Roundtable: So You Want to Work in Racing, Part I

Roundtable: So You Want to Work in Racing, Part I

September 4, 2014 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge IMSA SportsCar Championship Public Relations Uncategorized 2

For most people working in the motorsports industry, a day doesn’t go by where we aren’t asked how to get employed in the motorsport world. Between the travel, people, competition, and cars, it can be a pretty exciting field to work in, and certainly for most, it looks incredibly enticing compared to the typical 9 to 5. The public sees the glamor at the track, online and on TV, and many crave to be a part of the action. Some requests are earnest and from people who have a solid grasp on the education, connections, waiting and hard work it will take. They come dressed the part and ask the right questions. Some get offended or turned off by real advice based on experiences and fade into the background. Others accidentally stumble into the industry, and then find themselves kicked to the curb or not taken seriously because they didn’t realize there are standards that are upheld.

There’s no one, rock-solid way to get into the sport. Although I’m always happy to answer questions, there isn’t one person who has all the answers. I sat down with six different individuals with diverse backgrounds and established credentials in the paddock to get their thoughts on the matter, based on their own unique experiences of working in the motorsports world. The group came back with far more valuable content than I planned, so this roundtable will be split into two parts.
Part One

The Players

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Bill Riley: My current position is President of Riley Technologies and we have several racing companies underneath that umbrella. We run the team for SRT, we run the Vipers and we design and build the Vipers with SRT to run in an IMSA series in GT3. We stay pretty busy right now, and we have 48 people full time, and on race weekends we balloon up, whether it’s with the drivers and weekend warriors. On race weekends, I make sure the three Vipers we run in the TUDOR Championship are all running as best as they can. So I manage the race weekends. During the races, I’m on the radio with the #91 GTLM engineer, Tyler Hook who’s been with me a long time and he does all the heavy lifting so I just get to take all the credit.

Jon Bennett: Jon Bennett and I am the owner of CORE autosport and the driver of the No. 54 Prototype Challenge car with Colin Braun.

Lauren Elkins: I am a data engineer. At NGT Motorsport, we currently run seven IMSA GT3 Cup Porsches, as well as our GTD Porsche for certain events, and I’m basically responsible for downloading and analyzing all the information that comes from each of our cars. I analyze engine running, car performance and balance, suspension movement, fuel consumption, and all electrical activity on the cars. I also review all data with each drives to help them see where they are gaining and losing time on track, and analyze how they can improve their lap times.

Peter Baron: I’m the owner of Starworks Motorsport. The biggest thing I do is money management. I mainly manage drivers, the budget and all higher upper management level decisions. The day to day running of the cars and simple logistics of the team are handled by the team manager and car chief. The one thing I also do is bring in the perspective of what a driver with a budget would want in the program and in the car, and then find that to make the drivers happy.

Randy Hembrey:
My full time job is with IMSA. I’m the Race Director for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge US Series, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada Series and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America. I also handle a few things for IndyCar and Andersen Promotions as the Race Director for the USF2000 Series, the Pro Mazda Series, and also assist Tony Cotman with Indy Lights. The Race Director has overall responsibility for conducting the competition portion of the event. Anything that occurs “inside the fence” is my responsibility: All of the safety matters, racing conduct, managing the clock, managing the schedule, technical compliance, managing logistics with the teams, officials, local authorities, promoters, corner, grid and paddock volunteers as well as other staff are all functions in which I am accountable. In addition to the “at track” duties, the Race Director generally writes all of the rules for the series in which we look after.   A Race Director also spends a considerable amount of time coaching and counseling drivers and teams regarding expectations related to the sport. It’s very rewarding work, actually.

