Many people spend long parts of their childhood — and sometimes even their later lives — dreaming of becoming a racecar driver, including the noble sport of NASCAR. Just about every NASCAR driver’s story you hear is some lifelong pursuit of motorsport excellence that likely started when they were just 4 or 5 years old. With that in mind, we come to our core question today: is it possible to become a NASCAR driver with no experience?
If you were in possession of a racing license, then there’s no absolute reason why you couldn’t become a NASCAR driver without having had prior experience. Perhaps the somewhat more important question here is how likely would it be that you succeeded in becoming one without having raced before. A number of things need to be firmly in place before you get your place on a NASCAR race course:
- You need your racing license at the NASCAR level, which generally requires completion of a lower-level license first
- You need the support and endorsement of a racing team, unless you happen to have enough money to found and finance your own team
- You need enough skill and success that you have enough sponsorship in place to keep your team financially viable while you race
Your regular driver’s license is not enough to start racing in NASCAR, or in any other serious motorsport, for that matter. Armed only with a regular driver’s license, you won’t get further than your local go-kart course.
To get a NASCAR license, one can apply through the organization’s online channels, or at any official NASCAR track. There are forms and waivers to fill out and sign in order to just get the process started. There’s also a drug test that applicants have to pass.
It is quite typical that before you’ll be considered for the highest-level NASCAR license to compete in the Cup Series, you’ll first need to compete at a lower level and accrue points to prove your mettle and skill.
This isn’t definitely the case, but given the nature of your competition and the roads they have taken to becoming a top driver, it’s unlikely that the organization would settle for anything less than that.
Technically speaking, if you do have the right kind of license, there’d be no legal obstacle to you becoming a NASCAR driver. If you were able to obtain that license without much formal racing experience, then one could say that it is technically possible to become a NASCAR driver with no experience.
However, other factors make that a near impossible thing in the real and practical world.
NASCAR is a clash of individual drivers, for sure, but none of those drivers would be there without the wholehearted and committed support of their team. To be clear, teams are different from manufacturers in NASCAR.
Contrary to some people’s belief, Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet are not teams in the sport, but rather “manufacturers” who supply teams with the cars and parts they need to equip their racers.
To get into NASCAR, you need team support, though if you happen to have some special connection with Ford, Toyota, or Chevy’s racing divisions, then perhaps they can help to make the right introductions. Lacking that — as the vast majority of people would — you need the genuine attention and admiration of a real team.
The team essentially finances your journey into NASCAR. In return, they hope to make that money (and some healthy profit) back from your victories and hopefully from the sponsorships that your growing reputation will attract.
With the right connections to a team or at least its leadership, you could well find yourself a NASCAR racer with little to no experience, but once again it seems unlikely. In a world where teams are under pressure from their sponsors and investors to choose only the best and most proven drivers, it’s unlikely even the most enthusiastic team leader or other figure could justify choosing a driver of so little experience or pedigree.
To become a serious contender for any NASCAR team, you really need to be someone that sponsors either already like, or will come to like. One might easily think that it’s purely down to one’s racing skill, but in this modern age of social media and sensitive public attention to various matters, there’s quite a bit more to it now.
Without the racing experience, you’d have to rely on sponsors knowing that you are nonetheless someone of excellent driving skill, and also an individual of formidable character.
When one understands the typical path of the NASCAR driver, you start to notice a certain number of things that they generally have in common:
- They started racing from a very young age, probably karts first, but then moving up the ladder
- They have participated in other lower competitions such as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series
- They have had lifelong connections to the sport, either through parents who were drivers or pit crew members, or something similar
Now, this isn’t to say that these are the only ways into the sport — particularly the third point — but the reason they’re common features is because it remains the best way to guarantee a spot. Most of this generally applies to the Cup Series, of course.
The lower series such as XFinity could well be more open to those with less experience, and therefore one could say technically getting into NASCAR with no experience is just a matter of getting that all-important license.
However, the most-loved Cup Series is a special league of its own, both literally and figuratively, and without experience it would seem that it’s very unlikely that any driver would be able to become a part of it.