NASCAR has long been a highly recognized and admired racing series. It has produced many legendary drivers, countless movies, and it draws in millions of viewers every year. But how could you become a NASCAR driver?
The 6 steps to becoming a NASCAR driver are:
- Visit your local racetrack
- Apply for a racing license
- Start racing karts
- Race cars
- Attend racing schools
- Apply for your NASCAR license
The process of obtaining a NASCAR license is fairly straightforward, but you will need an extensive list of racing experience and previous references before your license application will be successful. I go through these steps in more detail below.
The 6 Steps To Becoming A NASCAR Driver
1. Visit Your Local Racetrack
This might seem like an irrelevant step but it’s an important one. That’s because you might be able to get your NASCAR license application there, as some NASCAR-sanctioned tracks serve as locations for this.
If you are able to, buy a pit pass. The pit pass will give you some behind the scenes access and allow you to chat and meet some more people in the world of motorsport. In racing, networking is absolutely essential, so the more people you can meet the better.
Being behind the scenes of a NASCAR race will give you a good idea of how everything works and what you can expect to see when you start racing yourself. It will be on a much smaller scale of course, but take a good look at what the drivers do and how they act when they are not in the car. It will also likely be a lot of fun!
Building Your Network
You might meet someone who can fast track you onto the grid or might be able to sponsor you once you get to NASCAR. Always be open minded when it comes to meeting new people, especially the ones who attend races.
Find out if your local circuit has karting facilities, and it if does, you need to get started in karting first. Karting is the start for most racing drivers, NASCAR drivers included. It’s pretty much essential if you want to get started in motorsport. More on this shortly.
2. Apply For A Racing License
While you are visiting your local track, find out from some of the drivers where you can apply for your racing license. You will most likely have to start with the most basic competition license if you have no experience. This will allow you to race in karting and some smaller car leagues.
Basic competition licenses are easy to obtain. You will most likely need to do a medical check-up and in some rare cases you might need to pass a driving ability test. The licenses are normally issued to kids who are starting in karting, so no prior racing experience will be necessary.
Once you have your competition license you should be ready to get started with karting or cars depending on your age and where you want to get started. Remember, it’s your journey and you don’t have to copy what everyone else is doing.
3. Start Racing Karts
Karting is the cheapest form of motorsport. That’s why it’s usually the first step into the world of motorsport for many racing drivers. Despite that, it can still be an extremely expensive sport or even hobby, so make sure you are fully prepared for all the costs involved in starting out with karting.
Karting is a highly competitive sport. Some drivers aim to become professional racing drivers, and others just race as a hobby. It doesn’t really matter if you race karts on a circuit or an oval. The important part of karting is to understand the basic concepts of driving fast and racing in a competitive scene.
Understanding The Kart
It’s also a good idea to learn about tuning your kart and setting it up according to your driving style. This will help you gain a better understanding of tuning car setups later down the line as well, which will be vital if you make it into NASCAR.
Karting can go from small local leagues in your area all the way up to huge national and international events. If you are able to race competitively at national level, then you have a good chance of being recognized as a future racing driver. It’s a great addition to your racing CV and a lot of top teams from NASCAR and IndyCar scout in karting leagues for future drivers who have a lot of potential.
If you are spending a few years in karting you should aim to compete at big national events such as the Las Vegas Supernats, which is a karting event that is watched by people from all over the world that have an interest in motorsport.
4. Race Cars
As important as karting is to a driver’s development, it’s not a deal breaker if you don’t have any karting experience. If you are old enough to go straight into cars, it can still serve as a path to getting your NASCAR license. You will be slightly behind the drivers who have karting experience, but of course you can still be a better driver and get up to speed quickly.
When you progress your career into cars, start as local as possible to keep your costs low. Make sure you are competitive and you are learning as much as you can about the cars and how to race them. It’s a whole new learning curve compared to karting.
Some excellent series to progress into are the ARCA series and the NASCAR Xfinity series, but these are both several leagues above karting. It’s also a good idea to try and build up a fan base before you even reach these series, as this will give your career even more hype and attention. Hailie Deegan is a good example of this. She was well known in the world of motorsport before she had even reached a reputable racing series.
