goforbroke
goforbroke
3/5/14 8:47 a.m.

Hey everyone! Let me start off by introducing myself as I am new here. My name's James and I'm 18 years old, and I've been around cars my whole life. Pretty much everyone I know would say I'm obsessed with driving and working on cars, but how couldn't you be when it's as great as it is!

Well anyways, heres where I need some advice.

I have the goal of turning racing into a career. (crazy right?) I know I'm a little old to start, and I don't have a crazy amount of money for it at this point, but starting sooner has to be better than waiting longer. I know but this point it's too late to get into like indy car racing or something like that(more than likely anyway), but I want to get into something like the sports car series.

I want to make this my profession, so it is going to take a crazy amount of time and commitment; and I may find out it can't even be done. But I won't know that until I try as much as possible.

I know kart racing is definitely the place to start. I always tried to get into that when I was younger, but my parents didn't think it was something worth pursuing. The closest track is about 3 hours away, and I'll have to either rent a kart for a season(if they do that), or sell my car, buy a truck and trailer, find a kart, and then race it. Now that would be the best, but that becomes very expensive. So heres my question. Should I pursue that? Or this season just compete in every autox event possible to get seat time while I save money for race school?

I did autox a few times last year, and it's great. I just don't want to learn bad habits there that would transfer to a full track and end up hurting me. So I need to decide soon, I just have no idea what would be best, any input would be awesome. Thanks guys!

iceracer
iceracer PowerDork
3/5/14 9:10 a.m.

Racing for a career is a crap shoot.

Do you have the talent ?

Do you have the funds to start your career ?

Can you afford to go to a racing drivers school ?

Have you ever driven at high speed on a race track ?

scottdownsouth
scottdownsouth New Reader
3/5/14 9:12 a.m.

Go to collage, save your money and then you'll be able to do stupid things with stupid cars...or Beg, borrow and steal any ride you can race. Who know what could happen !? Dreams don't come true unless you chase them down and beat them with a crowbar , cash and sweat.

N Sperlo
N Sperlo MegaDork
3/5/14 9:14 a.m.

Have a good backup plan.

To keep money coming in (likely through another means) and stay on the track, you will have ZERO time for anything else.

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker MegaDork
3/5/14 9:38 a.m.

Well... your user name is apt, anyway.

I don't want to discourage the youth of America from persuing their dreams so...

So... go to nasaproracing.com, bmwcca.org, scca.org, etc... read up on driver education, the costs, put your pennies in a jar and find a driving school (HPDE, etc). Take it in whatever vehicle you have now (unless SUV or convertible... then rent). They have tech forms - read 'em and make sure you have all the stuff covered (brake fluid changes, pads, hoses...etc). That is your cheapest option at getting on the slippery slope in a real car but it's a long road and no one will "give you a ride". In sports car racing... you pay to ride until you own the team and can sell seats to others. Unless you are a proven hotshoe who consistently demonstrates victory or brings millions in sponsor $ to the team. After you win at Lemans... you can start charging them ;) There are not many rags to riches stories here.

For karting... go to a kart track on a weekday. Oakland Valley Race Park near Montecello NY is such a place... tell the guy you want to rent a common racing kart (i.e. Rotax spec series) and do a little lead/follow then just hoon all day. It will set you back about $400 for the whole day and you will probably bruise badly but you are 18 and heal quick. You can buy a whole setup new or used in their shop and finance it but don't do that until you wander the paddock at the first race weekend and then search CL for deals. You won't find them in the shop ;) Karting will teach you a thing or two, it's a ton of fun and most child prodigy turned race car drivers were champs here first. It's not as cheap as you think but it's fun and if you can win here - you probably can elsewhere too. If you can't... it's a good indicator that you are a hobbyist for life.

You didn't mention: Asphalt/Dirt circle track. Lot's of grins to be had here for cheap. I don't know much about the racing itself but if you want to boogity,boogity, boogity... they all started here. I still want to punch Waltrip in the throat every time he says that. There is no denying that most paid rides in North America are in one sort of NASCAR series or another though... and the affordable ones start on the 5th mile oval.

You also didn't mention: Are you/family wealthy? It matters. Hell, Skip Barber beginner series is $40k/season and whatever you wreck these days. If you want to buy a season ride in Grand Am with a top team someday you need to pony up anywhere from $70k to $300k depending on class and team.

My advice I'd give my own kids... get an education. make a lot of money somewhere eles and spend some of it racing whatever you can afford. It will probably get you in a car sooner and it's got a fallback plan built in. In the meantime... do HPDE, Chumpcar, auto-x, TT... whatever you can to amuse yourself and keep the fire in your belly satisfied.

RoughandReady
RoughandReady Reader
3/5/14 9:39 a.m.

Bracket racing might be the cheapest/easiest thing to break into.

Make sure you can feed yourself.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce UltraDork
3/5/14 9:57 a.m.

