How To Become A NASCAR Driver
Are you ready to commit the time and dedication it takes to live the dream as a NASCAR driver? We’ll help you boost your chances with this guide.
- Becoming a NASCAR Driver
- Starting with Karting
- Sim Racing
- From Karts to Cars
- Earning A Race License
- Understanding Cars and Racing
- Sponsors and Networking
- Breaking Down the Boundaries
NASCAR has always been hugely popular, with many youngsters glued to their TV screens, or maybe even fortunate enough to experience the incredible atmosphere in person.
Once you’ve had the chance to witness the craziness involved with the sport, it’s easy to see why so many racing enthusiasts are eager to become the next oval sensation.
Whether you’re a youngster looking to fulfill their dreams, or a parent looking to boost the chances of your loved ones being able to do so, we’ll be providing everything you could need to know to have the highest chances of success in the challenging world of NASCAR.
Everyone has started somewhere, and although money often plays a significant role in motorsports, raw talent and dedication also go a long way.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to boost your chances of living the dream of becoming a NASCAR driver.
Becoming a NASCAR Driver
While age isn’t everything, you’re going to stand the best chances of success by getting behind the wheel as young as possible.
There are a few profound changes that you can make today to pave the way to success.
It’s never too early to get started, and with the likes of sim racing, youngsters can get their first thrill of driving younger than ever.
While some NASCAR drivers have started later in life, early success will undoubtedly boost your chances of getting a head start, and the potential financial backing here can be a game-changer.
Health & Wellbeing
As well as getting seat time, it’s also essential to learn good practices from an early age, such as working towards optimal physical condition, focusing on fitness and nutrition to ensure a healthy body.
Hard Work & Dedication
Becoming a sportsman requires an incredible amount of dedication. The chances of this kind of opportunity being handed to you on a plate while you snack on Dorito’s in bed at the weekend are somewhat unlikely!
Setting out your goals and relentlessly working towards them will be critical, where mindset plays a huge role in your eventual success.
Being willing to put yourself and your ambitions first can be a struggle that could cost you friendships along the way, but unfortunately, you won’t be able to skip the main event of your future race season to attend your best friend’s wedding.
Remember to work hard and give your best in everything you do from the very beginning.
Respect & Attitude
As well as having the drive and determination to improve, learning to be respectful and willing to help others from a young age is often key to success.
How you portray yourself from the start is hugely important, and it’s good practice to develop a good attitude and be willing to help those around you from a young age.
Getting yourself down to a local track to volunteer and immerse yourself in motorsports while being willing to help others can often pave the way to success.
Don’t expect to have your motorsport career handed to you on a plate, but sometimes helping others can go a long way when it comes to catching a break.
Always remember to be humble along the way, no matter how impressive your talents may be behind the wheel.
Some of the most incredible drivers and athletes are known for their modest, down-to-earth attitudes, which go a long way with the fans and media alike.
The final and quite possibly most important aspect is proving that you have talent behind the wheel.
It’s essential to get out there and prove to the world that you have what it takes to compete with the best, which is where our following considerations begin.
Starting with Karting
You may be thinking that karts are best suited to those looking for a track racing career, such as F1, but that’s not the case.
The vast majority of NASCAR, and racing drivers in general, began their earlier years by proving their abilities on the kart-racing scene, with many racing competitively from around five years old.
Karting provides a vast array of benefits, such as learning how to control a car at speed, refining racing lines, refining your reflexes and coordination, and potentially learning the basics of the mechanical aspects from an early age.
On top of that, it also provides strength in the mental aspects of racing that you’ll inevitably have to ensure in your race career, such as losing graciously, which will inevitably happen from time to time, and remaining humble through your success.
Karting provides many levels of competition, from renting a kart for the day with friends through to fierce International competitors, which is why it’s the perfect place to start. There’s something for everyone, no matter what the budget.
