A NASCAR Career Isn’t For Everyone

One of the most frequent questions asked of myself and Journo by readers, is how one can go about getting a job in racing.  In email responses and our many posts on the subject, we try to be as helpful as possible, while hopefully keeping people’s expectations realistic.  Racing, at the highest levels, is a very difficult industry to break into.  It takes a ton of sacrifice to do it, and some get started, only to realize they don’t have the stomach for it.

Over my own career, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been talking to a friend in the sport and said “hey, what happened to so-and-so, I haven’t see him around in while,” only to be told they packed up their stuff and moved back home to go back to work doing what they were doing before the racing bug bit them.  It’s a very common tale.

If you read last Saturday’s “The NASCAR Week That Was” post here at TNI, you may have seen the link to Patrick Reynolds’ blog post from Bump-Drafts.com entitled “Walking Away From NASCAR.”  Reynolds is a former race team employee who was one of the many victims of the massive layoffs the sport underwent before last season.  In his post, Reynolds talks about his recent decision to take a job with a company that wasn’t a NASCAR team.  The need to support his family, along with a more stable work environment were his main reasons for taking the job.

Knowing a little about his story, I respect Reynolds a great deal for doing what he did.  The guy loves racing, and was able to make his passion a career for a while.  But when push comes to shove, some things in life are just more important.

Reynolds post got me thinking about discussions I’ve had with Journo and some other friends before about working in racing.

Racing is a tough business.  There is no way around it.  It might appear to be all fun and games, but working 60-70 hours during the week in the shop, then heading to the track to continue working all weekend can be very grueling.  Working that much is also not very conducive to a healthy home life.

And trust me, nobody is getting rich doing this.  Some guys definitely make a very nice living, but it could all go away in an instant.  Job security in racing is nearly non-existent.  If a team’s funding dries up, the organization could be here today and gone tomorrow.

What makes the lack of job security even worse, is the competition for positions.  A guy used to be able to lose his job on Monday, pack his toolbox in his pickup, roll down the street, and be back working again by Tuesday or Wednesday.  This just isn’t realistic anymore.  Teams that have open positions are now inundated with qualified applicants.  All of whom will work more hours for less money then their peers.  It can be tough dealing with the pressure of knowing that if you screw up just a little bit, there are 100 guys waiting in the wings to take your spot from you.

For those of you who are reading this that have thought about trying to break into NASCAR, I’m not trying to scare you away.  If you want something, go get it, and don’t let anyone tell you something can’t be done.  What I am doing though, is trying to educate you on some of the difficulties that lie ahead.

Like we’ve said here many times before, if you want in, be prepared.  Learn as much as you can about the sport and which position you want, do what you need to do to make your resume as strong as possible, and network like nobody has ever networked before.  Those connections with people in the sport will be your life line.

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9 Responses to “A NASCAR Career Isn’t For Everyone”

  1. DD says:

    Thanks for writing this, it needs to be said. It’s my impression, and only my opinion, that race fans, especially those who have only found the sport in the last 10 years or so, don’t have a good grasp on just what and how much work and time doing this now takes. How HI TECH its gotten! Do I wish NASCAR stock car racing was still the days of you and buddies banging on cars in the barn and towing it to the track yourself? Sometimes, yes. But that didn’t make the kind of money to be had now, filed under necessary evil.
    My son has NASCAR ambitions which I encourage but I’ve forwarded him this as another signpost on the likely path ahead.

  2. Neon says:

    TC (aka Batman), just curious if you heard of many NASCAR personnel jumping over to the IRL, Grand Am or ALMS ranks? A whole lot less weekends away w/ schedules approximately 1/2 the races.

    FYI I’m headed over to Barber Motorsports Park, just outside of Birmingham, AL, for the IRL/Grand Am double header this weekend. First race for IRL at this beautiful facility.

  3. T.C. says:

    Neon: The folks who you usually hear about moving around between series are the engineering people, or those from the business side. Obviously their pit crews aren’t as specialized, and they don’t use mechanics and fabricators like we do. Have fun at Barber!

    Oh, and BTW, if you ask Journo, he’s Batman. Apparently he has something against Robin…

  4. windowlicker says:

    “Oh, and BTW, if you ask Journo, he’s Batman. Apparently he has something against Robin…”

    It’s probably the green fruit ‘o the looms & tiny green pixie boots.

  5. Ric says:

    TC: I think the Indy league pit crew / over the wall gang is (or should I say use to be, since I’m a little out of the loop) just as specialized as the NASCAR group. I have been wrong before, would you please explain why you think their pit crews are not as specialized?

  6. Woogeroo says:

    I’m glad there are some crazy people around to work those thankless schedules. I don’t understand why they want to burn out talented people so fast, but some industries are just like that I suppose.


  7. windowlicker says:

    Ric: I would guess at least as far as tire changers go, they only have to deal with 1 lug & 1 tire. They don’t seem to have to have the same amount of coordination/choreography the cup guys do.

  8. T.C. says:

    Ric: I’m probably a bit biased here, but I think it takes a little more to do what we do compared to the Indy guys. They don’t have a jackman, don’t have to carry 90lb fuel cans, the tire/wheel combos are much lighter because of the magnesium wheels, there is only one lug per wheel, and there is one guy for each tire. The only crew member that has to do any movement around the car is the right rear changer. A lot more can go wrong for us, because there is a lot more going on. I think you could easily plug one of our changers into an Indy car team, but I don’t think the opposite is true.

  9. richard d mccomic says:

    even the best wrench turners have hard time geeting a job in that type of racing hard enough now in reg field .nothing like that roar of race engines.that dream of chasing that checkered flag never goes away.

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