To get good at anything you need a lot of practice. Not just racing, playing the piano, running, anything. Racing practice means seat time. Lots and lots of seat time. There's not really any inexpensive way to do that. If it were me, and I seriously wanted to figure out if I could be good, I'd find a dirt oval, buy a hobby stock car, and see if I could be fast enough to move up and get rides. If you've never been to a dirt oval and watched the level of car control that the really fast guys have, you need to go find one. Karts is the other good option because of the sheer tenanicity of the drivers involved. Those crazy bastards give zero berkeleys. If you can race and win with them, you might have a chance.

chrispy
chrispy Reader
3/5/14 10:32 a.m.

You say turn racing into a career and we assume you mean as a driver. Many good careers are made track side and in the shop; get a technical degree. Being a paid driver takes lots of talent, time, personal financial investment, and being in the right place at the right time, in front of the right people. Good Luck!

N Sperlo
N Sperlo MegaDork
3/5/14 10:38 a.m.
mazdeuce wrote: If it were me, and I seriously wanted to figure out if I could be good, I'd find a dirt oval, buy a hobby stock car, and see if I could be fast enough to move up and get rides. If you've never been to a dirt oval and watched the level of car control that the really fast guys have, you need to go find one.

Troof

conesare2seconds
conesare2seconds HalfDork
3/5/14 10:52 a.m.

Don't be afraid to autocross. If you develop skill between the cones, it will translate to other types of competitive driving. Autox will keep you from relying on your right foot for speed; a good autocrosser can switch to road courses with fewer "bad" habits than a road course driver who doesn't autocross will bring to an autox course.

lnlogauge
lnlogauge New Reader
3/5/14 10:57 a.m.

I know I might receive some flack for having this opinion, but is autox really the best start? It's a great hobby for people not looking to make a career of it. Great for some fun on the weekends, but is it the best start for racing?

I'd argue that it's a different driving style than track racing, and doesn't bring the same challenges that wheel to wheel racing brings. Feel free to prove me wrong with professionals that got started in autocross, but I doubt there's many. Most professionals have been carting since the age of three, so you might be 15 years too late.

Klayfish
Klayfish SuperDork
3/5/14 11:27 a.m.

I applaud your desire, but think reality may soon set in as far as making it a career where you can actually support yourself and/or a family. Tons of opportunities to do it as a full time hobby and make a little winnings if you're really good. But to be a professional driver like you're thinking of takes a lot of things. I'd bet most of them have at least 10 years head start on you. Also have large piles of money and/or sponsors (don't know your situation) to support them.

Do autox, try some karting. Do an arrive and drive first, before you start looking into buying truck/trailer, etc... Then go from there.

rcutclif
rcutclif New Reader
3/5/14 11:28 a.m.

here's something you can do for free that might help. Start hanging out at tracks. on EVERY SINGLE race weekend, practice day, test and tune, motorcycle, car, whatever. Volunteer to help out whenever possible. There is a surprisingly small group of people at the tracks in general.

two benefits: 1. you meet the track people. if you would like seat time, these are the people to know and befriend. volunteers usually get some sort of incentives whether it be track time or rides with pros or free lunch. 2. success is the combination of preparation and opportunity (somebody said this, I cant remember who). If you are always at the track, opportunities will arise.

Don't expect any payoffs right away, but if you are persistent, you will quickly become a goto person.

Also, find a race prep shop and work for them for a month for free. you might just get a job out of it.

Read Drive to win or Race to win, etc.

Take business classes. Make sure that every single paid drive you get (no matter how small) becomes a good investment for the person paying. You will have to prove it to them.

If you make it, I will live vicariously through you.

moparman76_69
moparman76_69 SuperDork
3/5/14 11:38 a.m.

Look at your local NASA group. The group here gives you free hpde days for volunteering to work at an event. Get your TT license and whore yourself out to a team and you might be able to get in a car at some point IF you have some talent. If not as said before if you really enjoy wrenching, beg for a job working at a shop and work your way up.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
3/5/14 12:03 p.m.
scottdownsouth wrote: Go to collage, save your money and then you'll be able to do stupid things with stupid cars...or Beg, borrow and steal any ride you can race. Who know what could happen !? Dreams don't come true unless you chase them down and beat them with a crowbar , cash and sweat.

Yep this is your only option, the Vaughn Gittin Jr. path to the dream...and it's not a very likely one, you'll need a ton of cash to get started.

You're just too late to get into racing professionally by "moving up the ranks." They say If you haven't won a karting championship before you hit puberty, and been paid to drive before you turn 20 you're going nowhere.

Cone_Junkie
Cone_Junkie SuperDork
3/5/14 12:09 p.m.
lnlogauge wrote: I know I might receive some flack for having this opinion, but is autox really the best start? It's a great hobby for people not looking to make a career of it. Great for some fun on the weekends, but is it the best start for racing? I'd argue that it's a different driving style than track racing, and doesn't bring the same challenges that wheel to wheel racing brings. Feel free to prove me wrong with professionals that got started in autocross, but I doubt there's many. Most professionals have been carting since the age of three, so you might be 15 years too late.

Randy Pobst is a great example of auto-xer turned pro driver.

From my experience with HPDE and auto-x, road racing (w2w) takes more balls and auto-x takes for fine skills. I think auto-x is a great way to learn car control, car physics (suspension, power, weight transfer), and disciplined driving.

