The two Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup races at St. Petersburg this past weekend were real thrillers, but they also reminded me of a very important aspect of racing: you have to keep your head up and stay optimistic during a race even if things aren’t going your way, because you never know what will happen next.

You’ll hear the saying, “That’s why they run the race,” and this weekend at St. Petersburg certainly proved that. It’s easy to make assumptions about how a race will go, but you never truly know what will happen. A tight battle for position might end in an incident, or a fast driver might have a mechanical issue. Maybe a race leader doesn’t save their equipment and has to go into survival mode for the final laps. In short, it’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings!

One way to gain a competitive advantage is to pull mental stamina from optimism and the excitement that optimism brings. It’s basic sports psychology, and for me—and probably most drivers—it really does make a difference. When you keep a positive outlook, your performance will be much better. (Of course, driving in anger can sometimes inject some adrenaline and confidence, too, which fuels certain drivers!)

This positive outlook is something you can practice and program your mind for. This applies to your pre-race mindset, but it can also help give you a boost during a race, when things aren’t going right. You can refocus and redirect your thoughts to improve your driving performance.

Even with really good drivers and teams, unexpected things can still happen. This past weekend at St. Pete certainly proved that! But even amidst adversity, it’s important to maintain a positive outlook so you can continue pushing forward, whether you’re in the middle of a race or the middle of the season.