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Thread: Mental Burn Out

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Raleigh, NC.

    Mental Burn Out

    As many of you know, I've been writing about the mental/psychological side of slot car racing since 1994. My data is gathered through personal experience and conversation with other racers.

    This thread is in no way intended research for a later article to be published in one of 'Mom's' competitor's media. That would not be ethical, nor would it be fair to Mom. I have a high degree of respect for 'Mom'.

    That being said...

    Like any sport/hobby, mental burn-out is inevitable. Highly-tuned competitors who grind out not just every heat, but every lap as if their life depended on it, will experience a period of let down. A time when one wonders if they might ever win another event. One might even wonder if one can even get the juices flowing again; constantly searching for a motivating event.

    I'd like to hear from those individuals. Those current, retired, and very tired racers who have raced for years upon years. Those who took a break not because of their job, or their kids, or a divorce, or to finish school, etc. I want those who lost their drive, their interest, perhaps plateued in performance and measured no improvement. Those who wondered if their best days were behind them. Then, somehow, found their way back.

    I have a theory regarding age and number of years experience when encountering this stage, but I'd like to hear it from others as mentioned above. Perhaps other racers can learn a little something from your experience/s so they might be better prepared to recognize the symptoms, and recover.

    Please include your:
    1. current age
    2. number of years you have been racing
    3. age when you encountered burn-out
    4. any additional info you'd share with us, including how you stoked the fire to return, and steps you took once you did return.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    The Alamo City


    Burn-out occurs when racing becomes too much like a bad job:
    Long hours, low pay & unpleasant associates...

    Anyone who thinks racing is important enough to get burnt out on needs to get a life.
    I started out tinkering in 1963, tried racing off & on...;-), decided tinkering is always more fun, especially if what you tinker with turns out to work well on the track.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Lawn guyland NY


    You want my life story? I get fried after every big race!
    What keeps me going? Get Lamo, Get Lamo, Get Lamo and in case I haven't mentioned it GET LAMO!

    PS I heard Lamo got hurt, I hope he is OK! I would hate to have to pick someone else to inspire me! Like Roman!

    Raceway owners do not have the luxury of getting Burned Out!
    Last edited by Bent rim; 06-03-2004 at 03:21 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    My story, as if anyones cares...

    I have "quit" 3 times. I believe once a racer always a racer. The last and most permanent "quit" was in 1994. I have only picked a controller 2 times in the last 10 years to compete.

    The reasons I last quit are varied:

    1. I am inherently a lazy person. This is not good for preparation to race

    2. I was spending too much money and not getting much of a "buzz" for the money spent.

    3. I thought (and still think) the direction of the USRA was/is toward oblivion. I have better things to do than experience swirling down the toilet....

    4. I was looking for female companionship. I know that 99.9999999% of the Vaginally equipt people out there will not tolerate "little toy cars".

    5. I have moved on. Firearms are a fine hobby. So is collecting B and C grade movies.

    There are times I have the urge to return to racing. But I do not do so because I race to have F-U-N (I SAID THE "F" WORD!!!) and the current group of people wouldn't be able to take my attitude(having a good time.) There would be much aggravation on both sides.

    Life is too short. I have better things to do.

    So, until I overcome the reasons above I will sit back and observe.
    All machines are amplifiers.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    I'll try to give you the Readers Digest version. I am 51 years old, I raced from about 1963-71, eventually running Semi-Pro Group 7. I sucked but enjoyed every minute of it. Discovered work, wife, family, no slots till 1989 when I read an article in Penthouse (only for the stories, really) about slot car racing and they mentioned Elmsford. I called Lou, 3 weeks later I'm hooked on slots again this time with my (then) 13 YO son and 10 YO daughter. This time around I was much more successful in a "big fish in a small pond" kind of way. My daughter lost her interest, but my son became hooked - he could drive anything but couldn't work on a car if his life depended on it.

