Thought for the Day: Emulating sucess


Below is a story that I wrote on our  website almost 8 years ago. It illustrates an important point about Emulating Success, even if you are yet to understand the exact logic and reason behind it. I have regrouped a lot of the older information on the main site to give better access, you can find the notes on it here: Reference posts and updates to




From our old site:


“When I was 18 years old and getting started in drag racing in New Jersey, I was working at a speed shop called  “Speed World in Union.” Our home track was Englishtown, site of the NHRA Summer Nationals. Even the sportsman racing was  fiercely competitive. We were fortunate enough to have one of the East Coast NHRA Class champions, as the shop’s  sponsored racer. He lived a few blocks from the shop, had a day job with UPS, but he took drag racing very seriously, and made a lot of money at it.


In drag racing’s single eliminations, defeating your competitor is referred to as “trailering” him. Frequently,  in 8 rounds of eliminations, our sponsored racer Bill would trailer everyone he came up against. Initially it seemed like magic or voodoo. Only in  time did I learn that it was meticulous preparation, checklists and concentration that were the key elements of his success.  As a starting point, I chose to emulate his success, even if I did not fully comprehend his methods. I figured that it was better to win with incomplete understanding than to lose with my own ‘style’ and still not understand why.  I copied all his style and techniques, down to wearing the same kind of sneakers. Before I understood what made his success tick, I made the conscious decision that I would clone his approach, because it worked. I still use this as a model of success when I approach any new task.


The logic of this approach makes even more sense in experimental aviation. I try to teach builders to do installations exactly how we show, even if you are yet to understand why. If it has long worked for us, than reality dictates that if you clone it, and operate it the same way, then is has to long work for you just the same, even if you are yet to understand the logic or physics behind it.


When I was 18, Bill seemed very old, wise and powerful. Kind of an Obi-Wan Kenobi of drag racing. Looking back now, I can guess he was about 30 years old, an age I couldn’t yet imagine. While all traces of my youth, or even age 30 are long gone, the lessons of meticulous preparation and emulating success that I learned decades ago at the drag strip still serve me today.” -ww.




“You Can’t win at the drag strip, you only lose there” This was a NJ drag strip motto that was taught to me by Bill. When he said it, most people were unwilling to think about it and consider it. If you listened, he would explain that your goal in drag racing was to prepare the car perfectly, adjust it to the exact track conditions, get your brain in gear and focused, and go lay down a perfect run. How you win is by having the other guy neglect some prep aspect, and lose for you. Drag racing isn’t like any other motor sport; no driver can make up for a poorly prepped car, nor a moments inattention. Now stop and think about how close that is to successful homebuilding, where the world’s greatest pilot can’t do anything about a plane that wasn’t ready to take off, nor does it matter how much attention he pays on average, the only thing that determines success is how he deals with a few critical seconds.





Here is a connection very few people make: Drag racings appeal is much the same a Dueling’s was: Two people start on a fair basis, it is over quickly, the matter is settled, and there is no talk of “do overs” or “the best of three.” The finality of the decision has great appeal for people who dislike ambiguity or spinning outcomes. A few years ago there was a fake TV show about racing where  it was 2 out of 3 with a lot of talk in between rounds. I want to assure people real drag racing is nothing like that.


 The most famous duel in American history was Aaron Burr vs. Alexander Hamilton in 1804. If you want to understand something of the nature of people from New Jersey, Drag racing is the state sport, and The track at Englishtown is less than 40 miles from the spot in Weehawken where Burr killed Hamilton.


I never cease to be amazed at how stupid the average media personality is. Not just on physics; CNN and Wolf Blitzer: “Flammable Helium”  But on history as well. When Dick Cheney accidently shot his hunting partner in 2006 nearly every media outlet ran a story essentially saying that this was unprecedented.  Evidently they all should have failed US history, because Burr was the sitting Vice President when he killed Hamilton.


Aaron Burr was a very highly educated and principled man. Most of the original contemporary  letters on Hamilton paint him as a weasel. As Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton politically maneuvered to put  great power in the federal bank. He would have been completely at home running the dirtiest political campaign of today. To him, the ends always justified any means.


Hamilton was born in the west indies, and was bastard child (something he like to hide) . Thus he was unqualified to be president, and would not have been considered to have the social status of “Gentleman.”   This last point was vital, because dueling code forbid a Gentleman from calling out a common man, because it was assumed that the wealthy could afford far better training with swords and pistols, and to use that against the unprepared was cowardly and illegal in most places. (Hamilton had always lead his life as a “Gentleman” and this was critical to his ego. )  Thus is Hamilton wanted to live, all he had to do was admit he was not a Gentleman. Through intermediates he tried for two weeks to negotiate a face saving settlement, but Burr would have none of it. They hated each other, but the final straw for Burr was Hamilton writing anonymous press stories saying that Burr had an incestuous interest in his own daughter.  A clever political scam, but he was a terrible shot and missed Burr, and the VP paid him back with a .56 caliber lead ball in the spleen.


It sounds harsh, but I will say that when Hank Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs who became Secretary of the Treasury in 2006, made delusional statements about the economic collapse in 2008, I did give a moment to consider the wisdom of Aaron Burr’s “retirement program” for former Treasury Secretaries. We are obviously a much more civil society in America 200 years later, but maybe we have gained this at a loss of fair and swift justice.




About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at and in more than 50 magazine articles.

5 Responses to Thought for the Day: Emulating sucess

  1. Earnie Fontenot says:

    I am not so certain that we are a more civil society today than 200 years ago. I don’t think we are any less civil either.
    As time goes on technology obviously advances but the condition of the human heart is the same. There have always been good people and there have always been bad people. That remains even today.
    What I think has changed in our country is that there are more people with less fortitude than in the past.
    This reminds me of a quote a dear departed friend used to say: “Our country use to have men made of steel and ships made of wood, now the ships are made of steel and the men of wood.”
    I don’t say this pertains to everyone just more than it used to.

  2. Carl Orton says:

    Thanks for the memories; I raced a Duster 340 on grudge nights at Englishtown in the early ’70’s. Great learning experience. I’ll even admit that I didn’t have the patience or maturity to prep as Bill would have….

  3. dan glaze says:

    A very educated man, his father was the founder of the college of new jersey, now known as Princeton, all of this before dying at the very young age of 41, dan-o

  4. Terry Hand says:


    Emulating success is only necessary, depending on your goals. If you want to win at the drag strip, then emulate success. If you want to finish your airplane and fly, then emulate success.

    However, if you want to emulate success and would rather be a maverick, and “do it your way” because you don’t like people telling you exactly how to do things, then don’t win at the strip, and don’t fly. Just make sure and be honest with those around you. Be adult enough to say, “I could be finished and flying, or flying a lot more than I am, but I don’t like instruction and I like to be the decision maker. I would rather brag and tell people I am doing it my way than to actually be flying.”

    One other thing. Emulating success is not a smorgasbord/buffet table approach. You don’t pick and choose what you want to emulate. You emulate it all.

  5. Terry Hand says:

    I meant to say, ‘If you don’t want to emulate success and would rather be a maverick…”

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