A Fischer Decision: College Football or Racing?
How many of us armchair QBs would have loved to have had the talent to play college football? Imagine my surprise to watch a FISCHER excel at high school football, be wooed by colleges, and then listen to the juicy stories that accompany the recruiting process?
In this case it was my brother’s (Stephen) son Travis, or TJ as we call him, who emerged as a 6’3″ 190 lb. wide receiver who had soft hands and a vicious blow while blocking downfield. Yet after a year of play—he has stepped away from college football (while healthy) to compete instead in car racing on the circuit? Football is in my blood, as well as my brother’s, so what, my feathered friends, would compel a young man to spurn the sport that we seemingly live for?
The goal of so many of these young men is to win races, move up though the amazing number of levels of car categories, and to eventually have the honor of climbing into an Indy car for the highest level of racing. TJ has been chosen to be a part of the newly formed Jeff Andretti Motorsports and sister company JAM Marketing Partners (founded by Jeff Andretti, son of famed racing legend Mario Andretti), and is considered to be a star on the rise. Like any football fan would ask—what skill set makes racing so difficult?
Stephen recently detailed the process that TJ goes through in making the first turn going into the Chicane at Portland International Raceway, where I recently watched him win again. I simply could not believe what I was hearing, thus, like my football analysis—I was learning right along with you readers!
TJ has to use his left foot on the brake to nail the exact braking point on the turn, but he must apply 650 lbs of pressure, with a window of only 50 lbs either way, or he blows the turn. At the same time he must use his right foot to blip the throttle to accommodate shifting gears, which is being done by the right hand going from fifth gear to first gear. The car is being steered by his left hand, thus, all four hands and feet are working simultaneously inside fractions of seconds. For a guy like me who has to keep an eye out for any elevated lip on a sidewalk, lest I stumble—the above scenario seems near impossible.
While all arms and legs are in a timed coordinated motion, TJ must be running only two to six inches from the wall at 140 mph at the beginning of the turn, and he must keep the car clear of other cars, otherwise they touch and spin out. Yet he is also overtaking others (it’s a RACE!) and trying to pass them in the corner? Holy Crap.
Stephen explained, “the driver must keep his eyes on the NEXT corner’s apex while all this is happening. He has to watch several steps ahead of where he is currently because of the speeds he is driving. It is too fast to react to where he is currently!” So with all that is described, he can’t use his eyes to help arms and legs on the current corner? Wow.
Then they go into computerized video analysis after the race where TJ will get instructions from the racing team to brake 20 lbs. lighter into turn 5 (of 12 turns) and hit that pressure 10 feet sooner! Do all of the aforementioned complications in making a high speed turn AND make adjustments for next qualifying trial or race? How do you hit that small a patch at 140 mph? Stephen noted that those who can are rare, and thus become part of that small nucleus of exceptional drivers. Those who cannot do all the athletic feats described above AND adjust to instructions to changing conditions? They do not move up the racing ladder.
More Skills Required
Beyond the extreme athleticism required, is an intelligence that can compute the rapidly changing environment around him and yet remain cool under such pressure. TJ was a smart 4.0 student in high school, and was known to be less of a “rah-rah” guy and more of a quietly focused athlete, which is the precise combination needed for racing.
During the race in Portland, I was sitting next to the parent of another driver who was very kind and gracious in explaining what was unfolding in front of me. All around me were family members of different drivers watching a cell phone app that detailed lap times, who was leading and by how much. TJ had a 1.7 second lead at one point—is that good? “It is when you only have 20% of the race to go,” I was told. You build a lead by a few tenths of a second at a time by making that turn described above just a little better than the other drivers, and bit-by-bit it builds up to the 1.7-second edge. This lead becomes almost insurmountable for opposing drivers trying to make up all those microseconds of advantage late in the race.
Andretti Comments on TJ…
Jeff Andretti explained to me after the race that TJ was actually beaten in some laps as we looked at the times, but the other drivers had lap times that varied wildly. “TJ has won 14 of 15 races (like today) because he is so consistent in all his driving motions and we are very pleased with his progress. The runner-up today was a great driver as well, but not as steady as TJ. TJ beat a national champion recently in Sonoma because of his craftiness in his racing plan.”
I reflected upon that for a moment and remember my younger brother being a State Champion Soccer Coach at Lakeridge High School in Oregon. The talent and the game savvy ARE there in the Fischer gene pool! Obviously, I am a very proud uncle and brother.
In short, very few young men have the unique athletic and mental temperament to survive, and to flourish, in this punishing sport. THIS is why he chose racing over football, as he has already won one racing series title this year and is expecting to win several more, thus his movement next year up to the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires. This means a bigger, faster car and is only two levels below Indy cars when his season begins in the new year. He will be stepping into the professional ranks and he will not know many of his competitors, as they will come from not only the U.S., but also Europe, Asia, Central and South America to see who can prevail and move to the next levels.
Can a FishDuck fly? No, but my nephew can! His career will be fun to keep an eye on, and on occasion I will let the extended FishDuck family of readers know of his progress. Of course, he is always looking for additional sponsorship help, and I would encourage people to support this wonderful young man pursuing a vision that THIS Fischer can only dream about. I support his decision (while still attending college) and will enjoy hearing the stories from his father about his racing experiences to pass along to all of you. I hope you had as an eye-opening learning experience as I did with this, and I thank the Andretti racing team for sharing the inside info of this brutal sport.
While TJ is not a Duck, (yet!) and it is not football…”oh how we love to learn a little about racing!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
To follow TJ racing action;
@travisjfischer; twitter and instagram
For marketing partnership inquires contact Erik Michael Lech at JAM Marketing Partners 602-405-0757 jammarketingpartners.com or email@example.com
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