The thrill and excitement of NASCAR capture the hearts and souls of millions of fans worldwide, young and old, instilling in many the dream of someday becoming a successful NASCAR driver. It’s not a bad dream to have, really: racing alongside the fastest drivers neck-and-neck, wheel-to-wheel
on the most iconic tracks, where the stakes are high, and the prizes are life-changing, but take it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that motor racing, of any kind – is damn expensive.
So, what would it take for such a dream to become a reality, you ask?
Well, as with most sports getting involved as a youngster helps on the path to becoming a top-tier racing driver as an adult, and so does financial backing from sponsors or otherwise, which can help support and guide your growth as a racing driver, but neither is essential towards achieving your dream; that is – if becoming a professional NASCAR driver is what you really, really want.
If one thing is certain about the journey, you won’t go anywhere without the right help. To become a professional race car driver like those in NASCAR, you’ll need many things other than just the skills needed to drive a car fast. But don’t be put off just yet; even the greats started small once, before working their way up to the big leagues.
To give you a better understanding of what’s involved in becoming a professional NASCAR driver, we’re taking you through all the major steps involved. Buckle up!
The steps to becoming a NASCAR driver
Plain and simple, to become a professional NASCAR driver like Kyle Busch or Chase Elliott, you’ll need, at the very least, these three things:
- Racing experience
- NASCAR Racing license
- Financial backing/Sponsors
If you want to reach the dizzying heights of NASCAR, first, you’ll need to become a fully-fledged race car driver. Becoming a race driver isn’t as difficult as it might sound, yet gaining the opportunity to compete in a major championship series like NASCAR, IndyCar, or the IMSA SportsCar series requires obsessive dedication, relentless training, steady financial support, and plenty of luck to help you on your way.
The first step to becoming a race driver?
The first thing you’ll need is some experience driving race cars at the track and lots of it. This doesn’t mean you have to be racing as such; practice and test sessions will be the place you’ll start.
Remember, every minute of track time you can get will help you with the goal of becoming a professional driver because, just like driving on the road, the more time you spend doing it, the more you will learn from the diversity of challenges you’ll need to overcome.
Gaining racing experience as a novice
Motor racing is hideously expensive. Although the race driver doesn’t usually own the car they drive, someone has to pay for it, that’s along with the consumables like tires, brakes, suspensions, and fluids. Then, you’ll need someone to wrench on the car since you won’t be able to do that and drive the car, so add some professional pit crew to the shopping cart.
Then, you’ll need some clever people to manage and organize the whole thing. You can already see how running a professional race team can consume millions of dollars worth of cash. Luckily, there are some more affordable ways to get started racing cars, both as a youth, or adult, without the need to be part of a big team or selling your house just to get out on track.
Karting – where it all begins
The most common starting point for aspiring race drivers across the globe is the fast and frantic world of karting. Karting still is the most affordable kind of motorsport to enter in most parts of the world, providing an excellent platform for rookies to learn the ropes of car handling and become acclimatized to the rules and practices of driving at race tracks.
Using a tubular steel frame, small wheels, and tires, and a two or 4-stroke engine ranging from 50cc junior karts to 250cc “Superkarts” capable of over 200km/h, there are karts available for as little as a few thousand dollars that cater for young drivers and adults. t
The fact that you don’t need a racing license to practice karting on most local tracks, and they are easy to work on – meaning you don’t need a crew of mechanics to change the tires for you, this entry-level motorsport is the ideal way to start your journey towards becoming a professional race driver.
Get your racing license
Just like you need a permit to legally drive on the roads and highways, to race any kind of race car on a race track, you’ll need a racing license that is recognized and valid. The higher the classification of a racing license, the greater access to more powerful cars and higher-speed international race circuits.
The procedures for acquiring a racing license vary depending on where you are in the world, but generally, you will be required to enter and complete a minimum number of race outings in a specified time period.
As a novice racer, your goal is simply to stay out of trouble and try to finish events without incurring or inflicting damage, and to avoid getting into trouble with the track marshals.
Once you gain your novice racing license, you’re officially a racing driver! You’ll need to meet further criteria to gain additional racing licenses, which will take time and money, and there will be more of a requirement for you to place well in race events.
To reach the ranks of NASCAR, you’ll have to gain some recognition first and work on building professional contacts and relationships that can support your career progression as a race driver. Some employ a manager or agent to help them with the next step, while others decide to do it their own way.
Find financial backing and sponsorships
As you gain experience as a novice race driver, it’s natural to look for the next branch of the tree to work your way up. A reliable way to do this is to reach out to people, businesses, investors, and anyone who help you fund the journey you’re about to make. Up-and-coming rookie drivers often bring with them sponsors in the form of small businesses that they have made through meaningful connections in the real world.
Get yourself to events that can help get you in front of the right people that can help you where you want to go; it really won’t happen by itself, so the more active you can be, the greater exposure you will receive.
Remember, there are thousands of other hopefuls out there so it’ll take more than the promise of your driving skills to win the best sponsorship deals; as you climb the ladder, you’ll need to deliver real results and accomplish objectives under pressure to keep the sponsors happy.
Use the internet to your advantage
With the stupendous reach of social media in today’s world, there has never been a time when getting your name out there and letting everyone know how driven you are to achieve your goal has been so easy and enjoyable.
Never underestimate the number of opportunities waiting for you online; all you need to do is create a profile and start documenting your journey; that’s how it all begins.
Write about your experiences as they might influence and help others, take photos of your day-to-day adventures to let people know how you’re progressing, and get involved with the community to discover other like-minded drivers that are following a similar journey to yours.
Follow the steps, stick to your goals, and with it will come new friendships, connections, and opportunities that can prove invaluable on your journey down the line.
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