Five Keys to Improving Your Mental Performance for Success In Racing

By Amber Balcaen

As racing drivers, physical training is a big part of our weekly preparation to make sure we are in the best possible shape for race day. But the secret to getting the results you want requires just as much time spent on mental preparation as physical. Combining the two creates a recipe for success.

I truly believe that our mindset and mental preparation are extremely important for being able execute our physical skills on race day. Mindset is everything when it comes to life, and our sport. When you can show up at the track with a confident and positive mindset, everything else will follow.

In this blog, I’ll share some of the techniques that have helped me most in getting my mind conditioned for race weekend. I firmly believe these practices are a game changer and will help you reach your peak performance!

Visualization

Visualization – calling upon all of your senses to mentally imagine yourself driving your race car in competition – is a great tool to prepare for races. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. Therefore, you can use visualization to prepare for each race by already experiencing the race in your mind. I love this because it’s a way of getting “seat time” without actually being in the seat. During visualization, you are essentially priming your muscles for the race. Make sure your visualizations are all positive: See the race exactly how you want it to be executed.

Law of Attraction

What you believe, you will achieve and what you put out, you will attract. Know what you want and have a clear vision of where you want to go. You need to truly believe in your talent and ability, and that you can achieve what you want. Remember that our bodies work perfectly, it’s our minds that get in the way. Your thoughts become feelings. These feelings influence your behavior and performance. Self-belief mixed with the desire to succeed will help you reach your full potential. Your thoughts must be positive and productive to help you get the results you want.

Preparation

You have to want it, and be willing to put in the effort to get it. This includes creating a pre-race regimen that prepares you for what’s ahead. Preparation is key. Make a race preparation plan and commit to your plan every day. 

For example, my race preparation plan looks like this: On the days leading up to the race, I am on top of my fitness and nutrition, practice on IRacing, watch footage (in-car and past races), read about the track, fill out pre-race and post-race debriefs, practice visualization/meditation, and read self-development books.

It’s easy to make a plan but following it through can be tough so it’s important to be disciplined with promises you make to yourself. Discipline breeds action. Action breeds confidence. Confidence breeds happiness and success in your performance.

Execution > Results

“Results are simply the goals of our performance. When we are engaged in the performance, our focus needs to be directed on our execution – the specific actions and tasks that are directly relevant to the performance itself.” 

Pinpoint what you need to do in the race (ie. braking points, lifting points, lane choices, setting up passes, etc.), rather than fixating on the outcome of the race (i.e. finishing in the top five). Your focus must first be on being present in the car, then on your actions in each moment. When you focus on winning alone, you are focused on the result. When you focus on executing, you are focused on your performance. Concentrate on the task at hand and the results will follow.

Turn losses into gains

Racing is a sport where a driver can go their entire career without ever feeling whats it’s like to win. While winning is great, we learn more from losses than we do from wins. This is why focusing on consistent improvement is much more important than winning. When you constantly work toward getting better, your performance improves and increases your chances of victory. Evaluation of your performance is key in progressing your skills. Use every opportunity in the car as a chance to get better.

“Racing is Like a Drug”

By Sarah Montgomery

“Racing is like a drug.” 

It’s the very first line I used in our recent episode of ‘The Drive Within’ on MotorTrend TV.

My racing season started at Barber Motorsports Park on March 4-6, 2022, driving a brand new BMW GT4 M4 for Round 3 Racing in the World Racing League. I had one goal in mind: Win in the most competitive class, GTO. Because the GTO field mostly consists of high-end GT4 race cars, most every car will finish the race unless there is an unexpected mechanical, or driver error. Basically, there are some HEAVY hitters in that class.

I ran in the GTO class in 2021 in an older model Porsche Cayman, which was great for sprint races but simply wasn’t designed to run an endurance race twice in one weekend. As my team owner and teammate Brad McCall always said, “We would be leading the race in GTO in the Cayman for about four hours, then poof, there goes our race.” 

I put in the work last season and did the best I could with the machinery we had. I wasn’t able to win in my designated car but earned a couple of victories in Round 3 Racing’s sister cars, so I knew I was capable.

This year, we went into the first race with the car, the drivers, the crew and the team to get that GTO victory.

