Inside the Helmet:  The importance of imagery in drag racing and how the Time Slip Simulator can help

Author: Tami Eggleston, Professor of Psychology – McKendree University

Take a deep breath, relax, and let your mind remember the last time you drove your race car really well. Let your brain remember what it felt like, what it sounded like, what it looked like, and what you did. Most racers enjoy remembering and discussing a race. What you are also doing is a bit of mental rehearsal or imagery.

But your memory isn’t always perfect. And sometimes you get back from a race and you can’t remember at all how it looked. Or maybe you have an upcoming race and you wish you were better at imagining what that race may look like.

Auto racing is expensive and auto racers have little practice opportunity. Unlike a sport such as basketball, auto racers don’t have the option for hours in the gym practicing their sport. Most racers don’t have the time, money, equipment, or location to practice very much.

Most racers will be allowed a few time trials or practice laps and then have to be ready for competition. This means that auto racers must take their practices extremely seriously. The old adage of “practice like you play” is essential. In addition, racers may be more likely to need to use visualization or simulators.

Many auto racers use various simulators (e.g., practice reaction time equipment) to help with their practice. If racers try to adhere to the “10,000 hour rule” that states you need that many hours to be world-class in any field (Gladwell, 2008), then racers would have to use visualization and simulators.

But for many athletes, they find visualizing and imagery really difficult and it takes practice (Weinberg & Gould, 2011). The typical ideas for imagery include:

  1. Deep breathing and getting into a relaxed, calm, confident state of mind
  2. Then let your brain visualize staging, cutting a light, and driving down the track
  3. With imagery practice a person can start to imagine different racing scenarios (e.g., the other car has more miles per hour) and;
  4. With a lot of mental rehearsal, the athlete can imagine first person perspective (e.g., being in the car driving) or third person perspective (hovering over the race track to see the race develop).

But for many racers this process is difficult. Fortunately with the Time Slip Simulator most of this work is done for a person to help them with their mental rehearsal.

With the Time Slip Simulator an athlete gets a huge advantage with their imagery in the following ways:

  1. The race based off an time slip can play out exactly as it happened with no room for memory error
  2. The race can be played back in “real time” or slowed up
  3. The race can be watched from the driver view, sideways, or from the third person (hovering over the top).
  4. A person could alter the time slip to see what the race would look like if the person had a different light, if the person broke out, etc. The alterations are endless
  5. And finally a lot of research on imagery suggests that you should always try to imagine success and positive outcomes, so once you see what the race actually looked like and learned from that, you can easily go in and adjust your side of the time slip to make it a winner!

Just as many people spend time practicing on the practice tree, any racers that participate in indexed or bracket racing should also spend time using Time Slip Simulator to help with their driving and imagery. The Time Slip Simulator helps get inside the helmet and hopefully into the winner’s circle.


Eggleston, T. J. (2015) Auto Racing Mental Skills Video.

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success. 1st Ed. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2011). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (5th Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.