Steven Cole Smith: I’m the editor in chief at Motorsport.com. It changes daily. Essentially we’re a very large website with a very small staff. Right now Alexa has us as one of the top 3,000 websites in the U.S., up a lot in the past six months. We attempt, unlike almost every other site, to cover everything we possibly can with two or four wheels in racing. I try to have something on the World of Outlaws, and I try to do something on the Michelin Clio Cup. I try to get everything in there that we possibly can, even though it may get 100 hits, where I probably should be spending time on a story that will get 1,000 or 10,000 hits. The philosophy of motorsport.com since it started in the 1990s is that it is totally inclusive. That’s my mandate and something I’m proud of. We do more on different kinds of motorsports than anyone. If I post 10 releases, I try to do them on 10 different series. It could be NASCAR K&N or USF2000. We get hundreds of releases a day. When I got there, I looked in our spam folder, and we had about 7,000 stories in there. I unspammed a lot of them, because I want to know what’s going on with every series, with as many tracks and drivers as possible. Today I have stories on F1, on NASCAR, and on the SCCA Solo Nationals.

How did you become involved in racing?

Thumbnail_BillBill: I was kind of born into it in a way in that my father was into it his whole life. His first race was 1949, so when I was born in 1968, and when I was five, I knew I wanted to designed race cars and be involved. I would go to school I couldn’t figure out why kids were trying to figure out what to do with their lives because I knew at age five this is what I was going to do. I got lucky because I always had a way in, but I think that in my earlier years I kind of maximized the opportunities to further myself. So when I was in my 20’s, I was able to get pretty far ahead in life and pretty far ahead in what I was doing. For example, when I was 27, I entered a car in Le Mans which is pretty rare for a 27 year old. I grew up quick and put my head down to concentrate on my career in my 20’s.

It wasn’t like I grew up privileged in any way, shape, or form. My mom drove a Pinto for nine years when I was growing up so it wasn’t like I grew up with a sliver spoon. I maximized every opportunity I could get around a race car. For example, I grew up in Detroit and when my friends would go up to Northern Michigan and I had a free weekend I would look at the schedule and see what was racing at Mid-Ohio, or Blackhawk Farms, and I would drive down myself just to go to a race track. In college, I was heavily into road racing, of course sports car racing, IndyCar, and stock car but then also if I had a free weekend I had a friend named Rick Howerton who raced sprint cars and midgets and I would go to every sprint and midget race I could with him. So I was just obsessed with getting to the race track in any way, shape or form. It wasn’t like you were getting paid to do it either, you’d just go.

Thumbnail_JonJon: I got started in motorsports broke and driving a 1972 MG midget around pylons when I was in high school. Since autocrossing was all I could afford, I autocrossed from junior year of high school until I was out of college. Then I got my mechanical engineering degree from University of Connecticut and decided to save up my money and I bought a Volkswagen Scirocco which I raced in SCCA. I did that for about four years, but what I really wanted to do was drive something faster in SCCA like a car called the Sports 2000 or Formula Atlantic, but it was way beyond my budget. So I quit racing in 1995 and started a composites business. I started a business to design and manufacture parts and pieces from carbon fiber. I focused on the business for a couple years, and by 1998, the business was up and running. I decided it was okay to take 5% of my attention away from the business and go back to racing.

I bought a Spec Racer Ford, which is kind of an econo racer version of the Sports 2000. After four or five seasons of the spec racer, I bought an open-wheel car called Formula Enterprises which is SCCA’s spec formula car. I did that for two seasons and business continued to grow. I kind of was looking for something new. I raced with SCCA for 10 or 12 years at that point, and in C sports in SCCA racing you started to see IMSA Lites cars arrive.

I decided to bite the bullet and buy an IMSA Lites car and race it with IMSA. When I got to the IMSA paddock, I was really happy. It’s a different organization, and much more professional because it was less of a volunteer effort. I loved it here. The problem is that during my switch from open wheel to IMSA Lites, I was using a prep shop in Florida that didn’t want to do testing, development or that last magic 5% it takes to be competitive as a business. They wanted to bring the cars home, get the wheels straight, and put it back on the trailer. With Composite Resources, my carbon fiber company doing well, I struck up a deal with the owner of that company, and bought the prep shop and moved it to Charlotte. That was the beginning of CORE autosport. We started the 2010 season with a three-car effort—myself and two customers. We had a very successful season. My teammate Charlie Sheers won the championship. My other teammate, Gary Gibson was second and I was third. On the heels of that, we bought two LMPC cars, and here we are. That’s how I got started. It took a lot of interest in racing. It’s expensive and hard to get here unless you know the business. While I was working on the business and trying to figure out how to get here, there were other competitors I raced with who were in Europe or in shifter karts, so I had to catch up with them. Luckily, Colin Braun has been very helpful and we work as a team.