Choppa87
Choppa87 New Reader
3/5/14 12:20 p.m.

As many have mentioned, you may be a bit too old to make a full time career out of racing. Most full time drivers start when they are around 5 and have a lot of support from family and friends. This does not mean you can't be a part time/gentleman driver. I wholeheartedly agree with spending your efforts on getting an education and a profession where you can afford to start wheel to wheel racing as an amateur. I would imagine it is not as appealing as driving for a victory in NASCAR race but you still get the same thrill. Also, you will be setting yourself up for when you have kids, they can have the opportunity to start young and possible turn pro. I would love to have a child who is interested in cars and I have to money to support his or her dream. I am 26 and my goal is to work hard enough to where I can afford to start doing Nasa/Scca competitions. Hopefully I get good enough to one day I can get a part time ride in a national series or to where I can start my own small regional team (chump car, scca, nasa, etc).

goforbroke
goforbroke New Reader
3/5/14 2:13 p.m.

Thanks for all the help guys. I know that this is an extremely far fetched dream, but it is definitely something I want to persue as far as I can. I am in college right now going for a mechanical engineering degree. If I couldn't be the driver I would love to work with a race team in general, as a mechanic or something like that if I decide to switch schools. But really I want to give it a shot at getting in a seat. I know by this point I just don't have enough seat time to be winning in NASCAR or Indy, but I believe I can get where I want to be. This is really about being in the right place at the right time. So I am definitely going to be attending all the local oval track races this season and hanging out in the pits. Maybe I can even get a chance to help out one of the teams and earn some seat time.

But even while I try everything I can do to get behind the wheel of an actual race car I need seat time on a track. Englishtown Raceway has a road course. They have a 1 day driving school to get a license to run there, and then multiple track days and time trials (the trials are more for "fun" than anything else). They also have a kart track, but I am unsure if they have an arrive and drive policy.

So basically as far as seat time goes for this season, it's either go to the etown road course for HPDEs/"Time Trials" and go to autox. Or invest a lot of money getting into karting. The only reason I don't want to jump right into karting is it would take most of my funds that I am saving to attend a racing school. (and no, my family is not crazy wealthy and neither am I) I think HPDE's and a racing school would be the best route to take, while attending the local races as much as possible and getting myself out there.

Choppa87
Choppa87 New Reader
3/5/14 2:32 p.m.

I will admit that I know little about kart racing but I would imagine it would be better to get started in actual cars then karts at your age unless you want to go into open wheel racing. I personally thought about karts and they are a blast to drive but I think I would prefer wheel to wheel auto racing. Do you have a close friend who shares a similar interest as you? You are definitely going to need some help. Racing is a tough one man sport.

NONACK
NONACK Reader
3/5/14 2:37 p.m.

In reply to goforbroke:

If you are in college now, the best thing you can do is Formula SAE. Racing experience with someone else's money- plus, it looks good on a resume.

Klayfish
Klayfish SuperDork
3/5/14 3:11 p.m.

What's your current daily driver? Is it in condition to do HPDE? If you're close to E-Town, you're obviously in the NJ/PA/NY area somewhere. So you should also be fairly close to NJMP and/or Pocono Raceway. Both of those tracks do HPDE events as well as arrive and drive karting. Look into that.

As far as hanging around race teams, yes, go to the local oval or whatever race is near you. I'll put a shameless plug in for LeMons. Go spectate there and hang out, get to know people. There will be two LeMons races at NJMP, the first one is the weekend of May 10-11. You can probably find some seat time with a team for a race, especially if you build up more autox/HPDE/kart experience. Perhaps shoot for the second race there. It's not super cheap, but damn it's fun!! That is some serious seat time and experience.

goforbroke
goforbroke New Reader
3/5/14 4:06 p.m.

By this point I think it might be better to start in cars as well, the only reason I was looking at karts is you just learn so much, as well as have races to prove yourself on the track. Unlike HPDEs that are not really competition based. I do have a few close friends when it comes to cars, but none of them are truly trying to base their life off racing.

I have been looking into Formula SAE, having someone else pay for seat time and experience, well you can't beat that. The only problem is there is really no way to start that at my current school. I plan on transferring next semester, so hopefully I can get into that.

Last year I was autoxing a mustang gt, which would have been perfect. But right now I am running a honda coupe. Me and my dad finally finished our datsun 280z which would also be great, but I don't think he would be ok with me throwing that on a track. I live on Long Island actually. I can definitely make it out to those tracks as well. I get out of school in the very beginning of May, so going to those events will work out. And being able to get in with a team and get some seat time would be awesome! So I will definitely start some HPDE/time trials at E-Town (just because it's very cheap) and autox to get some seat time, and then try to get up to the places you posted, to get into a kart and hangout if nothing else.

iceracer
iceracer PowerDork
3/5/14 5:31 p.m.

Ice race

Our Preferred Partners
7eatiDOK7SisdBniQrZZrFtTF2xeEX7WfaAhmikW5qPNMq87p9Ok0RKSiWJ7llf2