The Many Faces of Denial
By Ryan Rink
This weekend the EESCC will be gathered at Willamette Pass for an autocross event, but it will be even more meaningful for me. After seven years of racing autocross, I have convinced my best friend and little brother to race with me! I have tried relentlessly over the last seven years to convince my friends to start racing, but I was completely unsuccessful until now. After years of watching and encouraging me to race, they are finally going to join in the fun.
From the moment I discovered autocross, even before I had seen my first event, I was trying to convince my friends to race with me. We are all car enthusiasts and in theory would all enjoy racing autocross, but they always had excuses for why they couldn’t race. At first I accepted their reasons not to race at face value, but after a couple seasons I began to question why no one would join me. After all, autocross is relatively inexpensive, very safe, and a great way to show off your car and improve your skills.
My first event was in September of 2008. I was 18 years old, and by the time I turned 21 I had given up asking my close friends to race. Instead I focused on the more affluent and enthusiastic car people I met through Facebook or work. These were the people who always had a story about their incredible car and driving skills, and autocross would have been a great way to see who has the better car setup or who was a better driver while being safe and responsible. But no matter what I tried the answer was always, in one form or another, no.
Over the last seven years I have identified the three main reasons people give for not racing. The first, and probably most prevalent, is that autocross is too expensive. This excuse drives me crazy. Autocross is very affordable, and most people who give this excuse obviously have enough disposable income. They are regularly buying fancy cosmetics for their car or going out to eat multiple times a week. Blaming the cost is the easiest way out for people who are not willing to stand behind their stories in a setting where everyone is on equal ground.
The second type of denial comes in the form of people saying that their cars are not ready. “Once I get this part I can race…” or “Well I have to upgrade this thing because my car can’t perform without it…” or “This thing is wrong with my car so there is no way it will pass inspection.” These excuses are made even more frustrating by the fact that most of the people using them were minutes earlier telling a story about their back roads corner carving session that happened less than a week ago. It’s another easy excuse for people who don’t understand or don’t yet appreciate autocross.
The third form of rejection is based around the way autocross is constructed. “I hate the idea of racing around cones” or “I would be willing to race on a track, but I don’t want to race around a parking lot.” These answers are so common, and were the only responses my little brother ever gave. It took a lot of convincing and an alcohol-induced promise to get him to agree to try it, but I am so thrilled that he is!
I am trying to encourage other people my age to join the sport, and I really don’t understand why it has been so hard. At work, with my friends, at car meets, and on social media I try to spread the gospel of affordable, safe racing to car enthusiasts. If we can’t get the next generation interested in the sport, who is going to take the reigns and carry the tradition into the future? Our area has a large and vibrant car culture, so there is a demographic to tap into. As a club we need to figure out how to encourage young people to get involved. I don’t have the answer, but you can count on the fact that my little brother, my best friend, and I will all be out there spreading the word and inviting more young people to join our sport.
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