Thumbnail_LaurenLauren: I started working for a company called Cosworth. They were an engine manufacturer for the Champ Car World Series. I just started doing basic database administration for them, but really took an interest in the hands-on aspect of engine building. I would spend my mornings doing my normal job, then stay late and go into the build shop and watch and learn from some of the best engine builders in the business. I began building fuel pumps, and then moved on to some of the engine internals, like compound gears, and then the bottom-end of our Formula Atlantic engines. Then I’d sit in the dyno and learn about engine mapping, and eventually became a Track Support technician for them. I had a Bachelor’s degree in international business, but I had grown up around racing. My dad worked for Snap-On Tools, so from a young age, I was always tinkering with ratchets and sockets. After I left Cosworth, I went to work for IMSA briefly, doing timing and scoring data for them. I really wanted to get a better understanding of how the series worked behind the scenes. Then I went to work for Muscle Milk – Pickett Racing. I worked for them for three years on their Prototype Challenge car and their LMP1 car. With the merger, we launched a new P2 car, raced at Daytona and Sebring, and then the team folded. Thankfully I was offered a position at NGT Motorsport, where I’m currently working.

Thumbnail_PeterPeter: I came up the driving route. I had one foot in the driving career, and one in the “go to college and have a real career” path. It worked well in both. I drove in the GT2 class of IMSA with Porsches, and in the meantime was working my way up through sales, finance and business development. The person I was working for sent me to Florida because he bought a yacht company for one of his friends to run. I was sent to keep an eye on it and make sure it was okay. After a year, we got out of the boat company and I was left in Florida looking for a job. I switched over a team managing position with the team I was driving with. During that season, I didn’t get along with a partner on that team, so I took the season off in 2004. At the end of the season, I was faced with the decision of getting a real job or trying to do racing without any real partners. I opted for the latter, to at least give it one shot. I started with a Porsche in GRAND-AM’s GT class at Daytona. We had four gentlemen in the car and managed a third place finish. We expected the phone to ring for the next race, but nothing really happened. We didn’t know what to do, but didn’t want anyone to forget about us. I knew Bryan Sellers through a friend and put him in the car, then through Dave Empringham, I met Ryan Dalziel, and then we put him in the car. After that, the phone started to ring a bit, and we’ve been up and down since.

Thumbnail_RandyRandy: Like most professionals in motor sports, I started as a volunteer. I fell in love with racing as a kid. My dad was big fan. He would bring me up to Road America when I was little and we went up there all the time. When I was in high school, I started volunteering as an SCCA corner worker at Road America. Eventually, though my teen years and early twenties, I was working at Road America every weekend– I just put my time in. The main way to get a job in motor sports is to show up at the race track. You’re not going to get a job in motor sports if you don’t come to the track and put in your volunteer time. Working at the track all of those weekends, you get to see the big series come and go. That one weekend that they are there, you get to know people and start to see them year after year. Eventually they say “Hey do you want to come to Lime Rock with us?” and you get that one deal to go volunteer at Lime Rock on your own dime. That progresses into meeting more and more people. This business is about relationships and that’s how it started for me. That was 30 years ago and it probably took me 20 years to make it a professional deal. It took 20 years of volunteer work to start making any money at all. All this time, I had a professional career in the corporate world and eventually moved away from my corporate job into this full time. I’m fortunate to be able to make a career out of doing something I love.

