Spin And Win
August 21, 2012
Sometimes your career can get out of shape. You can enter a spin. When it does, it can be downright frightening. But if you make the right moves, you can protect yourself, your career, and the careers of those around you.
In the 1985 Indy 500, Danny Sullivan got out of shape at well over 200 miles per hour, spun completely around (a "360," as they call it), hit nothing, collected it, and went on to win that year's race. It was a thing of beauty!
So I'm coming into work one day last week. On the freeway doing the speed limit, 65, minding my own business. I am in the right lane when a pickup truck comes up on me in the left to go around; he's maybe going 5 MPH faster, I saw him approaching in my mirror. No big deal, a slow pass ... I wasn't particularly concerned. He's in the left lane and I am in the right. Weather is perfect, road is dry, in a gorgeous, newly paved straight section of road. I expect subconsciously to watch him go past in a few seconds.
Suddenly, I hear an unexpected squeal of tires coming from my left, so I quickly look over to the left, and see that the pickup truck's front end is nosing over into me in a slow spin to the right, headed for my driver door. Looked just like the in-car camera shot when the guy next to you spins into you in any NASCAR race. Seen it a hundred times. Just never in person, outside my door. But this was strange ... like it was happening in slow motion.
Instinctively, and just like you would do on the track, I steer to the right to get out of his way while simultaneously flooring the accelerator because I know eventually the drag on his tires will slow him down, putting him behind me. I make the evasive maneuver so he misses me, basically wanting to give him room to spin, rather than take me out during his spin. If he runs into me, I am collected, also begin to spin, and things would get ugly real fast. So first and foremost, the job is to coolly drive out of this and allow him to do what he's going to do -- spin. He can recover if he does it right.
Just as predicted, the truck by this time is billowing smoke off the tires as he slowly goes off behind my driver rear quarter-panel, sideways at probably 70 MPH. He clears me by what seems like INCHES. Success! At that point I've cleared him, I'm off the gas and all I can do is watch the show in my rear-view mirror. I fully expect to see him slam into the guardrail and start tumbling. I begin to tap the brakes so I can stop and help him out of the vehicle if necessary after he rolls it. I notice the cars behind us have sensed danger and are now scattering down into the median, also just like a Sunday at Daytona Speedway when some guy loses it coming off of turn two.
The truck slowly spins right across my lane behind me and maybe misses me by a couple feet as he goes around. He did a slow 360 toward the guardrail ... then got corrected by the time his rear wheels crossed the white line at the shoulder. He stopped spinning still HEADED FORWARD and ROLLING ... He didn't hit ANYTHING! A PERFECT 360!
I estimate he was probably doing 40 MPH by the time he came completely around and was pointed forward again; it scrubbed his speed quickly but not as fast as I would have thought. I immediately thought of the Danny Sullivan "Spin and Win" at the Indy 500. I saw the truck pull over on the shoulder and stop, no problem. Some flat spots on his tires but otherwise okay. I chuckled thinking about Danny and that Indy years ago, and what I had just watched unfold.
My dad always used to say that it's not YOU that you worry about, it's the OTHER GUY who will always do the WRONG thing at the WRONG time. You know what your car can do, its limits, and don't push it beyond its tires, chassis or engine, but most others don't. If you play it that way, you always arrive alive.
Later that day, I went back and looked at the tire marks on that section of the expressway to try to see what had happened. Sometime when he was approaching my car on the left, he had run off the left side of the road which caused him to then lose control. Maybe he ran off the road, overcorrected by jerking it back up onto the lane and instead flipped the lightweight pickup truck back end out, starting a spin? Since the episode had started for him off the left side of the left lane, it also gave him the room to spin across two lanes and not hit the guardrail off the right shoulder, so in a way, it was a blessing.
KEEP YOUR CAREER IN THE WHITE LINES
It's a weird feeling when you look over at 65 MPH and see the front end of a truck and its headlights slowly spinning toward you. Had I HIT THE BRAKES, I would have been collected at 65 MPH. Had I done NOTHING, but stayed in my lane at the same speed, I would have been collected ... and either would have been bad at that speed. Instead, if you can think clearly and always be prepared, the gas pedal in many cases can be your friend.
Every career will also get out of shape from time to time. You can enter a career spin. But if you do it right, you can either avoid getting hit, or be able to collect yourself and "Spin and Win" without hitting the guardrail.
It's also worth mentioning here to never text and drive. Had I been texting, I would have been distracted, he would have certainly collected me in the driver door and a bad accident would have been the outcome. My rule is the phone gets HIDDEN while driving. Good luck, drive safely, and always expect the other guy to do the WRONG thing at the WRONG time.