Avoidable Contact #25: Exploring the pyramid of speed — the real costs and stories behind entry-level sedan racing.


Click for Larger Image

It’s sad but true: when I was a kid, Internet access pretty much didn’t exist. I didn’t even start reading USENET until 1990, at which point I was already eighteen years old. In the pre-Web days, if you wanted to know something, you went to the library. If you were lucky, the answer was in a book. If you couldn’t find a book with the answer, you were more or less screwed. For example, my elementary-school library had a copy of “The Car Book 1971″ that had all the prices of new cars from 1971, and I memorized the book to the point that I could instantly recall the prices and specs of every new car sold that year. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the same book from 1972, which meant that as far as I knew, there were no cars sold in 1972. Or they were all free. Or they were all $1,999. There was simply no way to know.

The arrival of the Information Age has made that kind of knowledge starvation a thing of the past, with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is information on amateur and entry-level-professional sedan racing. Those who talk about it on the Internet don’t really know; those who know aren’t telling, for a variety of reasons we’ll discuss below. When I started my racing “career” a few years ago, I had to learn about the costs and difficulties of racing firsthand, at my own considerable expense, and my conversations with other racers have indicated that this state of affairs is nearly universal.

Universal it may be, but it isn’t right. So in this episode of Avoidable Contact, I’m going to give you a brief tour of amateur and entry-level-professional sedan racing. Specifically, we’re going to talk about requirements, costs, and results. I can’t put you in the seat of a real race car — only you can do that for yourself — but I can at least give you a reasonable idea of what’s involved. There are resources, both print and Web, which claim to tell the truth about the costs of racing, but trust me: most of them are either pursuing an agenda or making bizarre assumptions regarding your access to things like frame jigs, TIG welders, and $100 Hayabusa engines. Since most people can’t actually do things like “knock together” an SCCA GT-2 tube chassis, a lot of the advice and information that’s out there might as well be fantasy.

To keep things simple and comparable, most of the costs discussed here will be “rent-a-ride” costs; I will discuss ownership costs in a future column, assuming there’s any interest. We’ll start with the 24 Hours of Lemons and go as far as the Speed World Challenge. So, without further ado, let’s climb to the top of the “Pyramid Of Speed” and see what’s there.

24 Hours Of Lemons: $500-1000 a weekend


Click for Larger Image

There are a variety of really low-cost entry-level wheel-to-wheel options out there, such as $300 ARCA circle-track rentals, but the average would-be road-racer is likely to be most satisfied by buying a seat in a 24 Hours of Lemons team. For somewhere between five hundred bucks and a solid G, you should be able to find a spot with a team that is serious about winning the event. Another five hundred should buy you a basic SA2005-rated helmet, cheapo three-layer driver’s suit, and fireproof gloves and shoes.

While most of the Lemons teams out there are reasonably scrupulous about adhering to the $500 car rule, that amount doesn’t cover the rollcage, the tires, the brakes, the consumables, or any number of other allowables. It’s very possible to spend three or four grand on a “$500 car”, so budget accordingly.

The requirements for being a Lemons driver are absolutely minimal. You’ll need the aforementioned personal equipment plus $75 for a one-time license. Your money should get you between two and six hours on the racetrack. Speeds rarely exceed sixty miles per hour, but you will learn a lot about managing traffic, passing, and withstanding impact. Winning Lemons will impress exactly nobody, as I found out when I won the 2007 Flat Rock event, but it’s neither easy nor trivial to hoist that cup full of nickels above your head. Still, it isn’t “real” racing. For that, you’ll need to sack up and choose one of the next options.

SCCA Improved Touring and Regional Racing: $1000+ per weekend


Click for Larger Image

SCCA has two kinds of racing. There’s “Regional” racing, which is a relatively low-budget affair designed for people who don’t want to compete on a National level, and then there’s “National” stuff. The mainstay of Regional sedan racing is the Improved Touring series. Magazines like Grassroots Motorsports like to make racing in “IT” sound as simple and cheap as running down to your local dragstrip on Grudge Match night. It ain’t so, but neither is it prohibitively expensive for most people.