Thumbnail_StevenSteven: I’m 60 years old and I was probably 5 when my dad took me to a dirt oval track in West Memphis, Arkansas, Riverside Speedway. From then on, the die was cast. I honestly don’t know who was in the World Series last year, but I can tell you who finished 5th in the ARCA race in Berlin, Michigan. It’s always been the only real sport that I’ve had interested in. The problem is when you’re interested in motorsports, it’s not like you’re interested in baseball or football. It means you’re interested in so many sports that it’s tough to maintain any level of credibility when you’re talking about sprint cars and Formula One, and dragsters and Moto GP, and NASCAR and IMCA modifieds. I can probably count on two hands the people in the business who can sit down and talk about ANYTHING in motorsports. I’ve always been in journalism. I’ve done everything from investigative reporting to being a television critic to redesigning a newspaper, but I came into racing through the product side and gravitated over to motorsports.

What does your team look for when hiring team members?

Thumbnail_BillBill: It depends on the position of course, but the main thing I look for is how willing they are to put the time into the sport. I started working in a shop at age 14 for Jack Roush, so I put my time in cleaning wheels and everything else. I look for people who are willing to do anything. I look for people who are more interested in learning than trying to teach me, I know what I want. If someone’s an engineer or wants to be a mechanic, I’m more interested in how mechanical they are. I don’t think you can be a good engineer if you have never worked on anything, which a lot of these kids don’t. When an engineer comes to see me, I want to see how they can work on stuff. For a mechanic, it’s really how much you’re willing to dedicate your life to it. As you know, you have to dedicate your life to the sport and then it’s also how well you get along with others, because that’s a big part of it. We can’t have people yelling and screaming. We have a rule with our team there’s no running or screaming unless you’re on fire. You have to be pretty well reserved to work with us also. You can’t be too out of control. It’s a tight ship, but I think we have a lot of fun.

Jon:Jon: Whether we’re at home in Rock Hill or in the paddock at a race track, everyone is hired for a particular core competency. Like being a data acquisitions person or a composite repair person. What’s more important is two things: one, is that person’s ability to act professionally and represent our company well; two, you also have to be able to think on your feet and solve problems without a lot of supervision or outside help. Sometimes things happen quite fast here and you have to be able to think practically on your own. It helps things go smoother verses a lot people who are reliant on others. The more independent you are, you become that more effective in your position. We look for people that are independent but can work within the organization.

Thumbnail_LaurenLauren: The biggest thing teams want is someone with experience. I know it’s really hard to get a foot in the door, but you really have to be willing to work from the ground up and do anything for the team. One of the biggest problems right now is young engineers come out of school thinking they’ve been trained to work on a race car. Although you can simulate a lot of things in a classroom, nothing compares to experience. You need to know what an electrical fire looks like and how to fix it. You need to know how to reverse-engineer a chassis loom. Things you might not think about at school are happen at the race track in real time. People who want to work in racing often have very different expectations from what racing really is. We very much hold tightly to the team aspect. If a truck driver needs help unloading the team truck, then that’s what you do. If someone needs help setting up equipment in pit lane, that’s what you do. If a car needs to be wiped down, then that’s what you do. Teams don’t have time for people who think they’re above doing something. Just because you have “engineer” in your title doesn’t mean you’re above sweeping out a truck. It doesn’t mean you get to go home early; if anything, it means you’re at the track the latest. Right now the next generation of engineers has an “I” mentality: I can do this, and I will do this, and I get to make my own decisions. There just isn’t room for that in racing. Things happen too quickly, and you can’t afford to think singularly.

It’s hard right now because there are so few avenues to enter and to learn. I would start with grassroots racing and club level racing. I know for a lot of young engineers, that might seem like a step backwards, but it’s really not. The minute you’re able to say to a team, “I worked on Porsches in this series, or small prototypes in this series,” a team cares about that and will be interested. My last two team owners didn’t know where my degree came from and they didn’t care. But they did care that I knew how to calibrate damper potentiometers. They did care that I knew how to use a variety of software programs. That’s the other thing: get your hands on as much stuff as you can. Try to get your hands on Cosworth data, Magneti Marelli data, and MoTeC data. You can download MoTeC for free from their website, and Cosworth has a Pi Lite version of their software that can be used by anyone. Get data from a team, if they’re willing to send you samples. You can just start looking at it. Anything that you can do to put on your resume that says, “Yes, I may be young and inexperienced, but I know these programs,” that’s huge. Keep networking. That’s the biggest thing. Racing is all about relationships. Once you’re in racing, you’re in.

