How many NASCAR fans can deny that at least once in their lives they have fantasized about becoming a professional race car driver? Whether it was NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1 or another motorsport, kids all over have entertained this dream, but of course not many actually make it into a reality.
Becoming a NASCAR driver is a challenging journey, blending early training, physical fitness, and mental toughness with financial investment. Success hinges on networking, embracing diversity, and avoiding common pitfalls, while preparing for a career beyond the track.
But what about those who want to try and get onto the path of becoming a NASCAR driver? Is it really such a challenging path? Read on to find out more.
The short answer to the question is yes. To become a NASCAR driver, especially a successful one, is a long and difficult path that most often starts in childhood. Even the very young drivers that you see on the NASCAR circuit, some of them barely even legal adults, are actually much more experienced than you might initially think.
A driver who is 19-20 years old may have been at the wheel of competitive sports vehicles since they were just 4-5 years old.
Another obstacle is connections. One phenomenon that’s quite common in the world of NASCAR is that of the family connection. Many famous NASCAR heroes of yesteryear are the proud parents of NASCAR stars today.
There’s certainly a lot of repetition when it comes to surnames, and there are more “Juniors” than you’d typically find in other sports. What this shows is that existing connections to the world of NASCAR are quite powerful in getting one more easily along the path to professional driver status.
If a career in motorsports is something that someone you know is genuinely interested in, then there are things that you can do to help the process along.
We must remember that anything can happen, and
while one might still believe that it’s “never too late to start,” the motorsports world will invariably continue to be dominated by those who entered the sport at a young age,
which brings us to our first tip:
This is more of a helpful tip for parents whose children show interest or proclivity in motorsports. The good news is that most areas of the country have access to local junior motorsports, be it carting or something else. Anything that gets a youngster behind the wheel on a track is a great starting point, and the younger the better.
One feature that defines many NASCAR drivers is that fearless daredevil spirit. Such a spirit dwells within these drivers because they fostered it from a young age.
Getting behind a go-kart wheel at the age of 5 or 6, for example, helps ensure that the kinds of fears and trepidation that hold others back from entering motorsports later never manages to take hold in their hearts. So, if you’re serious about getting a kid into motorsports, start young.
If you have a youngster attending track days and competition for go-karts or other vehicles, then make sure you maximize your potential at every event by networking and getting to know key people there. NASCAR is a private organization and a pretty close-knit kind of community.
Most entries into the sport happen by chance meetings and introductions, and especially the latter.
Those event organizers who notice talent in your kids might just know someone who knows someone else, and so it goes down the chain. Word of mouth is a powerful force since team spotters and scouts can’t realistically make it to every single event.
They rely on reports from others. So, get to know your local track officials and event organizers as well as possible, and attend any and all community events that they organize there.
You may have heard people joking about using video games as a way to train for motorsports. Even 10 or so years ago you’d be laughed at for thinking it was any kind of real or useful practice for aspiring NASCAR drivers, but then technology started to catch up. The kinds of games and simulators that are around now can actually provide a key foundation for aspiring drivers.
At the very least, these kinds of games can help one train up their hand-eye coordination and observational skills in a safe and controlled way.
It doesn’t provide that fearless edge or those real on-track instincts that go-kart experience will, for instance, but it does provide something. It could help to indicate whether or not young aspiring drivers have what it takes to elevate their competitive driving to the next level and as recent movies like Gran Turismo, suggest could certainly be an additional talent pool to draw the next generation of drivers from .
No, we’re not talking about Drivers’ Ed here. The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) operates a number of training schools around the country that are designed to help young drivers develop and expand their driving skills to a professional level.
It’s a big step up from digital simulations, where young drivers get to operate real (or close) vehicles that are of racing standards. Such experience is yet another great way for drivers to see if they really do have what it takes.
Following on from what we said about networking and building connections with local tracks, don’t forget to connect with drivers in your area. They don’t necessarily have to be a current driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, but perhaps there are retired NASCAR drivers in your area, or people who attempted to get in before but didn’t make the cut.
Alternatively, they could be drivers in other sports such as IndyCar, or something else. Get to know drivers near you.