You’ll need to join the SCCA to start, and if you’re smart you’ll also find a program like NASA’s HPDE, SCCA’s PDX, or one of the marque-club Driver’s Education programs to show you how to get around a racetrack without killing yourself. Once you’re comfortable being on a track in a street car, it’s time to attend an SCCA competition school. You’ll need to rent a race car for this in most regions. Plan on spending between $1000 and $2500 for a “double driver’s school” weekend in someone else’s car. Don’t hurt the car; you’ll have to pay to fix it, and that could run you serious cash. The purpose of SCCA drivers’ schools is to teach you how to pass, how to watch the flags, and how to behave on-track. At no point will anyone teach you to be Randy Pobst. You will have to learn that yourself, later. And don’t catch the “red mist” during school. As someone once told me, you can’t “win” the driver’s school, but you can sure as hell “lose” it by crashing out.

With your Regional license in hand from passing the driver’s school, it’s time to find an Improved Touring seat. This can be tough for somebody who has never raced before, because most car owners don’t want to take a chance on somebody new. Look in your local SCCA newsletter or on the regional website to find an “IT” rental opportunity. Call ‘em up. Be polite, concise, and factual. Expect to spend between one and two grand for a weekend. This will get you a car that might be capable of winning a race, but probably not in your hands. It will pay for some used tires and fuel. It won’t pay for damage, excess wear and tear caused by temper or stupidity, or new tires. So race smart, even if you have to race slow, and learn your craft.

In the real world, by the time you drive to a race, stay in a hotel, eat a meal or two, pay your entry fee (which is a minimum of $250 most places) and buy a T-shirt, you’re going to spend a minimum of $1500 to go Improved Touring racing in someone else’s car. Let’s put that in perspective: racing an old VW Golf or Honda Civic once a month costs as much as buying a Nissan GT-R or Porsche Cayman S on a five-year loan. Are you starting to get a sense of why racers are all “coin-operated”? Our next option is no cheaper, just different.

NASA Cheap Classes: $1500-5000 a weekend


Click for Larger Image

There are two major organizations in American amateur racing. SCCA is the older, established, more prestigious group, while NASA is the new kid on the block. It would take a whole book to discuss the differences between the two, but here’s one way to look at it: NASA offers a wider variety of race options for production-based cars, is more contact-and-drama-tolerant, and is also more welcoming to new racers. I’m a NASA racer. It’s the right fit for me, but some people are better-suited for the SCCA. After a few races with either sanction, you’ll know where you belong, and it’s possible for rent-a-riders to move back and forth between the two, as most SCCA and NASA Regions will honor a competition license from the “other” sanction.

NASA offers a variety of affordable production-car classes: Spec Miata, Performance Touring, the slower German Touring Series classes, Honda Challenge, Spec Focus, and others. To get started, you’ll want to have some on-track experience in your street car. One year with NASA’s HPDE program should take care of that. You can then attend one of NASA’s driver schools. The Mid-Ohio School offers a pretty good one-day course, using their Acura TSX “school cars”, for about a grand. Of course, you’ll need the same helmet, suit, gloves, and shoes you’d need for SCCA or Lemons. You’ll also need a HANS Device or similar, which costs $695 or more, to race wheel-to-wheel in NASA.

Pass your driver’s school and you’ll be eligible to rent a car and go racing. Unlike SCCA, NASA makes no distinction between Regional and National racing. It’s possible to take Comp School in July, race twice in July and August, and then go run the National Championships in September of that same year.

Rental costs for entry-level classes in NASA range from $1500 (for a tired Spec Miata) to $5000 or more (for a well-prepared GTS or Performance Touring car). It’s very, very possible to spend $15,000 on a NASA racing weekend, but you don’t want to do that right away. Heck, you really don’t want to do it at all, because for that kind of money you could race “pro”. In fact, NASA permits cars from the Speed World Challenge and Koni Challenge pro series to run in Performance Touring, so if you want to try a “pro” car in a low-stress environment, NASA can be the right place for you. Plan on spending a minimum of $5000 to do that for a weekend. Be aware, too, that most rentals in NASA have a minimum damage amount of ten grand or more. You can do $50,000 worth of damage to many GTS-class race cars in a second or less, and it’s usually payable immediately, in certified funds, before the end of the weekend. Even a lowly Spec Focus can cost $15,000 to repair. And here’s the best part: it might not even be your fault. You could be minding your own business, get put in the wall by somebody else, and still have to pay. Make. Sure. You. Understand. This. Before. You. Take. A. Green. Flag. Okay?