It’s not an easy life. People need to recognize that you’re on the road constantly. You’re at the track all day, every day. There are a lot of weekends, you miss a lot of birthdays and family events. But if you love what you do, then there’s a part of you that says it’s worth it. You see marriages fall apart left and right here because dads aren’t home, moms aren’t home. You see parents talk about kids with behavior issues because no one is there and there’s no consistency for the kids. There is a lot of give and take. But if it’s the right move for people, it’s great. If you can look at the schedule of a certain series, you can decide. My husband knew NASCAR wasn’t going to be the place for him because they are going 30 weeks out of the year. With TUDOR, we have 10-12 events, plus additional testing. IndyCar has 17 maybe. The lesser series have a mix of those. You really do have to assess what you’re willing to give up. It’s not all glitz and glamour. It’s more like a circus than anybody realizes. We pull in on a Tuesday, set up our tents, race on Saturday or Sunday, pack up our stuff and head out.

Thumbnail_PeterPeter: The biggest thing is a passion of autosport that wants to make them a better person, mechanic and engineer. It leads to learning. I’d be more willing to take a person who was hardcore enthusiastic and wanted to be the best car chief there is with little starting experience, who is willing to stay late and ask all the right questions verses a safe pick, average mechanic that you can lean on for okay work. That’s not going to aspire to anything.

 

Thumbnail_RandyRandy: The problem is finding the right people who have time to do it. It’s easy to find people who are available but it’s not always easy to find the right people for the job. We have to weed through a lot of one hit wonders until you find someone who is really capable of doing the work. Everybody and their brother wants to get a job in racing. That’s why spending time at the race track and building those relationships and letting people know and showing what you can do on a volunteer bases is really how you prove yourself. I get resumes all the time that look like every other resume. There are some really sharp people out there that their experiences don’t really translate well in the type of work that we do. We want the people who are willing to work hard. We want people to have some experience in professional motor sports and know what it takes at the race track. They need to know all of the different interactions and functions and disciplines at a race track. You can’t always see that on a resume. You need to know the person and see how they interact under pressure.

The work that we do here is so specialized. For example, in my role as a Race Director, there are maybe 10 people in the US who do this on a professional basis, and probably only five of us who do this on a professional basis, full time. It’s hard finding people who have the right set of skills to do this type of work. Anybody can sit up in race control and throw a green flag but there are two components to this job. One is effectively and safely managing the competition and the race itself. Two, the work that we do in the paddock is skill that not a lot of people have in dealing with team owners and dealing with drivers and listening to input and making rule adjustments, disciplining drivers and those kinds of things.

I’ve always said when the officiating becomes a part of the story, we are doing something wrong. Look at any other sporting event like Football or Hockey. When you see a game and you don’t even notice the officials, you’ll usually walk away thinking “Wow, what a great game!”, but when the officiating becomes a factor in determining the outcome of a game, it’s not really a great outcome. It’s a distraction. I prefer to be nameless. If nobody knows who I am, then I’m doing a good job. But it’s a difficult job because you have to be fair. This is a relationship business, but it’s also a very small industry, so everybody I work with here is considered a part of the family including the competitors, team owners, officials, and other people a part of the series. In my job, you have to make calls and somebody is always going to be on the bad side of that decision and somebody is always going to be on the good side of that decision. I sometimes have to penalize people who are close friends of mine. But if you do it in a way that is professional and consistent, there won’t be any problems. That’s a matter of putting in your time, constantly staying keen to the tone and tenor of the competition, earning the respect of your peers, leading, and being good at what you do.