I qualified P9 in a field of more than 30 cars for the season opener on Saturday, March 5, 2022. One thing I struggle with is staying calm before the start of a race. Even though I can focus well and drive fast, I get incredibly nervous sitting on the grid waiting for the warm-up laps. 

For this race in particular – because I knew our potential – I was nervous and amped at the same time. The race started and I drove with focus, keeping the nose clean for the entire stint. I knew I had one job and that was to get the car up front. Luckily, the Cooper Tires are fantastic and allowed me to hand the car over to Brad in third place. 

About an hour into Brad’s stint, bad luck struck. As he was about to pit, we ran out of fuel a few corners from the pit entrance, and just far enough away that we had to be towed. This put us a few laps down and took us out of podium contention. Despite being devastated, that ‘racing is like a drug’ feeling crept up and I couldn’t wait to try again on Sunday, this time with an additional teammate, Cole Loftsgard.

Cole took the first stint for Sunday’s race, starting in second place. Although it’s rare for me not to start, I loved watching the field of more than 70 cars take the first turn all at once. 

Cole did a great job. He was able to maintain the P2 spot for his three-hour stint. The track requires a mandatory lunch break on Sundays and I took the wheel after that. Even though we were in an endurance race, my stint was a sprint from start to finish. I was able to put the car in the lead, with the second-place driver on my rear bumper the entire time. I’m actually good friends with him and, knowing what a great driver he is and that they had the exact same car, it was a stressful run.

To add to the pressure, it started raining on about half of the track. Letting up was not an option – and neither was crashing – so I drove to the limit and held the lead over the P2 car. It was a relief to hand the car back to Cole and catch my breath. We were in first place in our class, and overall. 

Cole had the same dogfight to hold the lead, with the distance between cars fluctuating anywhere from four to 14 seconds. I was almost as nervous watching the timing and scoring as I was behind the wheel. 

With ten minutes left in the race and still holding onto the lead, I couldn’t watch anymore. The combination of nerves and excitement were overwhelming. Luckily, my family was with me and got to celebrate the moment as Cole took the checkered flag in first place. Everyone in our pit box erupted in happy tears and celebration. We were beyond excited to put everything together and earn this win for the drivers, team and crew. 

Winning a race in the GTO class is extremely difficult and if I’m being honest, I didn’t expect it on the first weekend of the season. I knew it would be hard, and that my goal for the year was a lofty one, so it made the experience even more incredible. Now, I get to back to the drawing board for setting this season’s goals and take it one step at a time.

I’m honored to be part of the Hagerty, Round 3 Racing team effort and grateful to have the help of many partners like Shift Up Now, Lafayette Travel, Bell Techlogix, Cooper Tires and others. Racing is like a drug and I don’t plan on giving up anytime soon.

Shift Up Now: One Year On

By Pippa Mann

One year ago, a big group of people took a leap of faith.

It started with the Shift Up Now founder, Lynn Kehoe. Lynn was the first person to decide it was time to make a change. In doing so, she allowed Shea Holbrook and I to take the organization she had built and put our stamp on it, to take it to the next level. This meant relinquishing control of something she had dedicated several years of her life to and allowing us to take things in our own direction.

Next up were Shea and myself. We’re both somewhat (ahem) busy running our own businesses in the motorsport world already, and neither of us has enough disposable income to be the kind of benevolent benefactor that Shift Up Now had previously enjoyed. But we hoped that the old adage, “If you build it they will come,” would hold true. So we set about rebuilding the website and launching the Shift Up Now Membership program.

Then there were the Shift Up Now Athletes. This was a different direction for the company: We were trying to build something bigger. Would they take the leap of faith to come with us on this journey? Would they trust us by continuing to attach their brands to ours, and would they spend their own money to also become Shift Up Now Members? Because to be a Shift Up Now Athlete, you must first become a Shift Up Now Member, doing your part to show your support and invest a small amount of skin in the game.

Next, there were all of you. The Shift Up Now Athletes reached out to our communities and asked you to spend $100 a year to join us, to trust us we would spend your money wisely by providing everything from worthwhile, online webinars to merchandise. We asked you to be there with us as we learned how to run this community, to endure some of the growing pains because you believe in what we’re trying to achieve.