Getting to the racetrack and having seat-time in karts will be a massive boost to a future NASCAR career, and this is where the story began for around 90% of pro racing drivers.
For parents that are keen to get their kids into kart racing, it can be as expensive as you want it to be. Renting a kart at the local track for a couple of hours on the weekend is hugely different from full-blown national or international competitions with a private kart.
Considerations such as purchasing a kart, tires, fuel, travel, entry fees, and safety equipment will soon rack up, but this can often be the decider of early success.
Although competitive karting is certainly not cheap, it’s worth every cent and every minute of the journey for many parents.
Thankfully, there’s also a modern-day consideration, which we’ll look at next.
While some will argue that sim racing doesn’t offer the ‘real thing’, there’s no argument that it provides convenience, and the ability to get seat time at the press of a button is certainly a huge benefit.
With sim racing getting more realistic than ever, games such as iRacing will allow the opportunity to perfect your karting and get a taste of the authentic NASCAR experience.
Even the best pro drivers in the NASCAR series are taking to sim racing in the present day, and it’s an incredible opportunity that would always top our priority list.
On top of this, you’ll also have the opportunity to try different motorsports, not only to learn to master the art of car control but also decide whether a NASCAR career is a perfect choice.
Another added benefit of sim racing is that it’s pandemic-proof, with COVID-19 recently delaying many budding motorsport careers.
From Karts to Cars
As you progress towards your NASCAR career, you’ll eventually take the step up from karts and begin venturing into the world of car racing.
At this point, the first step is likely to be with a series such as Legends cars, and competing in local races will give you an excellent opportunity to begin collecting trophies and proving that you’re ready for the big time.
While many may dismiss Legends cars, let’s not forget that this is where the story began for the likes of Kyle and Kurt Busch. It doesn’t sound so bad after all, huh?
As you begin to name yourself on the local racing scene, regional competitions can become a serious consideration.
When you prove yourself to be up there with the best, you can choose the next steps towards your eventual NASCAR goal.
NASCAR has a ladder system with several divisions below the three national series, such as modifieds, street stocks, and late models.
The costs can quickly multiply when it comes to racing, with numerous considerations such as the race car (or cars), the requirement of a trailer, tow truck, tools, and the general expenses that come with motorsport.
Earning A Race License
Although an additional expense won’t be at the top of everyone’s priority list, earning race licenses can be a significant step towards your goals.
After starting with a provisional or novice license, you’ll have the opportunity to prove yourself in organization-sponsored races, where you’ll earn the chance to upgrade to a full-competition license.
Racing schools are another excellent consideration to teach you mastery behind the wheel, which will assist with achieving your license goals.
The more experience you can prove you’ve gained over the years, the easier you’ll earn your competition license.
Suppose you wish to live the authentic NASCAR experience. In that case, the main speedways often offer the opportunity to follow a pace car to experience the genuine feeling behind the wheel to continue inspiring your NASCAR dreams.
Understanding Cars and Racing
No matter which stage you’re at in your NASCAR racing dreams, understanding the mechanical aspects of karts and cars will be vital from day one.
Many aspiring racers will not only use this to their advantage when it comes to their vehicles but can also use it as a fantastic side-income when it comes to earning additional income to help build your dreams.
You’ll also learn how tuning and tweaking your setup can work to your advantage and shave vital seconds off your lap times.
Knowing how the car is performing and what you can do to improve this is vital and often something that others won’t help you with since it can boil down to your personal preference.
Gaining an understanding of tuning is another where sim racing is a highly convenient tool since you’ll be able to learn what does, or doesn’t work, without spending time and money on doing so in the real world.
While seat time is crucial, you’re unlikely to ever master the craft of racing without a thorough understanding of what’s happening to each component of your vehicle.
Reading textbooks or heading to college will be the best way to improve and help earn sponsorship further down the line.
Sponsors and Networking
Let’s face it, racing is far from cheap at any level, and this is where a sponsor can become make or break when it comes to working towards your eventual NASCAR career.
