The Top Three XI: Dale Earnhardt

Today I’m thrilled to bring you a guest post from The Blogging Thunder From Down Under. It’s been a while since the MacQuarie Bank let him out of the vault, so I hope you enjoy Doug Hudgeon’s guest post – as it might be a while before they let him out of the vault again.

Aaah, the number three. Is there another number so pregnant with

metaphor and meaning? Tripartite systems have been in vogue for

centuries with everyone from Euclid (triangle) to the Christian God

(Trinity) to Adam Smith (Rents, Wages and Stock Profits) speaking in

threes. Given our apparently innate tendency towards triposis, Michael

has chosen wisely his topic of the Top 3.

I associate “Top 3” with Dale Earnhardt, who dominated the NASCAR

speedways driving car number 3 – he was undoubtedly, the Top 3 of his

era. And from there, I am reminded of a terrific article by David

Ronfeldt, “Social Science at 190 MPH on NASCARs Biggest Speedways“.

The article discusses the conditions under which competitors cooperate

on the NASCAR circuit (cars drafting in a line travel faster) and the

conditions under which they compete (a driver can ‘defect’ from the

car in front by pulling aside from the lead car’s bumper thus trapping

the lead car outside the drafting line causing the car to lose as many

places as there are cars in the line; whilst running the risk that the

third car may follow the first thus leaving the ‘defector’ hung out to


The article concludes that the best strategy is tit-for-tat,

cooperating with those who cooperate with you and punishing those who

leave you hung out to dry. This allows you to develop allegiances with

‘friends’ and discourages your friends from defecting. The drivers

viewed as most capable of leading others to the front will develop the

most friends – success breeds success.

There’s lessons in this for all of us.