with house money. You can go from zero to hero and steal that check, that victory lane photo shoot and the bragging rights that go along with it.

When that white flag waves with two cars running nose to tail within inches of one another, the crowd takes notice.

All eyes are now firmly fixed on the leaders. It is time to shine. Typically, the leader will continue to run the same groove on the track, unless nerves set in. It is very easy to over-drive the car into the corner and drift up the track or, worse, collide with the wall.

A novice fan might think that driving the car as hard as possible is all that racing is about, but they would be wrong. It is about cornering, and even on the street, one must slow down to corner. The leader must also be careful to not be too cautious as he or she thinks about keeping the car in the preferred groove.

Again, this is often why it is better to be in second on the last lap. Read what the leader is doing and react to it. If they don’t make a mistake, they often win. If they do make a mistake, then it is up to the second-place car to capitalize.

As the lead pair rolls out of turn four and the checkered flag rises, dreams are realized by one and hopes are dashed for the other. That most important lap of the race comes to an end.

You’ll have to go to the track to find out who wins. See you at the speedway.

Scott Owen is the track announcer at the Shawano Speedway.