Feeling Time

Race-car driver Nick Boulle, winner of the 2017 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, discusses mastering one’s perspective of time.

By: Nick Boulle

At 10 years old, when the world still moved slowly … I had the opportunity to sit in the passenger seat of a Ferrari race car. The driver beside me worked to extract every bit of power and grip out of the car in order to go as quickly as he possibly could, lap after lap. Everything was happening so fast. I couldn’t understand how something could be so close to the edge, so ragged, dangerous, and fast. After a few laps the driver pulled into the pits, and I stepped out of the passenger seat and declared, “I want to be a race-car driver.” Two years later, I began racing karts and eventually progressed through the automotive ladder to cars.

Nick Boulle

In a race car, your performance is measured in your lap times. The more time you spend behind the wheel working toward the car’s limit, the more sensitive you become to a race car’s every movement. You process more and more of what happens all around you. With this heightened state of awareness, you begin to control your perspective on time.

Strapped tightly into the cockpit of a race car, the separation between the tires and your hands—or your perception of it—becomes almost nonexistent. Every movement, bump, and slide is processed faster than one can think consciously. As you push to keep the car right to the limit, it can take five one-thousandths of a second to save the car from disaster, but that limit helps you bend time. With practice, mental strength, and focus, these fleeting bursts of time begin to feel like they last forever.

Nick Boulle accepting the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona trophy.

Growing up in the jewelry business—my family owns De Boulle’s, a watch retailer in Dallas—I saw the importance of time to people from an early age. Why else would so many people put so much emotion, expertise, art, and technology into a timepiece? Time shapes everything around us and is a huge factor in every experience we have.

When you do something you love—for me that thing is pushing a race car to its limit—time stands still. For some, enjoying a piece of art they love can leave them lost in the moment for minutes or even hours that seem to pass in an instant.

Nick Boulle on the track.

It is in these moments that we extract the best from ourselves. This concept of time shapes our actions, experiences, and endeavors. While we measure time in precise increments, reliably tracked with a momentary glance at the wrist, that same glimpse can bring back an infinite memory of beautiful moments.

Nick Boulle during the race.