Key Mental Skills in Race Car Driving – Dr. Kevin L. Burke

Podium’s Podcast of the Month – Featuring – Dr. Kevin L. Burke

Editor’s note: As the summer creeps into view, NASCAR is beginning to ramp up and The IRL is gaining momentum.  America’s favorite racing venues are virtually sold out weeks in advance as fans clamor to catch all the action.  Emerging as one of this countries most popular sports – NASCAR racing is capturing new fans every week.  The why is not hard to figure as race cars reach speeds approaching 200 mph in tight conditions and not a week goes by without at least one crash.  The risk to life and limb is immense and the sport challenges a team to deliver week in and week out.  Of course, the success or demise of a team rests in the skill of their driver, whose task is to win or be competitive every time the flag drops.  The job takes more than skill and guts….it is vital that drivers are both physically gifted and mentally tough enough to endure four hours of the most grueling of conditions.

Dr. Kevin L. Burke is a long time member of AASP – and is one of the  foremost authorities on the psychology of motor sports in the country.  This Podcast serves as the benchmark for this topic in Podium Sports Journal and we are pleased to have his insights and observations on this insanely popular sport.

Burke gives a thorough synopsis of how – concentration, focusing techniques, pre-race preparation, the use of imagery, and the ability to manage strong emotions – are indispensable mental skills every successful racing driver is constantly working to improve.  In addition, Burke speaks to how one recovers from mistakes and can use anger productively to race better.

We suggest that you review previous interviews in Podium with Dr. Ken Hodge on his use of Critical Action Response Strategy for training drivers, and Dr. Ashwin Patel, whose doctoral research on the “Mental Demands of Professional Motocross Racers” is most illuminating.  Finally, it should be noted that sustaining motivation during the long and arduous season drivers experience is treated in one of Podium’s more popular articles by Dr. Tami Eggleston “Get and Stay Motivated”.

Here is Burke’s podcast: Dr Kevin L. Burke – Psychology of Motorsports April 30 2010


Dr. Kevin L. Burke is Professor and Director of the School of Kinesiology and Recreation at Illinois State University.  He also maintains a private consulting business, Kevin L. Burke Enterprises.  He has assisted professional, college, high school and recreational athletes in various sports – and- maintains research interests in momentum, optimism, humor and personal control.  He has long served as an intercollegiate basketball official, was head coach of three NCAA Division I tennis teams, and has driven stock cars at various motor speedways around the country including Charlotte, Atlanta and Bristol.  Another podcast of Burke’s comments on issues and events in motorsports can be found at Burke on Motorsports.

You can email Dr. Burke for more information at: [email protected]

One thought on “Key Mental Skills in Race Car Driving – Dr. Kevin L. Burke

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