The dream for a lot of people is to drive in NASCAR, but it's not the only route into the sport. There are actually a lot more jobs available in this competitive landscape than you might think. Whether you're looking to work on the cars, use your social media skills, or get involved in the build of the vehicles, you've got options.
NASCAR is fast-paced with an ever-changing set of requirements. No matter where you work within this level of motorsport, you need to be the kind of person who's adaptable and works calmly under pressure.
Jefferson Hodges, Team Manager of NASCAR Operations for Team Penske, explains what the atmosphere is like in the sport: “The demands are constantly changing, no matter what line of work you're in within the race team. Race cars and equipment must constantly evolve to stay ahead of the competition and likewise, the front office of a race team must stay nimble and adjust frequently to a changing partner landscape."
Take your pick
Because NASCAR is so big, there's a wealth of career options available to you. You might be looking at the more technical route, but keep an open mind as you'll be surprised what you can find with track operators, teams, sponsors, sanctioning bodies, and manufacturers.
Hodges explains: “Beyond drivers and mechanics, you'll find fabricators, engineers from a variety of disciplines (aerodynamic, mechanical and fluid), painters, machine operators, and transportation employees. It doesn't end there, either, with roles in custodial services, accounting, IT support, public relations, marketing, and social media. Many of the larger race teams also employ multiple flight crews as well."
The first step is to delve deeper into what's out there. Once you know the roles available to you, you can start to think about how you gain the relevant experience and contacts.
Because NASCAR is a top-tier form of motorsport, you need to seek perfection. This is just as important to a driver as it is to a member of the pit crew but this extends into other roles, too. You're unlikely to find any entry-level roles in NASCAR so set your sights on a job or project that helps you to learn the skills needed to progress.
“To work in NASCAR, a person needs to chase their passion and perfect their craft, Hodges says. “The world of NASCAR and motorsports is an extremely competitive industry. When an organization posts a job opening, a race team will literally receive thousands of resumes — a qualified candidate must find a way to separate themselves from the others."
You can stand out from the crowd in a number of ways but Hodges has two pieces of advice: “Demonstrating a passion for excellence at your local Advance Auto Parts Weekly short track is a great start. Also, if you're after employment within NASCAR, you should make networking a key priority."
“Race teams are different than most professional sports teams," Hodges says. “They're heavily dependent on corporate partnerships and delivering measurable results for their partners both on and off the track to continue to succeed."
This means that every member of a team needs to understand the business side of the sport. Even as a mechanic or IT support, the work you do has an impact on the commercial viability of your team. Understanding this is vital when going into a business role but even for other careers within NASCAR, you can make yourself stand out by demonstrating this knowledge and awareness.
Facing the challenges
Climbing the ladder to NASCAR can be tough. But once you're there, the work schedule, changing demands, and pressure all present their own challenges. Try to get involved with other forms of racing to get a feel for what this might be like. This will teach you how to handle a fast-paced environment and make the quick decisions needed within motorsport.
Hodges adds: “Many people who aren't receptive to change often find themselves seeking to work elsewhere quickly. Another challenge presents itself in the form of the intensive and grueling travel schedule with a 38-week season. Individuals working within the sport make great sacrifices in family time, often missing many of the events their children are involved in on the weekends because they're at the racetrack."
The highlight reel
With the challenges also come the highlights. Working in motorsports is hugely rewarding, especially if you're part of a team. “Every win is a highlight," Hodges says. “You should always take time to reflect on each win and the work that went into achieving it collectively as an organization. Wins and championships are the focus of why you work in racing."
No matter how large or small your role within NASCAR, you have a part to play in those successes. This is why the sport is so attractive to those looking at their career options. Even if you start a little further down the racing ladder, you'll begin to see how much those wins mean — being part of that is truly something special.
Hodges shares some memorable moments from his career so far: “My personal highlights are our 2020 NXS Championship at Team Penske, winning the inaugural Daytona RC event in the NXS series with Austin Cindric, winning the 2003 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series National Championship, and being part of the development of 10% of the starting field in the last three Daytona 500's through my work at NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program."
NASCAR might present a high-pressure working environment, long hours, and a lot of travel but the rewards are huge. Start perfecting your craft and networking with the right people and you'll be able to share in those wins, too.
Ever thought about working in NASCAR? Let us know in the comments.