Winning a NASA National Championship will get you… um, nothing. All sorts of hacks and idiots win NASA National Championships. Heck, I was one error in judgment away from being a NASA National Champion in 2007. As the sanction ages and competition thickens, that situation will change, but in the meantime, if you want respect in amateur racing… look below.

SCCA National Championship Racing – $3000 and up. Way up.


Click for Larger Image

Now we’re getting close to The Show. Winning an SCCA National Championship is a gold-plated testimony to your talent as a driver, your skill as a car builder, or both. The list of SCCA National Champions reads like a “Who’s Who” of serious racers. But it ain’t cheap. To begin with, you’ll need to have a year of mostly incident-free Regional racing under your belt, and you’ll need to find a National ride. People can and do spend six figures to win National Championships, but $3000 should get you a Spec Miata or American Sedan seat at a National race. Of course, if you want to go to the actual championship race, (referred to as the Runoffs) in any class, you will need a lot more than that. But if you win the Runoffs, you will want a new challenge…

Speed World Challenge and Grand-Am Koni Challenge: $8000-50,000 per weekend. That’s right.


Click for Larger Image

Here we are. The Show. Professional racing. And guess what? You’re gonna pay to race. Almost everybody does. It’s the dirty little secret of “pro” racing. Everybody pays. Sure, some teams offer a salary to a few of their drivers, but the number of people actually making a living in Speed World Challenge or Koni Challenge probably wouldn’t fill an extended-length E-150. Instead, drivers beg their sponsors, friends, families, and spouses for money to make the grid. Ah, money. Well, just the annual license for Koni Challenge costs six hundred bucks. The good news: you get to attend all the Rolex Series races for free as long as you’re wearing it. To qualify for that license, you’ll want to have some club racing background, preferably without too many black marks on your record or too many probationary periods. One year should be enough. During that one year, try to win the lottery, inherit some money, or become a lobbyist for a group of Florida orange-juice farmers, ’cause it takes cheddar to race professionally.

Eight grand or thereabouts will sit you in a decent ride for the Speed Touring Car or Koni “ST” class. You’ll be on television. Maybe. To have a chance at winning, you’ll want to spend more. Ten or fifteen grand will put you up at the sharp end, where the announcers can mispronounce your name and criticize your driving. If you want to run the faster cars in the “GS/GT” classes of Koni or Speed, you’ll pay more. A lot more. A weekend in a Ford FR500C Mustang might cost $20,000. And guess what? It’s possible to do $175,000 worth of damage to that car. In under one second. You know the drill. Pay before you leave.

It’s kind of funny, really. Nearly everybody who brags on Facebook or on their personal website about being “signed” to a Koni or SWC team is really writing a big check to that team. And some of the checks are quite large. Koni Challenge is an enduro series, so you can spend a little more money and get a known hotshoe to be your second driver. The arrangement is common, even in Daytona Prototype. The paying driver is the “gentleman driver”; the paid driver is the “pro”. I heard a rumor recently that one “gentleman” paid $185,000 for a Koni Challenge season with a well-respected “pro”.

Think about it. At this level, it costs just as much to race a Honda Civic or Volkswagen GTI for a year as it does to own a Lamborghini Gallardo. Which one will impress your friends more? You know the answer to that. But if you have the burning desire to race, to be in The Show, and to live a little bit before you die, owning a high-priced street car isn’t even an option. Racing on television is the ultimate high, the biggest hit possible. It’s what we all wanted to do as kids. Everything else, as Steve McQueen memorably said, is just waiting.

But wait, there’s more.

As you now understand, racing is expensive. But the weekend costs we’ve discussed don’t cover it all. In order to be competitive, you’ll want to run some practice days, which run from $500 a day in an Improved Touring Civic to twenty times that much for a Koni GS-class Porsche. To win races, you’ll need to buy new tires as often as possible, maybe four times a weekend, at a cost of anywhere between eight hundred and two thousand dollars a set. You’ll want the best equipment; my Impact! carbon fiber Air Draft helmet and HANS Professional Device together cost well over three thousand dollars, and a custom driving suit with the logo of your “sponsor” might run you another three G. Top-tier coaching from people like Ross Bentley will take precious tenths off your lap time, but each one of those tenths may cost you as much as a Rolex Submariner.