5. Attend Racing Schools
It’s important to remember that there are lots of people out there who have more experience than you. You might be an extremely talented driver, but if you do not have the experience and you aren’t learning, then that talent is going to waste.
Always be open minded and willing to learn. It’s a great idea to attend a racing school such as the ones hosted by the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America). The instructors are experienced and will be able to give you some good tips on how you can improve your driving. It also helps you build a network with people who are more experienced in the world of motorsport.
Some racetracks also offer a NASCAR driving course. They give you the opportunity to drive a powerful race car while under the supervision of more professional racing instructors. These can also give you an opportunity to network with new sponsors or team owners.
6. Apply For Your NASCAR License
Once you are ready you can apply for your official NASCAR license at the NASCAR headquarters or at your local NASCAR-sanctioned circuit. There are many of these all across the country.
The requirements for obtaining a NASCAR license are as follows:
- Minimum 18 years of age
- You may be requested to perform driving ability test conducted by NASCAR officials
- You must be physically fit, and NASCAR may require one or more physical examinations to be passed
- You will need to provide documents, waivers, applications, and consents required by NASCAR from time to time
NASCAR will require you to do a medical check-up, similar to the one you need to do for your standard competition license. This is crucial because if you have any medical conditions or are not fit enough to be able to drive the car, your license application might be rejected.
They will also need you to provide them with your racing experience. They will then do background checks to see if you are qualified for a NASCAR license. If they feel that your racing experience is not substantial enough, they may request you to perform a driving ability test. The test will be conducted by NASCAR officials and their decision is final for your application. So, if you fail the test, your application will be rejected and you will need to apply again at another time.
Once you have obtained your NASCAR license you will need to renew it every year. You can do this on the NASCAR members website. Renewal is an easy process since all of the background research has been done in order for you to obtain the license in the first place. However, it will come with a cost.
Tips & Tricks For Getting Into NASCAR
The NASCAR Cup Series is the elite level for stock car racing. Getting into the series will be tough, and it will cost a lot of money. It’s important that you are prepared for your journey financially. Start looking around for sponsors early on in your career, even if you are at karting level and can afford it. The higher you move up the motorsport ladder the more expensive it becomes to race.
If you are racing at karting level, it’s great to aspire to becoming a NASCAR driver. But it’s easy to become distracted by the dream and lose performance in the championship you are racing in currently. It’s crucial to take your career one race at a time and give it your all for that specific race.
It’s Your Journey
It’s okay to take a different route to other drivers. Not everyone’s journey is the same, and there is no “one size fits all” road to NASCAR. Always be open to new opportunities and different pathways into the elite level of motorsport. Perhaps you need to take an internship at NASCAR in order to make the connections to get a race seat.
Or maybe you even need to go to Europe to prove yourself and then come back to NASCAR at a later stage. Perhaps there is an esports event that will award the winner a real-life seat in a championship. The pathways into motorsport are changing now more than ever before, so you can get creative in how you make your way to the top of motorsport.
1 Step Back, 2 Steps Forward
Sometimes you need to take a step back before you can move forward. Sometimes you will find yourself at a bit of a roadblock where you don’t have the budget to continue moving up the motorsport ladder. Rather than take a year away from racing, try and find a championship with a smaller budget that you can afford.
Network Network Network
You need to be on the look out at all times to network and make more connections. You never know who you are going to meet on your journey. Motorsport is all about who you know, so make sure you get to know everyone!
Learn About The Cars
Learn as much as you can about the cars. Even if you are still in karting it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about the cars used in NASCAR. If you know them before you get to race them, it will make your first experiences with the car much easier than if you go in knowing nothing. In addition to learning about the cars themselves, learn about the mechanics of cars in general. It will help you to better explain to your mechanics what they can do to tune the cars to your liking.
Start as young as possible. It’s never too late to start racing, but the younger the better. Most current racing drivers started racing when they were between the ages of 4 and 8. But it’s okay if you missed that window. Many other successful drivers only started racing when they were in their teens. It usually is better to start as early as possible, but of course that is not only up to the driver themselves, but more the parents.
The process of obtaining your NASCAR license can be a quick and easy one, but the steps you need to take beforehand in order to qualify for a NASCAR license can take years of hard work and dedication. It’s important to be patient and always continue to push yourself to become the best driver out there.