Thumbnail_StevenSteven:  The electronic age has changed everything. Sometimes I wonder why I bothered to get a journalism degree because everybody who has a keyboard is a journalist and everyone with an iPhone is a photographer. It’s a tough time to make a living in this business.  I think it’s tougher than it’s ever been before, and I don’t see that improving anytime soon. There’s a huge collection of people out there willing to do it for nothing. But my experience has taught me how it works and how to screw up, and how to fix it when it does. An example: The Tony Stewart mess. The message is so fragmented, and so driven by people who don’t know any sort of journalism basics, that the total package is really tainted. It’s my job to make sure we are on message at Motorsport.com, that we get the story right. Not just for the huge story like Stewart, but for a race results story from a little regional series. My original Tony Stewart story, posted at 5 a.m. the morning after the accident, has had over 2.5 million views, 200,000 Facebook shares. If you get it right, the reward is that people read it, and send it to others to read.

What are some personal and professional standards team members are held to once hired?

Thumbnail_BillBill: Personal for the program we have now is hygiene type thing. You have to look the part, looks are perception and that’s the reality. You have to look for someone who has a fairly laid back attitude because there is going to be a lot of stuff thrown at you. One night we might get out of here at 7:00pm and one night we might get out of here at 7:00am. You just don’t know what is going to be thrown your way, so you have to have someone who is fairly laid back and who can roll with the punches.

We don’t have any big standards. You have to look the part you’re trying to get. I always thought you need to look like the people you are trying to work with or work for. You can’t look really bad or you can’t go the other way too and look really high-end when you are trying to work as a mechanic.

Jon:Jon: The good news is that Morgan Brady, our Team Manager, has put in place a culture where what we do to go racing is quite interesting and a lot of fun, but is also a business. This is professional racing, and there are drivers’ lives at risk. While it’s fun and interesting, it’s also a lot of work. Morgan Is looking for people that are reliable, will follow direction and get to a solution without a lot of supervision. We keep the atmosphere pretty light, but we’re very serious about the task at hand. That helps keeps the stress level down. Stress is not hard to find in the paddock. We joke around and have a good time, but we know in the end that what we do is very serious work.

Thumbnail_LaurenLauren: Professional standards vary by team. At Muscle Milk – Pickett Racing, for example, we had a full company handbook. We weren’t allowed to drink in team wear. There were expectations of our character and things that were expected of us in the paddock. Other teams are different. Some are more relaxed, and some are more structured. I think ultimately any team wants to present a professional face. Of course, the series has strict drug and alcohol polices that every member of every team is expected to adhere to. It’s part of the membership agreement that every team member must sign to participate in any IMSA event. For example, you’re not to drink alcohol within 12 hours of any given session, and they can randomly drug test as well.

I also think racing is one of the few places where you can also have your own personality. For example, a lot of teams don’t frown upon tattoos. Tattoos may be taboo in other industries, but here in racing, we love them. Same for piercings, haircuts, colors. To an extent, we embrace the eclectic. We’re not all clean cut and clean shaven. But I also think there is a personal level of professionalism that each crew member is expected to maintain: You have to be on time, you have to be at your session on time. You’re responsible for certain things and if you don’t get them done, they don’t get done. In most situations here, it’s not one where you get micromanaged. Most engineers and mechanics know what they’re responsible for and they have to do it. If it isn’t done or is done incorrectly, it falls on them. Each team is different and team size brings a factor into it. You may have a team with two mechanics per car or five mechanics per car. The size of the engineering staff, the public relations staff, or the marketing staff can all be different. Each team has their strengths and weaknesses. Each team’s budgetary constraints will also affect what they have.

Racing is not a place for immaturity. That’s something that teams shy away from. You may have the greatest credentials in the world, but if you’re immature and can’t handle yourself, no one has time for that. There’s another truth about racing that more people need to understand. If you get a reputation in racing, it will follow you forever. If you get let go from one team because you were high maintenance, or because you were a flake, that will follow you throughout the paddock. That’s very dangerous and people don’t realize. In motorsports, we don’t have the laws like normal human resources do where you can call a team owner asking about a previous employee and legally all they can say is, “yes, he worked here.” It doesn’t work like that. In racing, they’re going to tell your rap sheet and say everything you did, everything you didn’t do, why you were let go, why you were difficult to work with.   That’s one of the few ways that you get kicked out of racing.