Impressing sponsors starts from a young age, and earning a good education will go a long way and make you far more confident further down the line when dealing with aspects like the media.
Since you’ll represent your sponsor, you must learn to be respectful and courteous from the start.
Having an impactful and positive social media presence with a professional racing page from the start will be an excellent way for potential sponsors to look back on where your journey began.
Getting your name out there and networking and having a positive involvement within your local racing scene will also go a long way.
Offering to volunteer at your local racetrack is always a fantastic way to get started. It can often lead to getting your foot in the door with a race team, even if it’s as a crew member, where you’ll perhaps get the opportunity to showcase your talents.
Never underestimate the power of voluntary work and giving back to the community. It won’t last forever, and it can be a great way of proving how passionate and dedicated you are on your resume to potential future sponsors.
If you feel you’ve provided plenty on a voluntary level, perhaps see if they offer any training programs which could prove beneficial to both you and them.
Once you have your foot in the door, be sure to promote yourself to the best of your abilities, showcasing your time at the track and celebrating your wins and successes on social media - remember to remain humble!
Always think long-term when it comes to building the foundations of your NASCAR career, and practice unlikely things like interviews so that you’re confident when your time comes to shine.
Breaking Down the Boundaries
Although many people may be thinking, “I can’t be a NASCAR driver, because…” Don’t ever let these reasonings hold you back.
Many people are continuing to break down the boundaries of what everyone thought was possible in NASCAR. Even in the present day, inspiring drivers such as Toni Breidinger, who has just become the first Arab-American female NASCAR driver.
Katie Brice also competed in her first NASCAR-sanctioned race at just 14-years old.
The 1977 NASCAR movie Greased Lightning also shows the true story of Wendell Scott, who became America’s first-ever African American NASCAR driver.
All of these drivers have proven that you should never stop fighting for your goals or letting anything hold you back from reaching your dreams.
There’s no question that motorsport is an expensive game, but our guide has provided several potential routes to work towards making your NASCAR dreams a reality.
A full-blown NASCAR career will cost millions of dollars and isn’t likely to be possible without the support of sponsors.
Yet, if you’re talented enough behind the wheel and can prove you have what it takes to compete with the best, then following our process will enable you to demonstrate your potential.
If you ever get the opportunity to be sponsored, no matter how small, then make sure you treat these companies beyond their expectations and over-deliver on all of your promises to ensure they’re left delighted.
Proving you’ve left past sponsors delighted with the deal will undoubtedly help with searching for future ones.
Race teams and sponsors are always searching for the ultimate driver to represent their brand, so if you’re capable of proving your potential both on and off the track, then you’ll be destined for the big time!
Sure, it’s not going to be easy; it’s going to require relentless hours of hard work, dedication, and sacrificing a lot along the way, but it’ll undoubtedly be worth it to reach your dreams eventually.
The luxury of VR sim racing allows you to spend more time than ever behind the wheel, learning to master the art of racing and fine-tuning your setups to suit your needs perfectly.
For many drivers, it can take more than ten years from the start of their karting career to finally achieving their dream of getting behind the wheel of a NASCAR.
Spend as much time, commitment, and dedication as possible with following your dreams, and don’t ever give up hope on achieving what may sometimes feel impossible.
With enough belief, you’ll one day have fans cheering your name as you roar past the finish line.
Looking to get your NASCAR fix but not able to get to your sim racing rig right now? Make sure you check out the free NASCAR Racing flash game in the Drifted Arcade.
So, there we have it! We hope that we’ve covered everything you could want to know about becoming a NASCAR driver in this guide.
Thank you for reading our How to Become a NASCAR Driver guide.
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We thank the following entities for the use of their photography in this article:
- Dwilliams851 on Flickr
- Torrey Wiley on Flickr
- The U.S. Army on Flickr
- Luigiantonio72 on Flickr
- Chad Sparkes on Flickr
- The U.S. Army on Flickr