Aren’t all racers just that?

I recently had a discussion with another racer about internet programming and his comment to me was, “I’m just a hacker. I know enough to get me in trouble but I just jump in there and learn as I go along.” Truer words were probably never spoken.

Of course, when I say “hackers,” I mean that in a very complimentary way.

I graduated high school and went to college for engineering. Part of my engineering classes was a shop class they called a “lab.” It was right around the time when disc brakes began to come into popularity on new cars. (Yeah, that probably gives away my age a little.) In any event, the teache… sorry… professor held up a brake rotor and explained, “This is a brake rotor,” To which I glanced around the room at some of the other students and heard, “Ooh. Ahh.”

Are you kidding me? It was right around that time when I made the decision to “graduate-out” on my own.

I’m more or less a “doer.” Oh, I can tell you how to do something, but it would be a whole lot easier for me to just do it myself rather than “teach” it. I always get confused when I have to fill out an application for something asking me my occupation. “What day of the week is it?”

It was quite a while ago when I got a phone call from a welding teacher who was looking for summer work. Thinking it would be a good idea to have another welder, we hired him. It didn’t take too long to realize that while he could glue two pieces of metal together, what it looked like wasn’t too spiffy. To which our good welder remarked, “Those that can do, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

Maybe I’ve led a sheltered life, but I don’t usually interact with too many people outside of the racing community. And maybe I’m being a little naïve, but I think most racers are of the “those who can do, do” -mentality. I believe we’re all a bunch of hackers in that we’re not afraid to jump in and try something.

Prior to starting my own business, I worked for a fork lift repair firm under a lead mechanic. This was a guy who had worked in the industry for a long time and what I thought, knew it and seen it all. We had a transmission problem with a truck which we couldn’t seem to diagnose. Upon disassembly, we noticed where one drum which was supposed to press into the case, simply fell in place with no press fit. Both myself and the lead mechanic looked at it with a puzzled look before I asked him, “Is this supposed to be that way?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never taken this apart before,” was his answer.

“Are you kidding me? I thought you knew all and seen it all?”

“No,” he said. “I’m just not afraid to take something apart and try to make sense of it.”

I think that philosophy makes a good racer. I haven’t asked this question of too many racers, but I wonder how many have really been professionally schooled in the things they do today. I’m sure some have but I’m also certain they’re not afraid to use some common sense in diagnosing a problem or finding a cure for an issue.

I’ve pretty much lived my whole life under the label of “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I’m certainly not afraid to jump right in, take something apart and try to figure it out. Forgetting race car stuff for a minute, I’ve fixed computers, done carpentry work, electrical work, etc. Done things which have gotten me in trouble (even when it comes to “racing stuff”) but I’ll usually figure it out. Although I have to admit, things today have gotten a little more complicated. Just think, it was a lot easier fixing a car when it had a set of points (what’s that?), a carburetor and a clutch pedal. But I’m not afraid (maybe a little more today than in prior days) to jump in and figure it out.

And that’s what I think makes racers a unique bunch. The successful ones are hackers, again a very complimentary moniker. One they should all be proud to carry.