    Feeling the need for organized racing (there was none in the NE at that time) I founded the NECC. It took off and after a few years I passed off the directorship. We moved into faster cars, and in one of those once in a lifetime opportunity deals my son won semi pro at the Nats (95) even though we didn't really have any wing car racing in New England at the time. So of course I founded the Yankee USRA. While at the same time helping Lou Pirro with some of the behind the scenes work in what was then CASRA. Can you see where this is heading? One weekend we ran NECC, the next Yankee USRA, the next CASRA with an occasional Nats, worlds, Barnburner, etc. thrown in for good measure.

    I was at a Yankee USRA race about 4-5 years ago, running Group 7, having a good race in second place, and between heats 6 and 7 I unhooked the controller and never went back. Since then I have run a few events, trying to get the bug back, but it just isn't there. I still enjoy visiting with some of the greatest people I ever met, but the competetive spirit is sorely lacking. Maybe it will return one day, maybe not, but to be honest I'm really enjoying my life right now and the $ I'm saving by not racing at a national level is allowing me to do stupid things like go to Vegas 3-4 times a year. Plus at this rate I'll never have to pay back Bent Rim for that track call I still owe him
    What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but anything you catch comes home with you!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    norwalk ct
    ok you asked for it:: first off let me say that what i'm about to say here--was done by my own free will,noone ever forced me to do these things or make the decisions.so i'm not trying to blame anyone--ok? now...i'm 38 yea who cares....the last time i stopped racing was in late '92 basically because the guy i raced with got married,and i couldnt afford racing multiple classes...
    no we come to today..i have multiple reasons why i have to take some time away to re-evaluate my future involvement in slot racing...most of you know the jeremy deal..no further comments needed..
    now i have pete c. who i spent countless hours with (many of you know what happened at the nats)..and now with his recent (no longer needing my help,since i started charging him a little) and my own over spending..has not so much burned me out,but made me realize that to be competetive i have to ''dump'' alot of $$ into ex..pro-box just to get 5 good arms you have to buy 25 or so to keep up..and right now i dont kave the xtra needed.and with the amount of trigger time i get i really cant just race opens to be good enough.
    many of you may remember me as the guy always wearing some shirt with Jesus written somewhere on it---and actually since i have been devoting more of my life to him, i have enjoyed the hobby more,but on the down side,some people think i'm getting wierd and dont want to ''hang'' with me--which is fine---anyway thats my story folks..care or not

    remember guys and girls---evnthough this hobby get really intense---you have to have fun!!! otherwise winning doesnt mean anything!!---see y'all around...mongo

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002

    In the last 20 years

    One of the main things I have learned about these little jems is they can be all consuming. One of the things that has amazed me about slotcars is that they are a race car. I remember reading an editorial that Paul Meirs (SCB) wrote (and I'm paraphrasing) about a slotcar being the ultimate racing machine. The cars are so fast that a real driver could not withstand the forces generated. That is why the driver is not real and flat. That speaks volumes about how complex and techinical these little rockets are. I am like all of you I have many times gotten fedup, thought of quiting, and saving my money to buy hard liquor, and I know that one day it will have to happen. As for now though, I can say it is for the love of the game, and the great friendships I have aquired, that keeps me going.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    NorthWesterner now in Philippines
    First of all....

    I think this is a great topic for a thread, and a very interesting one that most of us "afterboomer" long-time and/or on/off slot car racers can certainly identify with.

    I have no problem with with you using the info gathered here for research towards an article in Slot Car Bulletin (or Scale Auto Racing News either), as I do not really consider either of them "competition" - but more like "compatriots" in the web publishing business, and I collaborate and cooperate with both of them. (I find it a bit ironic that you posted this today, as just last night I was reading some of your past articles, while browsing through some old issues of SCB!).

