Q: “Can you give me some racing career advice? I want to race frequently, win regional championships or qualify to drive for a PWC team, dreams of winning a national championship or PWC season, and fantasies of what I want to do in motorsports. So what’s next? I know my limitations as I have a full-time job, and I can’t sacrifice everything for the dream, but I am willing to work for advancement. Should I run different race series every year? Race at more tracks? Or instead, try to race different cars at the same tracks? Take time off from racing to get sponsors with what time I have available? Stop racing and spend my time/money at racing schools to get better before I compete again? Help!”
A: Hmmm… that’s not an easy question to answer! But here are a few general thoughts…
- If you’re looking to make an impression on people who might be able to help you, you need to make a big impression. Just being there and maybe winning a race or two rarely makes a big impression.
- Race where you can dominate. It’s better to dominate at a lower level than just place well in a higher level. Of course, there’s a limit to this (I think of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer is beating up on 10-year-olds in a kid’s karate class). But people take notice of someone dominating, and I think too many drivers are in too big a hurry to move up to the next level.
- Race where you have the biggest budget. If you have a million dollars, race in PWC. If you have $100,000, race in SCCA Majors. If you have $25,000, race in Champcar. If you have $1,000, race in soap box derby. Look at what money you have to spend, and then where can you race where you will have the biggest budget and can dominate. Go do that, and then let people know you dominated.
- It always comes down to how bad you want it. If you want it bad enough, you will do what it takes to make it work. If you don’t want to sacrifice what it takes, that’s okay. Just don’t be bitter and frustrated by that – accept that that’s as bad as you want it. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, or aren’t a great driver; it’s just that you made a decision about what was right for you at this point in your life. Some drivers become very bitter about not having someone give them a ride because they are so talented. Don’t be one of them. Accept what happens – but also do whatever you’re willing to do to make whatever you want happen.
- As for chasing sponsorship, I think your best bet is to surround yourself with people who care about you. Spend time networking, meeting people. Let your passion for what you do show through, and eventually someone will think, “I’d like to help him – he obviously can drive since he dominated that series, he’s a good person, and he’s committed and passionate about making it. I’ll help.” I’m not saying looking for sponsorship is a bad idea – it’s something you should do. But prioritize meeting the right people, and building a “team” of people around you who want to help.
- With sponsorship, always remember that what you want does not matter one bit. All that matters is what you can do for whomever you’re approaching for sponsorship. It’s all about them.
- Obviously, I’m biased, but coaching is super-rewarding, and maybe doing that is more important than driving. Or maybe not. Whatever is right for you.
Hopefully I’ve given you something to think about, and there’s something in here that helps you get clear on what you should do. Every driver is different, and every way of making it in racing is different. You need to find out what works for you. And the advice I’ve given does not work 100% of the time. I believe it works more than it doesn’t, and that’s why I’m giving it to you. But there’s always an exception the rule.
Always keep in mind why you do this. It’s fun. So keep having fun, and if it stops being fun, find something that is fun – and is maybe a bit easier!