RACE CAR DRIVER
Requirements, How Many Kinds Of Race Cars Are There?, For More InformationSalary, Outlook
Some people feel the need for speed. Some like the thrill of competition. Some just like driving something unique. If any of these things interest you, auto racing may be the profession for you. Auto racing is certainly not for everyone. Just getting into this particular occupation is not at all easy. First of all, it's a crowded field despite the many categories of racing (see page 84). Secondly, it takes a creative mind to figure out a way to earn a living doing this. There is a lot of competition in this field, especially with the increased interest in NASCAR racing around America.
It's also not a job that's easy to handle. Les Krantz's Jobs Rated Almanac places race car driver at number 248 (out of 250) for the worst working environment and number 246 for the most stress. You have to love car racing to pursue it.
A good racing school will help you develop leads to become a professional race car driver. Others will at least help point out directions. There are several race car organizations that sanction races and tracks, and by becoming affiliated with one or more, you can find out how to get hired. The oldest is the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), and it runs its own schools in addition to sanctioning other institutions. A key difference between the schools is that the professional schools provide the cars and gear whereas the SCAA schools require you to provide your own (cars can be rented for such purposes).
Additionally, there is the National Auto Sport Association (NASA), formed in 1991, which promotes drag racing; the Midwestern Council of Sports Car Clubs, started in 1958 as a way to provide low-cost, low-pressure racing to drivers; and the International Conference of Sports Car Clubs, founded in 1957, dedicated to providing road racing in the Pacific Northwest.
If you intend to drive, you need to put together a team. The team includes a head mechanic and pit crew, and the equipment involves the car, safety gear, tools to keep the car in shape, uniforms, and a driving outfit. This calls for a lot of money, and the only way to make a go of it is to use sponsors. All those logos you see on cars and uniforms advertising oil companies, car parts suppliers, and beer brands mean these businesses have invested a certain amount of money to sponsor the team. In turn, the driver is obligated to participate in a number of public races so the audience can see those logos and be reminded that those products exist.
Securing sponsorship is tricky, and there are books that can help you. A better way might be to start talking to the many professional drivers who teach at racing schools. Or go to races and start talking to the drivers and their crews.
As you gain experience and success on the track, you may be pleased to find that people seek you out. The best-known race car drivers in the world are sought out to drive cars sponsored by companies looking for a star behind the wheel. Those opportunities come rarely, and they come only to the best.
While waiting for that first job, you need to invest time and money in taking a car out onto a racetrack to get some practice. That's where schools and regional clubs can help. Many offer hourly access to tracks and cars.
With races large and small across the country every weekend of the year, in addition to auto shows and exhibitions, there is a reasonable amount of opportunity for the would-be racer. Unlike every other job described here, you must be dedicated to the physical and mental training required to handle a vehicle that can reach 250 mph in seconds. Sure, there's a thrill to feeling that speed, but it requires time, effort, and a lot of patience.
“There is no single model race car driver,” Rick Robins of JobsInMotorsports.com says. “Income can range from having to pay for your ride to the top F1 drivers making tens of millions of dollars per year not counting endorsements. Some careers peter out in a few years, but there is always Dick Trickle, who is still driving at 70 in NASCAR Winston Cup.”
Earning a living racing cars is a long shot, there's no doubt about it. But with hard work, experience, a lot of talent, and a bit of luck, it's possible to succeed.
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