At this time last year, there was a lot of tension, nervousness, wondering whether we could really make it work and whether you would really step up to help us make it happen.

Twelve months later, I’m reflecting on the first year of the new Shift Up Now with incredible pride. While we still have a long way to go, here is a small list of what we have achieved so far:

In partnership with Round 3 Racing and Hagerty, three of our racers had the opportunity to compete in the 2021 World Racing League. MotorTrend TV created a six-part mini-series, The Drive Within presented by Hagerty. We’re very proud that our racers are associated with such a high-profile show, and the Round 3 Racing program.

Hagerty not only partnered with us on the Round 3 Racing program, but also helped three other Shift Up Now athletes to compete: Hannah Grisham made her MX5 Cup debut, Emily Linscott raced in the F4 United States Championship, and Michele Abbate competed in the Trans Am TA2 West Coast Championship, where she finished P5 overall.

Cooper Tires also returned as a supporter of the Round 3 Racing program and offered Shift Up Now Members a discount on their first set of Cooper tires, a pretty cool membership perk, in my opinion.

We created a small travel and photography fund for our racers to utilize when they’ve found the budget to race but have to choose between another set of new tires or professional photography to help showcase their sponsors. This year alone, the fund helped eight Shift Up Now Athletes in more than 15 events across five different Championships.

We employed Monica Hilton, an experienced motorsport public relations professional, to help us maintain the website, write news stories and create newsletters to keep you up to date. As we continue to improve our website and social media, we’ve made a commitment to hire Monica at a more appropriate level in 2022. This will help us elevate our brand and profile, which in turn helps our Athletes. We aim to send the message that being associated with Shift Up Now is an integral part of a racers career.

Over the past year, Shift Up Now Athletes have hosted two fan forums and a multitude of online webinars, including Social media 101, fitness in motorsport and a three-part series focused on How to Get into Racing / Next Steps. In addition, we hired Jess Shanahan from Racing Mentor to host an online sponsorship webinar for our Members.

We couldn’t have done any of this without your help. First and foremost, our Membership Community allows us to exist. We set a goal of 250 members in the first year and I’m proud to say we knocked it out of the park. My goal is to continue providing you with a valuable product and making a difference in the lives of our Athletes so that you stick with us and support the vision! Here’s what’s coming next:

We recently launched a new, improved Member Dashboard with a Member Noticeboard, where you’ll be able to engage with other members directly. I’ve started three discussions already so I encourage you to log in and check it out.

We’re already working on the 2022 webinars and plan to hire a guest speaker for our next social media webinar. We received feedback requesting a data webinar so that’s also in the works, and of course we’ll bring back the popular online Fan Forum events.

We’re excited to introduce you to some new Shift Up Now Athletes in 2022! We’re thrilled that some of the most talented women in motorsport are starting to seek us out and work with us. Naturally, this means we need to keep working hard to help them find funding, but that’s what we’re here to do. While the task can sometimes be daunting, we’re undeterred in our determination to make a difference.

Speaking of funding, we’re starting to seek Corporate Members who want to join Shift Up Now, and support our overall mission to raise up female talent in an arena where women are still under-represented and under-funded. These funds will primarily be used to create a more robust travel, training and photography fund. The goal is to do more, for more racers, allowing them to focus more on the job of going fast while having less auxiliary financial concerns.

Every time I ran the Indy 500, it took me months to dig myself out of the financial hole that comes with competing while not being able to work during competition. Since I’ve been there personally, I know how important this peace of mind can be to a racer.

We’ve also just landed our first online social media partnership that is going to benefit some of our racers in the coming months. We’ll share the details very soon and if you want to help us out, hit the like button and leave a comment on these racers’ posts. Your engagement helps us prove our worth to the companies willing to spend money with our Athletes. This is an important way to help our racers start to earn a living income in our sport.

Our biggest goals for 2022 are to continue sustainable growth, find more brands who want to align with us, and serve you, our community better than ever before.

We’ve come a long way since the relaunch of Shift Up Now in December 2020 and we still have a long way to go. Our ultimate goal remains, of becoming both a talent pool and resource for racers and brands, and we’re aware it’s a long journey to get there. The year ahead marks the next steps on this pathway and we hope you will be walking with us.

Because together, we can make a difference.