I love it when people describe NASCAR and oval racing as ‘shoving your foot down and turning left’. It reminds me that the secrets of driving at continuously high speeds are known only to a few.
When you stand on the straight part of a 2-mile superspeedway, it looks like a very long corridor that runs into a wall. You start driving along it with every intention of running into the apparition of banked tarmac at the end with your foot completely nailed to the floor. Sadly, there’s more than enough time to debate this strategy several times during a race.
As the swarm of cars veers into the turn, there’s precious room to spare when your car squirms and kicks in the pack. The most vulnerable part of your car is the bit you can’t see: the rear quarter. Unlike on the open road, your melon is so tightly tethered with safety harnesses that you can’t physically look over your shoulder.
With your vision naturally prioritizing the tangle in front and directly behind, it’s easy to forget the blind spot and creep over into a lane of traffic travelling at a different speed to yours. At high speed, the platform has to remain stable and contact with the rear quarter usually results in a spin followed by a thump.
To cover this vital base, oval racers have a dedicated spotter high up in the grandstands watching your progress through binoculars. He provides continuous dialogue via radio about everything taking place in the blind spot, offers moral guidance and chivvies you along with a narrative of what is approaching beyond the range of your head mirror.
Spotters are expensive creatures that require constant rehydration at the bar, so in real life you can save yourself a lot of money by looking over your shoulder before you make a move.