    I would like it, however, that the info gathered here can also benefit OWH readers online - as it is shared here. Online at OWH we have the luxury of space, and can we can run a lengthy thread here - with the ability to edit all we want at any time. The info could then be consolidated and edited into a much more concise article for print publication after enough matererial is gathered - which should also make for a very interesting read in the magazine.

    That is basically how I regard the race coverage as well. I try to get the basic race results and quick descriptions, as well as photos online quickly, while Paul M & John F can edit the material, write the stories, gather tech info, etc. to make into a nice printed magazine format.

    Like most racers/OWH readers - I like to read all the latest gossip, race info, etc. here online - and then I also love to read the written and printed stories and see the pics in the magazines later as well.

    OK? Now for my story (if I can manage to keep it under novel length ),

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    I've been racing slot cars since 1960 - pretty much continiously, in all 3 scales (plus a little bit of RC). I enjoy all the different aspects - building, collecting, club & commercial track racing, and simply playing with the cars as well. I'm 49 now, and I've never really "grown" out of it - as many returning slot racers claim to have done in their past... returning later in life, after life's usual diversions.

    As with several of the previous stories, I too have found times when my level of competative racing has escalated to the point of where the cost, time, commitment, and intensity and stress levels have reached a point of "burn-out" - especially following a major race, a period of excessive multi-scale or multi-series involvement, or even sometimes just a bad race or run of luck that suddenly can over-ride the usual "fun factor".

    One thing I have found, however, is that in some ways, while my multiple-scale varied interests in slot cars can be a cause of "burn-out" at times - it can also serve as a means of relief as well!

    When I have tried to juggle schedules and make every HO, 1/32, and 1/24 race possible - especially when trying to compete in a points series in each scale, I frequently get overwhelmed, and find myself racing more out of "committment", instead of for fun.

    However, if I focus on 1 or 2 points series', and then drop in at other events when I "feel like it" - I find that those events can provide a great alternative and tension breaker from the intensity of the series racing. I still enjoy the "rush" of competing in a series - but then the "drop-in" race - usually in a completely different type of racing, does not have that feeling of "must win!", and I am able to kick back and have fun without the stress.

    In 1988, when the USRA Nats was in Kent & West Seattle, I was at the height of my competative "slot car junky" phase. I was racing HO, 1/32, & 1/24, ALL in competative series racing - usually racing three nights a week - plus all the building and maintenance. I was also in a full-time relationship with kids.

    My significant other was also racing, mostly 1/24, and she was even more fiercely competative then I was, and she did not like losing. If I did not have her car prepared ahead of time, she did not like to race. She actually was a top racer in Int 15 at the Kent track, frequently beating some of the top racers. I actually won the last NW USRA pro Gp 7 series, before the local USRA fell apart.

    At the '88 Nats, I was in the Semi-Pro main event, and I believe I was in contention when my car suddenly stopped. I yelled "lead wire" at my pit man, while he proceded to change motors 3 times, to my frustration, before finally checking the lead wire. I lost it.

    My S.O. was simply embarrased by my lack of control, and she not only quit racing, but she "banned" me from racing as well. She had cut me off as if I was an alchololic and had smashed my car in a drunken rage.

    I convinced her that club racing was not so intense, and in fairness, since she was also a competative bowler in 3 leagues, that I should "get" to race slot cars. So I stuck to 1/32 scale club racing for a while, and gradually eased back into 1/24 - especially once the non-wing racing began to take off - but I never really got back into wing car racing.

    Since then - I have used a similar shift to club or "basement racing" as a breather, whenever needed, from competative 1/24 scale racing. I have found that a shift to HO or 1/32 - or even just "playing" with different types of cars - where tinkering, building, or playing is more the emphasis then who wins, helps serve as a pleasant reminder of why I do this in the first place.

    It's supposed to be FUN! - And when I remember that - then by golly it IS fun!

