Date of Award

August 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Barbara B. Meyer

Committee Members

Kyle T. Ebersole, Monna M. Arvinen-Barrow


Auto, Motorsport, Oval, Psychology, Racing, Road


Introduction: Given the global popularity and far-reaching economics of auto racing, it is surprising how few studies have examined the sport generally and the psychological aspects of the sport specifically. Consistent with this general lack of research is the specific absence of studies examining the psychological skills needed to participate in the two main disciplines of auto racing, specifically oval and road racing. The purpose of the current study was to examine the use of psychological skills by athletes who participate in distinct sub-disciplines within the sport of auto racing, specifically oval racers and road racers. Methods: A total of 106 amateur oval racers (n = 51) and road racers (n = 55) completed the Test of Performance Strategies - 2 (TOPS-2). Results: Road racers scored significantly higher than oval racers on emotional control (p < .001) and significantly lower than oval racers on negative thinking (p < .004), on the competition subscale of the TOPS-2. No significant differences were observed between the two groups on any of the practice subscales of the TOPS-2. Road racers participated in significantly fewer races than oval racers in the past two seasons (Mroad = 14.00, Moval = 37.59, p < .0001). Compared to a general population of athletes, oval racers and road racers scored significantly higher on imagery in practice (p < .004) and significantly lower on self-talk strategies in both practice and competition (p < .004). Discussion: The differences observed between oval and road racers may be due to their opportunities for competition. Road racers may use psychological skills to a different extent than oval racers in order to effectively cope with the challenges associated with fewer opportunities for competition. Compared to other athletes, both oval and road racers reported more frequent use of imagery in practice settings, which may be due to their practice habits. Due to the financial and logistical constraints of practice, racing drivers may rely on imagery (e.g., cognitive-general imagery) to facilitate strategy acquisition and execution. The specific type of imagery used by racing drivers, along with an examination of the psychological skills used by professional drivers for improved performance, are topics for future study. In line with the results of the current study, practitioners are encouraged to work with drivers to develop their imagery skills. Overall, those interested in studying or working with racing drivers should look for opportunities to collaborate with other professionals (e.g., strength and conditioning coach, mental training coach, driver coach, crew chief) so that they can focus on driver development by utilizing an integrated approach to performance enhancement.

Included in

Kinesiology Commons