DOES FATHERHOOD SLOW DOWN A RACECAR DRIVER?

My baby cries. It is somewhere around 0-dark-thirty in the middle of the night. My vision cannot even focus enough on a clock to tell what the numbers actually are.

It doesn’t matter.

It is my night to take care of my daughter. My wife and I both work. It is only fair that we alternate so that at least every other night one of us doesn’t have to get out of bed when the inevitable cries arise.

This routine does not allow either of us to become fully rested. It just evenly distributes the exhaustion level. The next day at our jobs we both toughen up as parents and get done what needs to be done. But not with the same step a younger, single, non-parent would.

And neither of our employers requires precise navigation and control of a NASCAR stock car at the highest level of motorsports in the United States.


The midnight feedings started taking place five years ago. Our baby is now grown to where she is ready to enter Kindergarten this year. Her feedings no longer apply but nightmares and general wakeup calls for whatever reasons still do. And my personal Dad batteries must kick in.

If I were a professional NASCAR Cup driver I do not know how the laws of the human body would not apply to me. It seems my driving would have to be affected.

I have heard time and again how driver’s personal lives do not effect the on track activity. The paraphrased quote of “once I put that helmet on I am 100 percent focused” has been repeated more times that I could count. And I do believe that.

It is where your mind is and what your body goes through when you are not in the car that comes back and molds the driving style.

Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards have been called into question about how becoming Dads has taken it tolls on the win totals. The victory numbers have certainly decreased following the new family addition. Is it a coincidence? Possibly. Are other factors involved? Certainly. But is it realistic to take a look at how having a baby could slow down a former frequent winner? Absolutely.

Jimmie Johnson is about to come under scrutiny with his new daughter. 

From my experience children do affect your levels of alertness, accuracy and precision. Young drivers with less family responsibility who feel they have a whole lot more to prove to the world will press the accelerator and go to the front. And they carry an attitude that no one better get in their way. Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick come to mind. None of them are Dads at this point in their lives.

I am not portraying myself as something I am not. I am not a close, personal friend of Gordon, Edwards, or Johnson. I do not pretend to have intimate knowledge of how a small child effects their households.

But I have met all three. Every one struck me as friendly, regular guys. Strip away the fame and money and they strongly resemble many of my friends. The kind that we would enjoy hanging out with next to our backyard firepit. The same types that get tired because they have children.

Does fatherhood slow down a racecar driver?

Yes.

In a sport where lap times are measured in thousandths of a second, where that small tick of a clock makes a difference in your livelihood, and the lack of rest and drawn attention take away from it.

A driver can still be competitive. At the same time some of the competition has no such distractions and is in total control of their own schedule. They are more self-focused and their entire lives can revolve around doing whatever is necessary, mentally and physically, to drive faster.

I view the world differently with children than without children. Anyone I know who has become a parent has told me the same thing. Just because you don a firesuit to go to work doesn’t make a difference.

A daring edge may be dulled just slightly to sacrifice thousandths of seconds. And those thousandths separate victory lane from "good points days."

(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Thursdays at 9pm ET. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com)

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