You’ll miss work to race, skip family events, disappoint friends, and force your loved ones to spend their weekends wondering if you’ll come home injured or in a box. The stress of knowing that you could end a race a hundred grand in the hole, or in that hole yourself, might drive you to make some very strange decisions. Some people lose their nerve out there on the track and return to the pits utterly broken inside. Others let the burning hunger for lap time, TV time, plastic trophies, or simple victory take over the rest of their lives. And once you’ve won a race, the fever to do it again will never truly leave you. Once you’ve put your foot on someone else’s neck — once you’ve looked out of your window net and simply destroyed another man’s confidence on the entry to a critical corner — you will want to do it again and again until it either kills you or ruins your life.

Those are the real costs. I’ve spent the equivalent of a new Corvette racing crappy little cars in the past two years, but that doesn’t cover half of it. The true cost arrived the moment I realized that I couldn’t stand a life where I wasn’t scheduled to race at some point in the near future. So I’ll be out on the grid again in 2009, and that includes a couple of shots at The Show. Cross your fingers for me, and I’ll look to see you out there, too.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

FOLLOW SPEED:SPORT:LIFE

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news, insights and general automotive chit-chat. If it's happening, we're talking about it. Join the conversation.

58 Responses to “Avoidable Contact #25: Exploring the pyramid of speed — the real costs and stories behind entry-level sedan racing.”

  1. Mulry
    March 27, 2009 at 4:38 pm #

    Awesome article. We ran the LeMons event at Houston this spring and are totally hooked. I'd love to see the next article on costs of ownership of a "real" race car. I look at the ads in AutoWeek for used GT3 cars and just drool, but my "$500" LeMons car cost almost 10x that much to put together for the first race and it's still a crapcan, but it's hard to imagine another series that has as good a cost/value ratio as LeMons. If you can keep the car running for the entire event it's as much track time in that one race as you could have wheel-to-wheel in an entire season in many other series. I can only imagine what the operating cost of a used 911 racer would be for a season of real racing…

    • JSD
      March 27, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

      The Last Turn Club did a nice 4-part piece on pro sportscar team costs recently. One of the options explored is running a GT2-class car- it would be another step above IMSA GT3 Cup, World Challenge GT or Koni GS, but it gets you in the ballpark. There are a large number of fixed costs that aren't going to change from series to series.

      Part 1 is at http://lastturnclub.com/index.php?option=com_cont

  2. Meng Mao
    March 27, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    I'm not familiar enough with the scene — I assume the agenda of mags like GRM is to maintain the illusion of affordability so that people will continue to subscribe and buy issues?

  3. Patrick Smith
    March 27, 2009 at 6:08 pm #

    Great article Jack. It is totally amazing how quickly the costs add up. I sure wish I'd known some of this before I was totally hooked on it!

    Patrick (2008 TTD National Champi… err one of last years hacks and idiots)

  4. March 27, 2009 at 6:42 pm #

    fantastic article… I have neither the talent nor money to do this but it is still a dream in the back of my mind… Good luck this season Jack.

  5. theeastbaykid
    March 27, 2009 at 7:18 pm #

    I remember you guys from Flat Rock–you oughta join us at Nelson Ledges. Should be a little closer to "real racing" than the little circle-track setup….

  6. March 27, 2009 at 7:48 pm #

    As a very competitive person who's building a car for LeMons Buttonwillow with growing excitement for the event, all I can say is:

    Oh no.

    If you'll excuse me, I'm off to concoct a plan to convince the Missus that instead of a 1st house, what we really should save to buy is a full race rig. We'll just live out of the RV and park in on a big cement slab that we call home.

  7. March 27, 2009 at 9:24 pm #

    @theeastbaykid: We're hoping to run our Neon in the actual "Longest Day" this year, but the backup plan is to exhume the Supra and run the "Lamest Day"!

  8. Ken Grammer
    March 27, 2009 at 10:43 pm #

    This was a VERY good article.

    There is one additional option available. For drivers wanting a professional racing championship without the six figure price tag, we are offering the American Touring Car Championship (ATCC). ATCC is a six weekend, double race format Championship (12 total races per season) at a cost of $5k OR LESS per race… or $60k for the full season. More can be learned by visiting http://www.usatcc.com or you can find our groups on Facebook and LinkedIn under "American Touring Car Championship".

  9. Jack_Baruth
    March 27, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    Ken… thanks for the heads-up there. I've heard a lot of people talking about ATCC around the paddock!

  10. Ken Grammer
    March 28, 2009 at 2:55 am #

    Jack… that is great to hear. With growth and participation, we are planning some exciting things for the series. Please let us know if you have any questions about the Championship.

