How to Become a NASCAR Driver

Even a moderately-successful NASCAR driver can rake in millions of dollars from his race winnings, salary, and merchandise royalties. Did that get you thinking on how to become a NASCAR driver? If yes, then you've come to the right place! This Buzzle article tells you the steps and qualifications required to become a professional NASCAR driver.
SportsAspire Staff
Did You Know?
In the US, NASCAR races boast of the maximum television viewership for sports, after NFL matches.
Most of us have fantasized becoming a champion race car driver as a kid. But only a few consider it seriously as a profession. With the popularity of NASCAR continuously on the rise, millions are drawn toward this sport for the glory, fame, and riches that it bestows on the victor. While it may seem a little intimidating at first, with the right kind of resources, skills, and hard work, one can take definite steps to ultimately race in the NASCAR circuit. Let us see how to become a NASCAR driver.

Age
First, find out the legal driving age in your state. If you are below this limit, then a go-kart can help you understand the basics of racing. While go-karts may not look the part, they offer great driving education. One similarity among NASCAR stars is that almost 90% of them began their career on a go-kart, and some even return to one from time to time to hone their skills. While most of them began around the age of 11 to 14, a few started as early as 4! Most experts agree that starting early definitely gives you an edge.

Car Type
While children and teens should practice on go-karts, by the time they reach early adulthood, they should move on to larger cars on local race tracks. This includes starting with quarter midget cars, moving on to three-quarter midget cars, then midget cars, and trying the sprint car. Upon mastering the sprint car, the young driver can take to the stock cars used in NASCAR races.

Pit Pass
You can head to a nearby racing track and buy a pit pass. This is a good opportunity to get in touch with pit crew members, officials, managers, and even drivers, who can individually share their knowledge and experience on what is required to make it in the field of competitive racing. You can inquire of the age limit to race on the track, as most local tracks set their own age limits, which, in many cases, is lower than the state driving limit.

Volunteer
You can volunteer as a crew member for a local race car driver. While giving them a helping hand in mundane tasks like shifting equipment or changing tires, this will help you get an inside view of the sport, rather than like a spectator.

Car Mechanics
Before you get into an actual race car, spend some time understanding the mechanics of one. You can join an automotive course, which is offered by a number of institutes. Volunteering as a crew member at a local race track, as mentioned above, can also help. Having the basic knowledge of how a race car works is crucial, as although pit crews have all kinds of expensive and advanced equipment at their disposal, it is the driver who picks up signs of a potential problem, and knows when to pull over at a pit stop so as to avoid a breakdown at high speed.

Education
While most NASCAR drivers in the past had nothing more than high school diplomas, nowadays, a college degree is considered valuable. This is all the more important with the sport becoming more business-like. To succeed in NASCAR, a driver should be skilled at the wheel and also in a boardroom when he is seeking potential sponsors. What sponsors see in a driver, apart from natural talent, is the ability to handle his fans and the media, as he is the face of their brand. A college degree, especially one in business and communications, helps impart these required soft skills.

Local Tracks
Start your career by taking part in local car races. It is important to start small, and looking at the competitiveness of NASCAR, you need to make every race count. To prepare for this, you can join a one-day course at a racing school, though this is optional. Before signing up, make sure to select a program which gives you considerable time behind the wheel, and involves different types of cars, right from a quarter midget to a midget, or a stock car used in NASCAR races. To obtain a car for a local tournament, it is advisable to rent one, rather than purchase it. The best way to get noticed by NASCAR is to start dominating local races, and move up to higher levels gradually.

Fitness
Along with preparing for local races, start with a workout program to improve your fitness. NASCAR races are a test of endurance, as wrestling with the wheel for hundreds of miles, for several hours, and at temperatures around 120ºF, isn't easy. Most drivers do not weigh more than 175 pounds, as a car carrying a lighter weight in the driver's seat will move faster, which can make all the difference in a race.

Dedication
Put in a lot of hard work behind the wheel. Avoiding collisions by a matter of inches when taking sharp turns requires swift reflexes. However, this doesn't come overnight, and is a result of constant practice. At the same time, you need to avoid any misdemeanors outside the track. Getting booked for over-speeding, or driving under influence, can minimize your chances of getting a NASCAR license, as the organization closely monitors a driver's off-track behavior as well.

Sponsors
There are a few sports that require the kind of money as competitive racing. Most drivers who dominate races have the backing of a strong sponsor. Cars with better parts and maintenance run faster on the track, and have lesser chances of breaking down. You can look for sponsors by networking or joining a team, as team owners are well-connected to sponsors. Having a sponsor with deep pockets can help you in local races, where you have to secure your own car. Keep in mind that sponsors only back drivers who have a history of winning races, as they promise good returns on investment.

NASCAR License
To be eligible to drive in NASCAR's regional circuits, a driver needs to apply for a license, either directly to the NASCAR headquarters or to affiliated race tracks. This requires submitting a detailed application and resume, containing the driver's personal details, references, and extensive racing history. On obtaining a NASCAR license, a driver must put up a team and a car to participate in races. As mentioned above, this is where a sponsor comes in handy, for the cost of the car, its maintenance, pit crew salaries, and the like.

You may have realized that to become a NASCAR driver, being skilled at the wheel is not enough. One should also be committed to his goal, so that his performance earns him the attention of a sponsor, thus helping him rise up the professional circuit.