In racing, time is money. Everything in racing is about time and every second is crucial to us because everything has to happen in a certain time span. If someone has to tell you to do something three different times, you’re likely not going to be with them for very long. If you’ve worked in corporate America and you come to racing, it’s a completely different culture where in one way, it’s like a family. We will love on you and you’ll be like family, but we will just as quickly call you on your crap and tell you when you’re not making the cut. Most teams will give you a second chance, but if you continually and perpetually do things that don’t help the team out, you won’t make it.

Thumbnail_PeterPeter: Last year, I had to have a sit down meeting with everyone about person hygiene: Flossing, tooth brush, deodorant. I laughed all the way through it. You need to be organized, professional appearance, cleanliness. Pay attention to detail. First impressions are made in five seconds. I want that first impression of a clean cut, decent person that presents himself well. I’ve seen guys who look like they have it together and have given them a shot.

Thumbnail_RandyRandy: As the Race Director, I am the chief official, responsible for the safety and competition with all other officials reporting to this office. It’s a relationship business, you have to treat everybody with respect and in turn you get that back. You’re looked to as a leader and role model especially with the younger drivers in these three open-wheel series. You have to hold yourself to a higher standard. Work ethic is a huge thing. You’re always at the race track by 6:00 or 7:00am and you’re always the last one to leave. A lot of times you’re working more than you’re compensated for, and doing more than your job description ever dictated, and you’ve got to be willing to put your time in.

One of the things that I have seen over the years is the most successful teams and organizations are the ones where everyone pitches in. While there are specialists on the team and each individual has their main task, everybody is still willing to help out someone in a different role. The same thing is true with sanctioning bodies: you have hospitality people, tech inspectors, grid people, false grid people, and starters. The ones who are truly successful are the ones who even though they have their primary position they are willing to help out with other things so you gain more knowledge overall on what it takes to run motorsports by doing all of those things.

When a new job comes up, there is almost this internal process of “Who’s turn is it?” These roles are so specialized that when vacancy is created, people rotate out of their current position, which just creates another vacancy. In the last 10 years, many of the jobs that I have had were jobs that I didn’t have to really go out and seek, a position was available, and they knew they wanted me there. That goes back to all of those years of developing relationships. Most people in this business are set up as independent contractors and usually around September or October everyone is trying to figure out what they are going to do the next year.

One thing I always tell people is that you don’t burn bridges in racing. There are maybe 500 people who are calling the shots in racing: Team owners, officials, sponsors, sanctioning bodies and every year or so, they’re changing hats. You never know who you will get to work with or work for next or who you’re going to compete against. Each year it’s the same people just wearing different shirts, so it’s all based on relationships.

I have a lot of relationships with drivers, teams and other people a part of the series, and despite this close-knit nature of our business, you have to be very careful and not pick favorites. We are all friends here; racing is like a big family. It doesn’t matter what series you are a part: of everybody knows everybody. You have to keep that in check because things can become too social and you can open a door for criticism or speculation. You have to maintain that line and still maintain those relationships. Credibility and character are imperative here.

Thumbnail_StevenSteven: My assessment of people in this business is very easy to explain: It’s if that person was not getting paid to go to the races, would they still go? It’s stunning how many people are in this business that if they stop getting paid, they wouldn’t go to another race for the rest of their lives. That’s not the kind of person I’m interested in. I want people who have interest, have no personal agenda, and grasp the basic tenets of journalism. Talent helps, too — the need to be able to write a story that has a beginning and an end, and a point somewhere in the middle. Quotes have to be accurate, and not taken out of context. Almost all stories need massaging – people who can write a story that only needs a little is pretty valuable.

 

Part 2: Click here.

2 Responses

  1. Guy Forest says:

    Great interview with some great insight. I really liked what the girl said the best. Her answers were articulate, well thought out, intelligent and to the point. Well said!

  2. Steve Z says:

    This has been a blessing to me to read. As an full blown IT nerd, motorsports has been a passion of mine.
    I’m not a mechanical engineer, but i have lots of ideas and suggestions for the comms and network infrastructure for teams, yet never know who to talk to.
    Thanks for some insight everyone!

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