    The other aspect that always seems to keep me going - is that even when I am not motivated or prepared to race - I simply go to the races anyway - just for the social aspect. I realize now that one of my favorite parts of going to a slot car race, is meeting and hanging out with friends - during and after the race. Even when I have a bad day of racing, going out for pizza or burritos and beverage with the gang after the race, seems to ease all the tension and makes the thrill of victory - OR the agony of defeat, all worth it!
    Last edited by oldweirdherald; 06-03-2004 at 09:59 PM.
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    Paul Kassens
    OWH Slot Car Talk "Mom"
    The Old Weird Herald
    email: paulk@oldweirdherald.com

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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    So Cal
    Paul, you hit the nail on the head, "it has to be fun".

    I started racing in '92, on a weekly basis when I was 37. Soon, I found that the competitive juices flowed during each race. I continued to race weekly for the next 2 years.

    In '94 a family member opened a track less than a mile from my house, and I found myself racing 5 times a week with only one objective, to win no matter how much it cost, or how much time it consumed. Losing a race just made an intense day a bad intense day. This continued for 4 more years.

    In '99 I was burned out, my garage was full of slot car crap, not to mention that the raceway closed, and the tracks were stored in my family room. I sold everything but 1 boxstock and my controller and tools, I was shot.

    I decided to just attend weekly races, and the occassional USRA race as "get out of the house" time, or maybe it was habit after all these years.

    My new attitude was to just go to the track to socialize, and have fun for the day. It didn't matter if I won, or even finished the races. Sometimes I would just stop, and go wander around the shop, and just visit everyone, and enjoy my time out of the house. No pressure, just goofing around and having fun.

    On the track, I started to enjoy the race. If I had a good lap, I had fun, if I had a good heat, so much the better, but I never HAD to win. Soon I found that I was winning more races than ever before, and no matter what the outcome of the race, I had a good time.

    I'm back to racing a couple of classes, but these days, I ALWAYS have a good day at the races, whether I win, or don't finish.

    The key (for me) is to have FUN at the track.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    New York

    why I left and came back.....

    Hi I started with the hobby about 1984 or so going to Elmsford (the only game around) and just enjoying the hobby for what it was, grown ups playing with toys and the occasional thrill of my womp beating the tar out of someones specially built car. Tinkering was the way I was in the hobby intil 88 or 89. Then I started to run Elmsford's Nascar and WSC (GT1) series. There was fun, a good group of guys and no one seemed to really be overtly extravagant in their spending. About that time other tracks (all closed now) opened in the area and being curious I discovered the hobby had so much more than what Lou had on his shelves. The spending by myself (and others) became more than I expected, with minimal returns in placing or performance. Of course as the hobby expanded in the area, the "quality" and quantity of racers declined as they went to newer tracks, places closer to their homes, etc. It became no fun to run on a regular basis and costs were escalating, finally I had enough and put everything aside.

    In 98, I ran into a little cash problem (Got Married), and needed to raise some revenue and fast, well that new E-Bay thing was there so I sold everything as a lot for a fire sale price. Now I regret that. After A year or so, I was encouraged to take a hobby up, where did I return? Slot cars. Although just for fun now, I started to remember why I got into it. I love to tinker with things. I brought my step kids with me and well although interested, pokemon cards had more of a draw for them. I lost interest again because I couldn't re-capture the speed I had a few years earlier.

    A short time after the ink on my divorce dried, I decided allright I'm going back into this thing whole hog. Bought chasis', controllers, parts, motors, gears, etc. and started (again) at Elmsford racing again. I get to tinker, but without the expense of wing cars, getting motors "Done" or $100 for a (insert wing car part here). I run the NASCAR and GT1 series there and have a blast. A great steady group of guys (not much of a draw for the ladies though) and awesome competition with alot of fun thrown in. It has been therapudic as well as entertaining. I'm probably spending a little more than I should, but I have no regrets about doing so now, I have the money do be a little extravagant now in my life. I have the time to enjoy the hobby and appreciate it more due to my work schedule. And I've met an awesome group of people who steadily race. We compete, but I know if someone needed a car or controller, it was loaned or given to them for the night just to have everyone running.

