You have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable
Average Nascar speeds exceed 200 mph, with 42 cars racing on the track. Obviously, that means a lot of risk to the drivers. It takes a lot of guts to shift up a gear and try to squeeze into a narrow margin between cars, just to get slightly further ahead. In the words of Bentley, “they have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”
No offense, but most people simply don’t have it in them. Sure, drivers need to make constant risk/reward estimations in their heads, and 9 times out of 10, they might make the safe call. It’s the few who can go “YOLO” and gun it that become great. “Some people never get there,” says Bentley, “and it’s easier to get a crazy driver to tone it down than to coach a cautious driver to amp up their risks.”
But not too comfortable...
At the other end of the spectrum, being too comfortable with risk is fraught with danger. While the stereotype is that racing drivers are crazy, hair-on-fire types, Bentley says that’s usually not the case. “Most drivers are controlled -- they want to push the limit, but they need to know where the line is. If they don’t, they’d be dead.” Drivers who overdo the risky moves to shave seconds off a lap time quickly get a reputation for crashing a lot. And as Bentley points out, it's kind of hard to become great if you check out early.