  11. Jonny Lieberman
    March 28, 2009 at 6:53 am #

    Why would a team want to win a LeMons race?

  12. Paul Park
    March 28, 2009 at 11:44 pm #

    I just got really sad. I'll never be able to sell the proposition of racing to the significant other. Not when there are puppies, houses, vacations, etc., to be had.

    Sad day.

  13. March 30, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    Don't forget about stage rally! Rally-America and NASA both run events. License fees are ~$100-$200 a year depending if you go regional or national. Event entry fees are $800-$1500 depending again, if you're doing regional/national/both entry. Optional costs are ~$150 for notes, $50 for practice stage, $50-$100 for one pass recce. Then you add in tow cost, hotel, beer/food, replacement parts and you're looking at a good $2000-$Awholelotofmoney depending on what type of team you're funding.

  14. Dave
    March 30, 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    I was at the 2007 Flat Rock LeMons race. You impressed me!!!!! All of the teams that were actually on the track at the end were very impressive. The top five finishers are racing superstars! They did so much more with so much less than any other type of professional racer out there today. Jeff Gordon and Michael Schumacher should respect you as their superior and sit at your feet for bits of wisdom with the hope that just an milligram of your testosterone might rub off on them.

  15. Scott
    March 30, 2009 at 4:11 pm #

    I did something similar back in 2002 as I was preparing to go stock car racing. I chose the UMP Open Wheel Modified class that races at multiple dirt ovals in the area. For a competitive car and motor combination, you would spend about $25,000. That will get you a 'manufactured' roller and a motor. Technically you'd spend a little more on the trans, rear gears, etc. But those are re-usable and are sometimes included in the roller price.

  16. Scott
    March 30, 2009 at 4:11 pm #

    Operating the car on a weekly basis – not including significant repairs – depends somewhat on your tire usage. Each tire costs $100. And most people estimate that they replace one tire each week. This week's right rear from the feature event will become next week's right rear for the heat race. But you should probably estimate 1.25 or 1.5 tires per week, as you still will wear through the front tires and left rear eventually. That's the biggest ongoing cost. Pit passes are about $25. Towing to the track depends on your distance. Food and drinks are relatively cheap – figure $15 per person. Fluids, oil filters, brake pads, sparkplugs are pretty low. Figure $20 per week.

  17. Scott
    March 30, 2009 at 4:12 pm #

    The next most significant cost is the repairs. A simple fender bender could cost you $500 in broken suspension components easy. Hitting a wall may require a trip to the frame straightener or new spindles, lower a-arms, upper a-arms, etc. Shocks snap on occasion as well.

    All in all, though, it sounds like I'm spending a good bit less on my local dirt track than these guys are to make lefts and rights.

  18. March 30, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    Scott,

    At some point in the future, I'll be discussing dirt-track and oval-track expenses as well. I personally enjoy the roundy-round stuff and I'd very much like to have a cup of coffee in RE/MAX at some point in the next five or six years, although I'd probably actually run a road-course ARCA race when I do rent, just to try to skew the odds a bit more in my favor.

  19. March 30, 2009 at 11:25 pm #

    LeMons is more than $500 – $1,000 per race.

    One time costs:
    1. Car – $500
    2. Roll cage – $800
    3. Seat and harness – $1,000 (x 2 if you ever want to learn how to drive it properly)
    4. Racing gear – $2,500 (five drivers)
    5. Wheels – $400 (8 wheels)
    6. Brake calipers and fuel lines – $200
    7. Misc tools, supplies that you don't yet have but now have a reason to buy – $500

    Per race (five drivers):
    1. Entry fees – $1100
    2. Practice session – $300 – $500
    3. Tires – $800 (set of 6 – 8)
    4. Race gas – $150 – $250
    5. Additional performance budget – $150 – $250 (granted by Jay)
    6. Trailer – $200
    7. Travel and accomodation – $1,500

    So $6,000 to get started and $4,500 for each race. Some of this could be cheaper but I doubt we are spending much more than anyone else.

    • Lemons South
      March 31, 2009 at 4:04 am #

      Whats the "Additional Performance Budget" and how do I buy one?

      • March 31, 2009 at 4:15 am #

        Run in more than one race. In other words, Jay revalues your car after each race giving you "Additional Performance Budget".