    I'm glad I got back into it.
    Wings are for fairies - GTP/GT1 Racing rules!
    Keith Dickson
    GT1-GTP racer......

    "Mongo like candy!"

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2003


    GTP does rule, its my favorite class. Unfortunatly at the time I have no tracks within 100 miles of me so I'm kind of in a bind, I haven't raced since october and its killing me... I will be back into it though soon... especially when my parents let me drive to our USRA events.

    "Pour it on!!!!!!"

    Welcome to America, now speak ENGLISH!!!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2004


    I am 49. Been doing it since 62. Have quit 3 times, but, always came back. I don't smoke, do drugs or gamble so, this is probably my only vise. And that it is. It can be very obcessive similar to alcoholism. I am not a pro racer on a national or global level but, maybe could have been, had limitations of life been different. I have had a lot of success on a local level in clubs & commercial tracks and have enjoyed the hobby immensly, getting my son involved/hooked in the 80's & 90's. My reason for quitting when I did was usually burnout due mostly to "analistic" people and their debating over rules. Everyone has an opinion of how rules should read, just ask. Only problem is everyone can't have their way. I am of the belief that this hobby should be fun or get out, simple as that. All this serious stuff is for the birds. I like a short, sweet & simple rulebook (flyer) and leave it at that. Too many rules equals less FUN! Don't get me wrong, I have met some great people over the years and made some great friends which is a big part of "boys night out." I have come to the understanding of myself after 40 years of racing that I enjoy building more than racing. It's probably always been that way but, the percentages have swung in recent years more towards building. That's about where I stand at this time. I'll get off the couch now. What do I owe you? Check's in the mail. Deuce

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Watkins Glen, New York

    Thumbs up Great Thread

    I've been racing since '87 or so.

    I can honestly say that I've never "burnt out", or quit, but I have taken a few breaks for the usual reasons......marriage, buying a house etc.

    I've always enjoyed the building and hanging out as much, or more than the actual racing, and have been lucky with women not thinking I was insane for being so involved in something that seems so silly to the outside observer. It's about the presentation and the timing.

    The reasons that I've always come back, and never really went away have always been the same:

    1) The best raceway and owner you could ever hope for that's always made it fun, even in the heat of some incredible rivalries and battles. The knick-names, the silly hats, the late nights, and the later breakfasts. Parties, even strippers have been a part of the picture.

    2) A group of people that are more like family than friends, even after all these years, and a bunch of miles nowadays. We would give eachother the shirts off of our backs in the races and in our personal lives.

    3) A great (and always improving) track, the best parts inventory and up to the minute technology. Some of it invented there.

    The list of people to thank for making such a huge chunk of my adult life such a riot is way too long to remember, but you know who you are.

    Who could burn out in that environment? Why not stay involved on some level?

    Things like the rules, the USRA, and all of the things that seem to chase people off are insignificant when you consider the benefits of belonging to one of the world's most exclusive and eccentric cults.
    "Bring your ballistic $hit and your asbestos shorts, nobody gets out alive." Paul Kovich

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Omaha, Nebraska
    I'm 54 and I started playing with
    slot cars in the 1960's. I didn't
    didn't race, just tinkered around a
    lot on my Revell plastic track. I
    did nothing in the 1970's with slot
    cars, but in the 1980's I started
    club racing and then opened a raceway.
    I worked very hard for several years
    and developed my race program to be
    competitive at the highest levels.
    But when I closed my raceway in 1988,
    I was unable to maintain my competitive
    edge and quit racing around 1990. I
    again skipped a decade and began racing
    in the year 2001. I doubt if I will
    evey get back to my competitive level
    of the 1980's, but occasionally I
    surprise myself! My expectations are
    much lower than they once were and I
    find that I now can have a great time
    without winning. I just need to feel
    competitive to have FUN!

