Revealing what all champions have in common

By Tim Suddard
Jan 14, 2024 | John Morton, jay leno, Column, Randy Pobst, David Hobbs, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Trevor Lawrence | Posted in Columns | From the April 2023 issue | Never miss an article

Photograph Courtesy Nissan

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Like a lot of Americans, I follow football. And when my beloved Jaguars reach the playoffs, I’ll drop everything and rearrange my schedule to watch them play. 

I’m usually out in L.A. for SEMA meetings during the playoffs, and I’ll do whatever it takes to find a bar showing the game. I have juggled getting together with Jay Leno for dinner just so I can watch what some might call a silly ball game.

While I don’t know Tom Brady, Trevor Lawrence or Patrick Mahomes, I do know what a winner looks like, and I see that same fire in car guys like Jay Leno or, on the track, John Morton, Randy Pobst and David Hobbs.

One similarity that I’ve noted among the on-track winners: They’re all very kind people. Leno seems to have all the time in the world for me as well as anyone who comes up to him on the street.

I asked him once if he was just showing off and trying to impress me with how nice he is. He replied with a “Hell no.” Most famous comedians make some money and then isolate themselves from real people, he told me, driving in limousines and flying via private jets. They lose touch with reality–and with it, the source for real material. The funny stuff in life is found on the streets, not on a Gulfstream.

John Morton, Randy Pobst and David Hobbs are arguably the fiercest drivers to ever put on a helmet, but having known them for decades, I can tell you they’re also some of the nicest, kindest guys you could ever meet.

How can nice people win? These guys do it every day.

These champions have another thing in common: They’re driven. Brady loves winning and kept playing long after he had anything left to prove. 

When Leno left “The Tonight Show,” he could have retired and never worked another day in his life. But he did the only thing he knows how to do and started another fantastic TV show. Plus, he still travels around the country for events and stand-up shows. Hobbs started another career in broadcasting, and John Morton and Randy Pobst still race every chance they get.

These champions share another common trait: They want to be the best in the show. Morton wouldn’t be interested in being pretty good at racing, and just being on TV will never be an end goal for Leno. 

So, with the Super Bowl over and me back in Ormond Beach, Florida–where I have cars to restore, dishes to do and trash to take out–I’m left trying to hold onto just a piece of what I’ve learned from these champions.

I try to be kind to everyone I meet. I try to stay true to my goal of making this publication ever better, and I try to live my life, despite setbacks every day, like some of these champions I’ve gotten to know.

I guess if there’s a moral to my story, it’s that winners don’t do so by accident. They set out to win. They encounter failure. They pick themselves back up and keep fighting until they’re back on top.

As you get ready for another race or autocross season, try to be like Mahomes, Hobbs and the rest of these winners and practice, learn and win.

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/17/23 11:36 a.m.

And a rather timely happy birthday to John Morton. 

Datsun310Guy MegaDork
2/17/23 12:28 p.m.

We had a regional branch manager that told our branch manager that he was too nice.  He encouraged him to be a dick and be harder on people.  Regional finally retired.  

I try to be kind as in the scheme of the whole thing, this is all minor E36 M3.  No need to get all worked up over this world.  

Ebby GRM+ Memberand New Reader
2/17/23 1:28 p.m.

Treat yourself well too. It counts for a great deal of your happiness.

Mike E

apexdc New Reader
2/17/23 2:22 p.m.

Phil Conte, who knew lots of drivers and ran some great programs such as the IMSA GTP Buicks, once told me if somebody didn't like John Morton, there was just something wrong with them. 

I couldn't agree more. 

Tom1200 UberDork
2/17/23 2:51 p.m.

I O sono contento, Sempre (I am glad always).

Regardless of whether your no name club racer (me) or the aforementioned John Morton the key is to realize that we are blessed. I know so many people who would absolutely love to be on track but will never get the opportunity. Sure I never became 125cc GP world champ or race F1 I've done a lot of cool things. The inner calm that brings is priceless.

Even at the local level I'm always looking to improve or for an opportunity to improve. Racing is the only reason I've managed to be successful in my work life. Racing taught me to keep my eyes and ears open for opportunity.

Whether running the Challange or challenging for a RunOffs win; we are blessed to be able to do this.

SCCA43 GRM+ Memberand New Reader
1/14/24 1:35 p.m.

Jay Leno is a car collector, not a racer.

DavyZ New Reader
1/14/24 3:00 p.m.
SCCA43 said:

Jay Leno is a car collector, not a racer.

"I see that same fire in car guys like Jay Leno or, on the track, John Morton, Randy Pobst and David Hobbs."  

The statement never said he was a racer.  He is a total car guy, though.  Nice guys who win always have a following that lasts and they are fondly remembered by their fans.  Difficult people are often forgotten simply because no one truly desires to remember them.  The kind people I have met have made the greatest impacts on my life, not the shiny happy people.

OHSCrifle GRM+ Memberand UberDork
1/14/24 5:02 p.m.

On a similar note..

I read a very relevant testimonial/tribute to Nick Saban this morning - and I feel compelled to share it

(I don't know this guy but his post came up in my feed so he must watch Kevin Bacon movies or something)


erdocmitch New Reader
1/15/24 3:25 p.m.

Nice is Nice. 

We need to be inclusive and nice to people to keep this hobby alive.  I can't rent out Sebring for a track day or club race.  I need my Spec Miata and Champcar fellow racers to split the costs- same with autocross, car shows, cars and coffee  or just wrenching in the garage.   It feels great to be encouraging, approachable and you know, nice.

JeremyGS New Reader
1/15/24 3:44 p.m.

Thanks Tim, great topic.    Looking at it another way.....  As I have watched the grill of on one of most of our favorite sports cars transform from a happy guppy to an angry little bird of pray, one has to ask, does all this “in your face attitude” that seems so prevalent in our society these days really beneficial to a social species such as our own?  Of course automobile grills are just a reflection of design/marketing think buyers want, but it’s a reflection on us as a whole I think.


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