  20. Meng Mao
    March 31, 2009 at 12:20 am #

    I'm pretty sure JB's costs are assuming that the total is split among the team members.

    • March 31, 2009 at 2:34 am #

      Yup. That's a single-seat rental, and there are six "seats" in a Lemons race.

  21. Andrew
    March 31, 2009 at 5:20 am #

    JB: I think a follow-up article on racing & ownership would be awesome! Wonder how much of a difference it is.

  22. Karl_Thomson
    March 31, 2009 at 5:23 am #

    Jack, good article, and very accurate on the prices for the pro series. As with everything, there is always a good range of prices in SWC and KONI: you can get a back-marker ride in a car that may not make the start of the race for $5k, but if you want a chance at the Street Tuner podium, you're $10k+ per driver. Likewise, good SWC Touring rides are $20k.

    -k-

  23. Jeremy
    March 31, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    ***slow-clap***

  24. NASA Racer
    April 1, 2009 at 12:33 am #

    I must say, I'm disappointed in your assessment of the NASA Championships!
    Your comments do a dis-service to a number of very talented drivers that have been crowned at the NASA National Championship event in the past few years. While some of the classes are not nearly as competitive as others and are much easier to win, winning a super competitive class like Spec Miata at the NASA Championships which had nearly 60 cars in just the Spec Miata field alone is no easy task and something no idiot hack would have the ability to do!
    Using the choice of words you did leaves the reader with a completely false sense of what that event is about and shows real competitors that have taken part in the event that you obviously didn't compete in a competitive class, nor do you have the credentials to post judgment over the entire event like you did in this article! I'm certain your choice of words would change if you were on the competitive side of the coin.
    Good luck with your career…

    • April 1, 2009 at 10:15 pm #

      For the record, I was second in the 2007 NASA Champs in SF, demoted to third in post-race protests for contact, and set fast lap of the race. In 2008 I ran Nationals in PTE, which was a 22-car field. I took fifth in both of the qualifying races, had a flat tire in the out lap of the final race, changed it, came out three laps down, and set fifth-fastest lap on the way to 18th place. FWIW, the guy who set the fourth-fastest lap is an SCCA Runoffs winner. I'm not sure what that demonstrates :)

      I'm a committed and proud NASA racer, but let's face facts: Winning the Runoffs is, and will continue to be for some time, more difficult and prestigious than winning a NASA Championship. If we, as NASA racers, refuse to acknowledge that, we aren't doing ourselves any favors. We'll get there eventually, but it starts with being honest. Not everybody who wins a NASA race is exactly Wolf Henzler.

      Winning SM at the NASA Nationals is a big achievement and I'd respect anybody who has done that. But really, truly, honestly, do you think it's equal to winning at the Runoffs?

  25. Meng Mao
    April 1, 2009 at 12:43 am #

    But JB already noted that he almost won Spec Focus (which certainly has nowhere near the same field as SM, sure). While it was a harsh statement, I think what he said jibes with the general perceived differences between NASA and SCCA.

    • NASA Racer
      April 1, 2009 at 4:08 pm #

      I don't think you understand what I was getting at. This article is pointed at people who have an interest in automobile racing, but would like to find more info about it and may not have a firm grasp on the differences between the two organizations. The choice of words for the article makes it seem that all racing at the NASA Championships is uncompetitive and that "any idiot hack" can win their. While It's pretty clear you have a firm understanding of the situation, the article does not do a good job of illustrating the fact there are some VERY competitive racing classes at the event and it's not just a joke! Also, the article fails to point out that winning a NASA National Championship gets you exactly the same thing a win at the Runoffs does, nothing!
      Oh, and onto one other point! That's also not true at least at the NASA Champs.
      The SM winner last year walked about with nearly $10k in cash and winnings from the race! That is no small win…

      • Meng Mao
        April 1, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

        You're right in that a beginning amateur racer wouldn't really care, notice, or complain about the quality of competition at his first event. I think there're plenty (if not all) budget-minded people who would be ok with renting the cheapest slowest beater in the class and getting lapped the whole race, just for experience of being out on the 'closed road.'

        To your point that there are substantial prizes for National winners, that's mostly a distraction in the perspective of introducing people to racing. It takes a ton of cash to get a mechanically competitive setup, and a ton of skill and seat time to be able to win nationally. No beginning racer should expect to recoup ANY of the money he spends racing.

  26. April 1, 2009 at 12:46 am #

    Hey Pete, is that you?

