A lot of memorable things happened in 2016, some of them not so Dungey.
Last year’s American Sedan Runoff race was a real burner. Tom Sloe spun early and put on a beautiful showcase as he clawed back up through the field. But near the end succumbed to anger, pulled the car to side of the track, and purposefully laid in wait for the leader to come around to clean him out. He’ll definitely be remembered, but his reputation in the racing world has taken a massive plummet.
Jon Wes Townley and Spencer Gallagher, drivers in the Camping World series, got into a fist fight on the track after a tangle eliminated them both from competition. How embarrassing for their sponsors, supporters, crew, management, fans, the sanctioning body, and themselves.
I also remember Mike Alessi giving a competitor the finger on national television while battling for a million dollar payout. He lost, in more ways than one.
Your reputation is a powerful asset.
So how do you protect yourself from losing everything in the heat of the moment? How do you ensure that you’re maximizing your chances of having people like you, network with you, and help you?
It all starts with who you look up to. If you choose to study and emulate racers who possess the best traits, strategies, and skills, you’ll carry a sizable advantage over someone choosing to act in the heat of the moment.
Poor decisions are most often fueled by emotion in the moment. Making the choice to act and process information a certain way ahead of time will pay dividends for years to come.
So let’s talk about the best role model in the current racing world, and the reasons we should all be looking up to him. He’s known for his friendliness, self control, professionalism, social skills, top level fitness, and clean racing style. He is the complete package, and you should do everything within your power to emulate him.
Ryan Dungey, Monster Energy Supercross
I love Supercross. It’s my absolute, number one, all time favorite racing to watch. The series is unique, and allows you to learn each racer’s style. Rather than watching a car, you can see the rider, his decision making process, his level of comfort, and his determination.
I have been enthusiastically following Ryan Dungey’s career since he turned pro. As a three-time national champion in the SX class of Monster Energy Supercross (going for four in 2017), you can imagine that he has some valuable insight on success. There is so much to learn from watching Ryan, but I want to focus on three things in particular.
Dungey possesses a natural trait that you rarely see in the racing world. Patience. Not regular patience, like watching the top ten drivers wait to start battling until the final lap on a superspeedway. I’m talking long term patience. I’m talking about the kind of patience that pays off in several months at the end of the racing season.
Ryan likes to wait. As other riders shoot off ahead of him, Dungey settles in, nails his lines and is happy to bring home another second or third place finish. This concept is foreign to many of us who are dying to win. But the truth is that no one remembers who won races, they remember who won championships.
While other riders ride beyond their abilities to get a single win, Ryan plays the long game. He knows that you can’t ride outside the envelope for too long. Eventually, the risks will catch up with you. We’ve seen it multiple times throughout his career.
There have been two instances in particular that Dungey’s patience and long term strategy has paid off. In 2015 Eli Tomac has the fast favorite to win the National Motocross series. But at the third event, Tomac’s risky speed caught up with him and result in this spectacular crash…
…which gave both the win and the series points lead to Dungey, who has playing it cool in second place.
The second example is exactly the same. Only this time the fast favorite was Ken Roczen. Just like Tomac, Ken overdrove the first two events of the season while Ryan remained in second, laying in wait…
Just like the previous example, Dungey took the win and moved into the points series lead.
This strategy obviously works for Dungey, who recently came off a 31 race podium streak! At the end of the 2016 season, Ryan clinched the series championship two races early because he never had a poor finish.
To be perfectly clear, Ryan does wins races. Lots of races. He is currently the 6th most winning rider in the history of Supercross. And while he’s accumulated a remarkable amount of race wins, they aren’t his first priority.
They call him The Diesel. And it fits perfectly with his unstoppable strategy of patience.
Roger De Coster, I’m your man.
Ryan Dungey didn’t grow up with wealthy parents. He wasn’t taken under the wing of a major racing organization, like Adam Cianciarulo with Kawasaki and Monster. Ryan didn’t have much support, sponsorship, or help of any kind.
As Ryan began progressing as a privateer and rubbing shoulders with top level teams and riders, he introduced himself to legendary team manager and five time champion Roger De Coster. Each time Dungey saw Roger in passing he would say, “Mr. De Coster, I’m going to ride for you someday.”
Ryan’s persistence began earning him little blips on De Coster’s radar. After watching Dungey for quite some time, Roger became impressed with his persistence, attitude, consistency, and speed through corners. Ryan finally got to test with De Coster’s Suzuki team and was hired full time soon after that.
The two have worked incredibly well together for several years. When De Coster left the Suzuki program to help KTM transition into supercross, Dungey went with him. Their team has been almost unstoppable. And it all started because of Ryan’s relentless persistence and self-advocation. When you truly believe in yourself, it rubs off on the people around you.
Ryan Dungey has developed a reputation for playing it straight. For playing it cool. For being fair, honest, level-headed, and exemplary both on and off the track. I specifically remember one race two seasons ago where a young, determined rider came up under Ryan in a bowl corner. He plowed into Dungey, forced him off the track, and keep going.
Ryan lost control of the KTM 450 and took an easy fall into the dirt. Without hesitation he righted the bike, leapt on, and tore after his assailant. It only took him a couple laps to pull up on the younger rider’s rear tire, and even less time to set him up for a clean, beautiful re-pass with no contact.
Can you make a bigger statement than that?
Dungey’s reputation has a clean rider is solid gold. His fans, employer, and sponsors love the all-American, gracious hero image that Dungey has built over the course of his life. His skills as a rider are among the greatest ever, but his reputation may be his biggest asset.
Your job description as a racing driver is simple: go win. But there’s winning and there’s winning. The first way means you’ll do anything to win, with no regard to anyone but yourself. You’ll get the trophy, but that’s about.
Winning is getting the trophy while making your sponsors and supports look good, while earning the respect of your competitors, while improving the value of your personal brand, while making the fans think “that guy is all class.”
Winning means racking up another race win. Winning is all about creating opportunities for more support, trust, sponsorship, and legacy. Ryan Dungey has clearly chosen to win.
Which will satisfy you more? Will you choose to win? Or will you choose the Dungey Method?