    I can't say that I have ever been "burnt
    out", but I occasionally lose interest
    in slot racing when my interest in
    something else increases.

    Last edited by GaryG; 01-05-2005 at 09:50 PM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    I first tried a slotcar around 1982, when my friend and his dad use to race womps. Then in 1984 a raceway open close to my house and my mom was able to take me to the track. I have always been very competitive, so for me this was love at first site. I attended my first nats in 1985, Mel Forrest and Frank Correa (of Outsight) were nice enough to drag a 15 yr old kid along with them. I slept on the floor for the week to save money. I only got to run my 4 heat consi to be bumbed out of the move up. Then in 1986 those same guys let me tag along again and Dennis Hill (Foamy) built me a car and I won my first Nats. For me at 16, that was the greatest thing in the world. Winning local USRA races was all that was on my mind. Then all the tracks closed and I went R/C racing. While racing R/C's I was fully sponsored, I didnt even pay for my food. But something was missing, it wasnt slotcars or the people. Over the years I have made some life long friends, people who have stopped racing but were friends to this day. Then another slotcar track opened and I went full bore at slot racing again. I won the Nats again 1988 at 18yrs old. When the race was over I broke down in tears, it was that meaningful to me. Then the USRA past a rule saying I couldnt run INT15's at the nats and I would have to "move up". I could barely afford to race 15's at the age of 18 and now the National USRA said I had to race class that I couldnt afford. Good thing our local USRA didnt enforce the rule so I only raced locally. I then began painting for Outsight Designs which led to me starting Johnston Designs. I did Johnston Designs for 7 yrs, that is how I made my living. At the highest point, I had a building and 4 employee's. Typically I ran it from my garage with one to two employee's. Slotcars were now 24/7 for me. Then in 1993 the Nats came to So Cal and the rules stated that after 5 years of not racing at the national level you could enter any class. Well I enter INT15's again to win my 3rd Nats. At 23 I was married and making my living at slotcars and winning was still everything to me. Then somewhere around around 1998 I found myself getting in arguments with the USRA. As you can tell by now, I'm not one to keep my mouth shut. I say whats on my mind. That isnt so good in a industry were you make your living. Friends of mine also decided to quit at that sametime ( Jeremy Marquette and Steve Hix ) and started playing with computers as a hobby. I really believed I was done racing for sure. In 1999 I stopped Johnston Designs and went and got a job. This distant me from slotcars even more. In 2002 I would race a couple of one motor open races, thanks to Gil Gunderson and Tory for giving me a car. For the 2002 nats I flew Jimbo Kirby out to Ca first class. It was my way of saying thanks for all the help over the years. He decided to loan me a 27 car and wouldnt you know it, I took 2nd. I was almost hooked again, but I got into motorcycles. All my free time I was sending in the canyons and meeting new friends. I was determined to learn to corner faster like some of the other guys. Then last year Chris at BP purchased my friends ( Fernando ) balancer. I started to do all the balancing for Chris. I was able to go to the track and balance and not race or get the itch. In the mean time Tory and Gil would loan me a car for one motor opens. I was having a lot of fun and it wasnt costing much or taking much time. Then it happened again, I went to Buena Park for the Western States last year to watch the Boxstock race. And I decided I wanted to race. While I was at that race a guy told me " its harder to win now from when you use to race " being as competitive as I am, I swear he will eat every last word. So here I am again 20 yrs later. I'm 34 years old and I'm sucked back into it. What draws me to it is the competitiveness of racing. I'm working with RJR to help improve his products and spending countless hours getting ready for the next race. I'm on a time crunch getting my program together for the 2005 Nats while trying not to burn myself out. My current game plan is race hard in the winter and take it easy in the summer. There is nothing like a afternoon on a bike ripping up the canyons.


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