“Slide job, Slide job, Slide job.” The phrase has been around forever, but no one really knows who originally coined the term. However, it is a very fitting and descriptive term for dirt track racing. In this article, we will be discussing slide jobs and other ways to gain position, overtake your competition, or block them from overtaking you.
How many terms are there to name a way to pass another driver? Slide job, cross-over, railed-the-cushion, out-braked ’em, got a run, side-drafted, bump and run, beat ’em to the pole, rattled their cage, diamond-off-the-corner, took the air off ’em, blocked ’em, moved ’em, wheeled ’em, blah, blah, blah. These are typical terms you have heard announcers and race people say for years, but what do they actually mean and when do you use them?
What makes the best drivers the best is their ability to make decisions at fighter pilot speeds. It helps to have an abundant amount of weapons in the arsenal and the ability to know when to use them. You can’t continue to use the same one or two moves on your competition or they will get wise to you and outsmart you. Having patience and knowing when to use one of these tricky moves is the magic question. Half the time it’s not known which move is correct until after the fact, which is what makes racing so much fun to watch. If it seems pretty smooth and easy from the grandstands, it’s really NOT!
Breaking It Down To The Basics
In pavement racing, there are mirrors and spotters to help feed the driver information so he can make educated decisions. Spotters can tell a driver what’s happening ahead of them to avoid wrecks or tell them what’s going on behind them, like when another driver is gaining time on them because of a line he is running. Obviously, the driver can see out the front window at what’s going on in front of him. They also have mirrors to get a small view of what’s going on directly behind them to help make quick decisions when switching lanes or blocking.
In dirt circle track racing it isn’t quite as easy. You have no mirrors, no spotters and half the time you have wet clay covering your visor making your view something like looking through a foggy windshield with no defroster. Add to this, cars sliding around in all different directions trying to do the opposite move of the car in front of them. As a driver, it’s the ultimate live chess game and as a fan, well … that’s why we go watch every week.
When you first start racing or move up in the ranks to faster vehicles, the speeds are very noticeable to you as a driver. You have to actually train your brain to process information and react quicker. It is physically impossible to be competitive with someone who has already trained their brain to think this quick. This is the reason that fighter pilots go through years of training before they are cleared for combat.
In the professional driving world, it’s called “slowing your hands down,” which in reality, is your brain and reactions speeding up past the speed of your hands to the point where it feels like things are in slow motion. After your brain gets used to operating and processing information this quick, you don’t notice the speed anymore, instead, you pick apart the mistakes your competition makes. Soon you find the best place to run on the track based on the surface of the track and find your own soulful rhythm of throttle, lift, turn, throttle again. This is called the “zone” in most other sports. The Zen place where your confidence, training, practice, and calmness all fall in line together.
The Million Dollar Question
What is the right move and when do you use it? There is no easy or one way to answer this. Every single time out will be different, and every single pass will be different. This is why the guys with experience tend to make the right move at the right time: because they have probably tried the wrong move 20 times before and it didn’t work.
Most fans sitting in the stands might think that leading a race is the best place to be on the track. In the driver’s seat this might be true – if you know for a fact that you are the fastest car on the track and pulling away – this definitely is the case if you only have to deal with what you are seeing through your windshield. Dirt track drivers don’t have radios and spotters, or mirrors for that matter, so the information the driver is getting is primarily a combination of feelings.
First, it’s the feeling of “hell yeah, I’m gonna win this thing”, then its “hmmm, I wonder if I’m running the right line” and lastly “I wonder what they are doing behind me?” Obviously, the guy sitting in second has a front-row view of what the leader is doing and can play around with other lines while running behind him to see where he is stronger and where his best opportunity to pass might be. So after running behind a guy for a few laps, you decide your only option to pass is to throw a “slide job” on the guy.
It takes timing and judgment to determine how long you need to stay on the gas to be able to slide in front. It also takes courage, and a little stupidity in some cases, to talk yourself into the fact you need to go fast enough to clear the guy, but not fast enough to drive right into the wall – all in a split second and within 100-feet or so. The recipient of the slide job can often see you coming down on the inside, lift off the gas, and turn down to avoid you, and get back on the gas earlier than you and can drive right back under you. This opens the door again at the next corner for another slider/cross-over move which could continue for infinity, or until one of you is smart enough to change his line, or makes a mistake.
Not The Fastest Way
Sliding someone is not the fastest way around the track. It’s a way to get a single position only. So, when you throw a slider, you better be ready to protect the next corner by entering a little lower so your opponent doesn’t have room to throw another slider under you. Once you get past the second corner, you should be back up to speed enough to run whatever line you want again. It’s an exciting move because it takes both participants off of their normal line and forces them to adapt to the situation.
How do you practice a slide job or any type of pass? Seat time. You don’t go into your first race thinking about making statement-type passes. That comes in time. You must crawl before you walk. By the time you start to think about how to execute a slide job, you’re probably ready. Make sure your committed and don’t half-ass it. If you’re going to throw it, make sure you clear the guy you are trying to pass, at the bare minimum. You can work on cleaning them up later with more practice.
Good luck, hold on tight, but remember to breathe!