Theo Johnson, '23
This Spring, as German team Mercedes first started its training for the Hot Wheels JUMP TOURNAMENT RACE, I got the unique opportunity to follow the racers and coaches throughout the Hot Wheels racing season. What I found was a promising future in the hands of skillful racers, but a lack of leadership from head coach Don Jenkins. I believe Jenkins should be fired before 2022 and the contracts of all racers should be extended
December 2020 saw the Deutsche RennKoalition (the German Hot Wheels Racing Coalition) fire the entire coaching staff of Team Mercedes following the infamous “Nuclear Fire Bomb'' incident of the 2019 Season. The RennKoalition made no changes to contracts of existing racers, but decided that German race strategy was no longer a viable path for the team. Before the new year, the organization hired an entire new staff, drafted two young AMG racers, and signed a new head coach Don Jenkins. Although Jenkins’ impressive record of three NCAA Hotwheels Championships with LSU promised success, my first few weeks with the team proved otherwise.
For starters, Jenkins seemed to have no control over the team. Beyond the lack of communication between the German speaking racers and Jenkins’ southern drawl, an early morning practice showed divisions forming in the team. Before training, two members of the 2019 “Firebomb” Team cornered one of the young AMG racers in the locker room. After an exchange of angry German shouts, the 2019 racers began to beat their younger teammate. While the fight was broken up before any serious injury, the AMG racer claimed his lucky racing gloves had been stolen. In addition, Jenkins made no effort to mend the differences between the racers.
In the days approaching the first match of the JUMP TOURNAMENT RACE, another brawl broke out. This time, the two young AMG racers attacked Jonas Voigt after their belongings had been burned in a “mysterious” gasoline fire at the team’s hotel. I spoke to Jonas at the hospital after the fight.
“Ya, they attacked me, ya,” Jonas explained with a bandage over his right eye, “And [Jenkins] doesn’t care. He is happy, ya, because we will race the Americans.”
Jonas, of course, was referring to Mercedes' then upcoming race against Team All American in the first round of the JUMP TOURNAMENT RACE. And what he said was true. At a team meeting just days before the match, Jenkins laughed off the conflict between racers claiming that his time at LSU gave him a near “prophetic ability” to predict the strategies of Team All American.
Jenkins was terribly wrong. What I saw at the JUMP TOURNAMENT RACE was not a race of anticipation or predication, but rather a total failure of Jenkins’ “American Strategy”. Jonas Voigt was unable to defeat a ‘67 Mustang as it came across the line backwards. After the loss, Jonas spoke to me outside the arena. Supposedly, his “tiefenwahrnehmung” (or depth perception), which was a key technique of his style of racing, had been impaired by the patch over his eye. Jenkins had told him that “American drivers don’t need two eyes.”
But more telling than any defeat, was one of the team's few “triumphs”. Approaching the final turn of the course, one of the Young AMG drivers had the clear lead over Team All American’s Pontiac. But, his car spun out as his “sweaty hands” lost grip of the wheel. By a strike of impossible luck, the Pontiac t-boned the AMG over the line and into first place.
As the young race ran out of his car to celebrate, he waved a pair of old driving gloves in his hands. Later explained in an interview with FOX, the young racer had received an apology note from a teammate for a fight earlier that spring.
“Ya, he gave me back my lucky gloves, ya. I haven’t won a single race all year without them. Ya, he gave me back my gloves, ya.”
While Mercedes was eliminated in overall points against Team All American in the first round, the racers were able to unify brilliantly and defend Germany’s racing legacy. While the Deutsche RennKoalition may believe turning towards American strategy is the path towards another JUMP TOURNAMENT RACE trophy, I see the future in the hands - and lucky gloves - of the German racers. So, let’s fire Don Jenkins and have a 2022 season built on camaraderie, brotherhood, and perhaps a bit of tiefenwahrnehmung.