If they are working drivers connected to local tracks, they might be able to get you part-time work or volunteering opportunities at the track on race day, where you’ll get to see all that goes on behind the scenes, and see how it all works.
That can be an invaluable experience in and of itself, but will invariably also lead to you meeting more key players who can get you on your track to NASCAR stardom.
Historical Perspectives on NASCAR Careers
The journey to becoming a NASCAR driver has evolved dramatically since the sport’s inception. In the early days, many drivers began as moonshine runners, honing their driving skills on the backroads of the American South.
This era was marked by a gritty, raw approach to racing, contrasting sharply with today’s high-tech, highly regimented path. Legends like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. set the stage for modern racing, but their paths were less structured, often based on sheer talent and audacity rather than formal training.
Understanding this history underscores the immense progression of the sport and highlights the changing requirements for those aspiring to NASCAR greatness.
The Financial Aspect of Becoming a NASCAR Driver
The financial journey to NASCAR stardom is as challenging as the physical and mental demands of the sport. Aspiring drivers must invest heavily in their careers, from purchasing high-quality racing gear to covering exorbitant entry fees for races and events.
Sponsorship plays a pivotal role, with drivers often needing to demonstrate not only skill but marketability to attract funding. The quest for financial backing is relentless, often requiring personal marketing and networking skills akin to those of an entrepreneur.
This financial landscape creates a high barrier to entry, making the dream of becoming a NASCAR driver an expensive endeavor that demands both driving talent and financial acumen.
Physical and Mental Preparedness for NASCAR Racing
The path to NASCAR is as much a mental and physical challenge as it is a test of driving skill. Physically, drivers must endure grueling races, often in extreme temperatures and high-stress environments.
This requires not just peak physical fitness but also extraordinary endurance. Mentally, the pressure is immense. The need for split-second decision-making, coupled with the high stakes of competitive racing, demands a resilient mindset.
Training often includes working with sports psychologists to develop mental toughness, focus, and stress management techniques. For aspiring NASCAR drivers, cultivating both physical endurance and mental fortitude is essential for success on the track.
Diversity and Inclusion in NASCAR
NASCAR’s journey towards diversity and inclusion has been a gradual but significant process.
Historically, the sport was predominantly male and white, but recent years have seen a conscious effort to broaden this narrative. Initiatives like NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program aim to attract drivers, crew members, and industry participants from various backgrounds.
The stories of drivers like Bubba Wallace, who has become a symbol of diversity in the sport, illustrate the changing face of NASCAR. However, there’s still a long way to go. Encouraging diverse talents in NASCAR not only enriches the sport but also broadens its appeal to a more diverse fan base.
Life After the Track: Career Longevity and Transition
The career of a NASCAR driver, while exhilarating, is often short-lived due to the physical and mental demands of the sport. Therefore, planning for life after the track is crucial.
Many drivers transition into roles as commentators, team managers, or mentors. Others stay connected to the sport by starting driver development programs, aiming to guide the next generation of racers.
Additionally, leveraging their personal brand, built over years of racing and fan engagement, can open doors in various sectors, including business and media. Navigating this transition successfully requires foresight and adaptability, as well as a willingness to reinvent oneself beyond the driver’s seat.
Navigating the Pitfalls: Avoiding Common Mistakes
Aspiring NASCAR drivers must navigate a minefield of potential pitfalls on their journey to professional racing. One common mistake is focusing solely on driving skills while neglecting the importance of physical fitness, mental resilience, and technical knowledge of the vehicles.
Another pitfall is inadequate networking and failing to build relationships within the racing community, which can be crucial for opportunities and sponsorships. Additionally, overlooking the importance of a solid educational foundation can limit a driver’s understanding of the technical and business aspects of the sport.
By being aware of these common mistakes and actively working to avoid them, aspiring NASCAR drivers can increase their chances of success in this highly competitive field.
To sum up, it will never be an easy thing, becoming a NASCAR driver. Even those who are incredibly skilled and experienced don’t always make the cut. It’s a cut-throat field, and there are always potentially dozens or hundreds of other aspiring drivers around you trying to fight you for those precious spots at the top.