The Race “What should we do?” John Carter was not sure, but his brother and partner, Fred Carter, was on the phone and needed a decision. Should they run in the race or not? It had been a successful season so far, but the Pocono race was important because of the prize money and TV exposure it promised. This first year had been hard because the team was trying to make a name for itself, and so had to run in a lot of small races. A successful outing could mean more sponsors, a chance to start making some profits for a change, and the luxury of racing only in major events. But if they suffered another engine failure on national television…. “These engine failures are a pain in the butt,” thought John. The team’s car had failed 7 times in 24 outings this season with various degrees of damage to the engine and car. No one could figure out why. It took a lot of sponsor money to replace a $20,000 racing engine, and the wasted entry fees were no small matter either. John and Fred had everything they owned riding on Carter Racing. This season had to be a success. Paul Edwards, the engine mechanic, was guessing the engine problem was related to ambient air temperature. He argued that when it was cold, the different expansion rates for the head and block were damaging the head gasket and causing the engine failures. It was below freezing last night, which meant a cold morning for starting the race. Tom Burns, the chief mechanic, did not agree with Paul’s “gut feeling,” and had data to support his position (see Exhibit 1). He pointed out that gasket failures had occurred over the entire temperature range, which meant temperature was not the issue. Tom had been racing for twenty years, and believed that luck was an important element in success. “In racing, you are pushing the limits of what is known,” he often said, “and that means some things are not going to be under control. If you want to win, you have to take risks, and everybody in racing knows it. The drivers have their lives on the line, I have a
career that hangs on every race, and you guys have got every dime tied up in the business. That’s the thrill of it: beating the odds and winning.” Last night over dinner he had added to this argument forcefully with what he called Burns’ First Law of Racing: “Nobody ever won a race sitting in the pits.” John, Fred, and Tom had discussed Carter Racing’s situation the previous evening. This first season was a success from a racing standpoint, with the team’s car finishing in the top five in 12 of the 15 races it completed (see Exhibit 2).
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- Fall '07
- 1968, 1979, 1944