Q: Given the chance, do I pass now or wait to the last lap?

Q: “Imagine a scenario: I am in the second position trying to grab first place as the car is close to me in front. I have many laps to go. Should I try to overtake as soon as I can or wait for the race to come down to only a few laps to the finish, and then make my move? What type of strategy do you think is best? Should I hold back a little and wait to make a move later or just try to overtake him as soon as possible while I have more laps?”

A: Knowing when to pass and when to be patient to set up for one later in a race is what racecraft is all about. The decision in this situation comes down to this: If you make the pass now, can you put enough of a gap between you and the other car that it makes it unlikely he will be able to re-pass you?

The only time you should not take advantage of a passing opportunity is if by doing so you’re putting yourself in a position to be overtaken again – and often without enough time to re-pass again, such as the last lap. If it’s going to be one of those races that comes down to who makes the last pass on the last lap, which doesn’t give the other driver a chance to re-pass, then wait. But if by passing now you can put yourself in a position where the other driver won’t be able to pass you back, then take advantage of the opportunity as soon as possible.

By passing the other car now, you give yourself a chance to pull out a lead, and that might be a big benefit.

The other thing to keep in mind is if it’s going to come down to the last lap pass, and it’s relatively early in the race, you might even want to practice that pass now. Set up the pass and make it as if it’s the last lap, so you’re prepared. Of course, the downside of doing that is that you teach your competitor what you’re going to do – and even how he might do it back to you. So you need to decide how confident you are that you can make the pass without having done it before.

I hate to give up an opportunity to pass when it’s there, but if I need to be patient to protect my position on the last lap, I will. That’s smart racing. That’s good racecraft.


  1. Great response. In evenly matched cars, it may be easy to follow and even to pass, but impossible to get away from the other car. Are you more comfortable attacking or defending? Use the laps to turn it into a two-car race by cooperating. Burn up the laps, and with 3 or 4 to go figure out what you want to try.

  2. I found myself in that very situation in the last race of the season with the regional title on the line. Actually the strategy began the day before in practice. On the straights I would only use 7/8ths throttle. I would also try to be the last one out so not to show my lines. In the race I decided to follow as I knew my competitor was smart, our machines were very equal and he would adapt his strategy. It’s a chess game and one has to evaluate their competitors. What are their strengths and where is it possible to go faster and what is a pace I could run consistently all the while evaluating lapped traffic. Trying to run away risks excessive tire wear, but waiting patiently may also fail due to lapped traffic and track conditions, like a race ending red flag or a full course caution. I would always set one goal, to make my last lap my best lap.


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