  27. Rob Slater
    April 1, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    Great article, it's good to see all the options laid out for a complete beginner. Will the next article also contain the information to become mentioned orange juice lobbyist?

  28. Jesse S
    April 1, 2009 at 2:51 pm #

    "Cross your fingers for me, and I’ll look to see you out there, too."
    You know we will be there!

  29. April 1, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    You'll forgive me for pointing it out, but this helps point out why street racing (or general public road hoonage) is as popular is it is.

    Sure, the local drag strip is pretty cheap, but it doesn't take long for anyone not driving a muscle car to start making excuses about being able to go around corners.

    LeMons isn't supposed to be a "real" race, but it's the realest* race that 90% of people can actually afford to participate in.

    I know the organizers are trying to make people take it less seriously, but I think it's a matter of attitude. I'm taking the building of our car very seriously, but we're going there to survive, not win.

    • April 1, 2009 at 5:05 pm #

      thank you for that… As fun as it would be to make it rain nickels, I would prefer to have some good stories and enjoy myself on the track while being able to walk and talk after it is all said and done…

  30. 2trips
    April 2, 2009 at 5:18 pm #

    As a guy with no race experience who is building a beater E30 to SE30 spec and thinking about racing it, I guess I can look forward to a lifetime of being broke and single.
    I think i can deal with that.

  31. Spud
    April 7, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    I raced SCCA, Firehawk, World Challenge and ProRally for nearly 20 years. Always ran the low buck classes, SSC, ITB, etc. Managed to get in a total of 18 real 24 hour races and another dozen or so 4-12 hour events. Got lots of cheap checkered flags and cheesy trophies. When you add it all up I could have paid cash for my home had I not race. Screw that. I have friend and memories and bench race stories to last a lifetime. I can always pay the mortgage off later.

    If you go the itch. Scratch it. Nothing seperates the real racers from the posers like strapping on a helmut and taking the green flag.

    Just do it. You will NOT regret it.

    Racing is like sex, only it lasts longer.

  32. ACR MAN
    April 8, 2009 at 5:34 am #

    If you do write the sequel on owning one's own racecar, make sure to mention this: do NOT buy your own car unless you have either

    A – the skill to maintain, set-up, align and repair said racecar
    or
    B – the cash to pay somebody else with the skill to do so.

    The world does not need more IT and Production class racecars with leaking hoses, missing bolts — held together with duct tape and prayers…

  33. May 6, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    Those NASA figures are right on the money. I was quoted 22 grand to race Spec E30 for a year, but that's with lots of extras. You can save a lot of money by buying your own car and then paying a team to store it and service it.

    One thing you didn't mention, Jack, are the school series'. Formula Skip Barber can be run regionally for 30 grand a year, nationally for 50. And if you win national, you get $400,000 to go race Star Mazda. Jim Russell runs Formula 3 cars at Infineon for 80 grand a year with a $450,000 prize. Right now I'm doing Russell's karting series, which is $6,200 per year for 8 weekends with 2 double headers (10 races total). Great coaching, too. The prize is seat time in the Formula 3s for the top 3 in the championship. Can't race for any cheaper than that…

  34. Nathan
    September 3, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    This is quite possibly the single greatest article I've read in years. I've always wanted to race professionally, but I've always wanted to hear the real-life no BS experience of a driver and the costs to race.

  35. Allen
    October 30, 2009 at 4:46 am #

    Wow, at those costs, where do you get the money for the race at all?

  36. June 5, 2010 at 2:47 am #

    I have been looking into applying in the oil industry. I’ve read that the pay is great with a lot of time off. This article says I can get a great job even though I don’t have college. Oil Rig Jobs No Experience. All I want to know is, is it possible?
    Thanks in advance

  37. July 17, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    I believe diferrent because my friends and family use another brand name.It’s relaxed and i love it’s very much.But next drill driver I am going to think of this as drill driver stuffs that you present.Appreciate!!!

  38. September 5, 2010 at 6:58 am #

    Up to $50000, a little much for me, however what a lot of fun. Good luck all!

  39. October 23, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    Much obliged for the article and for publishing a good site. I have been seeking savvy information on natural health and will put this information to practice. I have found it hard to find reliable ideas, as there are tons of sites with useless information. Certainly keep the good information coming!

  40. September 15, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    whats your facebook or twitter?

  41. April 15, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

    Not by doing sit ups…

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.