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What Is A NASCAR License? (Full Guide)

You need a NASCAR license to race in NASCAR-sanctioned events. These licenses are not like your state driver’s license but instead are geared solely toward participation in NASCAR. While anybody can apply for a NASCAR license, you should know that they are not easy to attain. 

A NASCAR license is what every driver needs to acquire so they may race in NASCAR-sanctioned events. These licenses must be updated annually, costing upwards of $110. Every member of a NASCAR team planning to work with the car needs one. You can apply for a license at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks.

Below, we will reveal all you need to know about getting a NASCAR license. We will discuss whether you need a state driver’s license to obtain a NASCAR license, and we will also give you a step-by-step process on what you need to do before you apply for a license. 

What Is A NASCAR License?

A NASCAR license is a license required by every driver that wants to race in NASCAR-sanctioned events. They can cost from $110 to thousands of dollars. Getting a NASCAR license ensures the drivers know the basics of what it takes to operate a high-performance vehicle in a safe way.

You may not know this, but a state driver’s license is not enough for NASCAR drivers to secure a spot in any of their thousands of sanctioned events. A state driver’s license indicates that drivers can operate a production vehicle. However, since NASCAR comprises cars that are not street legal, a special license is needed. 

Compare it to being a truck driver. While truck drivers need a state driver’s license to operate a car, it is never enough if they plan on operating heavy machinery like a semi-truck. The same thing goes for crane operators, forklift operators, and those people you see driving a bulldozer on the highway during spring and summertime construction. 

A NASCAR license is the sanctioning body’s equivalent of a CDL or a certification to operate heavy machinery. The only difference is that a NASCAR license allows you to operate a race car at NASCAR-sanctioned events. Requiring drivers to obtain special licenses ensures that the vehicles will be operated safely. 

Not Just NASCAR Drivers

Drivers are not the only ones who need a NASCAR license. Instead, everyone on the team must carry one. From the engine builders to tire specialists, the pit crew, crew chiefs, mechanics, and everyone in between, they must prove they can handle the complexity of these special machines. 

As with any special license, NASCAR drivers and their teams must continually renew them. This is because policies change from year to year, so drivers and teams must remain up to date on new safety features, rules, regulations, and anything else associated with license renewal. 

KEY POINTS

• Everyone on a NASCAR team needs a special NASCAR license

• They cost from $100 to $2,000+

• The licenses need to be renewed every year

How Much Does A NASCAR License Cost?

The cost of a NASCAR license depends on who is paying for it. In some cases, NASCAR will pay for the drivers and teams to get licensed, which costs nothing for those individuals. Some startup teams may need to pay to obtain their license, which cost $2,000+ for drivers and $100+ for crew members.

Just like anything of high value, a NASCAR license is not necessarily cheap. However, it does not cost so much as to break the bank, either. NASCAR teams won’t find themselves in debt to cover costs to ensure their drivers and everyone on their teams are up to date with their licenses. The cost of a NASCAR license will vary, depending on who is paying for them. 

In some cases, the NASCAR organization pays for their employees to get licensed, which costs nothing at all to the drivers and everyone involved with the organization. This is no different than when companies pay for appropriate certifications and renewals. 

NASCAR Drivers May Need To Pay

Some NASCAR teams are startup teams, and it will cost them out of pocket. If a NASCAR driver doubles as an owner, they can expect to pay at least $110 per individual that will operate on the car, but this number varies by year.

Besides paying $110 for themselves to get licensed, if they have four builders, four mechanics, an engine, tire, and aerodynamic specialist, plus six crew members, a spotter, and a crew chief, they will pay $2,200+ for the NASCAR licenses, and these are conservative estimates. The driver’s license can cost upwards of $2,000 at the Cup Series level, although exact numbers are hard to come by.

Even something like a regional ARCA Menards team will cost six-figures to run. So, when you compare the overall costs of running a NASCAR team to licensing, it’s not that much, especially if you plan on starting your own Xfinity or Cup Series team, which encroaches seven figures. 

Licenses Are NASCAR-Exclusive

Just as someone may change companies during their career, licenses and certifications to operate machinery is sometimes exclusive to that one company unless they go through a state-sanctioned board. It is the same with NASCAR. Incoming drivers from other organizations, even high-end ones like IndyCar and Formula 1, must still apply for and obtain a NASCAR license. 

Over the years, several IndyCar drivers, like Danica Patrick, Sam Hornish Jr, Dario Franchitti, and John Andretti, all jumped to NASCAR at some point in their careers. Although they had sound IndyCar experience, they still needed a NASCAR license to compete in the Cup, Xfinity, and Truck Series

NASCAR Licenses Provide Insurance

While NASCAR licenses run from hundreds to thousands of dollars, they also provide you with $1 million of insurance. You can apply this insurance coverage at all NASCAR-sanctioned events and tracks. Just as the license is exclusive only to NASCAR-operated venues and races, the insurance is also exclusive to NASCAR only.

KEY POINTS

• NASCAR licenses vary in cost from $100 to more than $2,000 in some cases

• The costs also vary across the different NASCAR series

• The licenses only apply to NASCAR itself

• They provide up to $1 million in NASCAR-specific insurance for the license holder

Do NASCAR Drivers Need A State Driver’s License?

NASCAR drivers do not need a state driver’s license. This is because NASCAR is a private organization that uses non-production line cars on privately-owned, closed circuits. Therefore, state law cannot force NASCAR drivers to compete in the organization with a state license.

However, if a NASCAR driver does not have a state driver’s license, then they cannot legally drive a production vehicle when they are not at the track. So, if they are hanging out at home and want to go somewhere, a NASCAR license will not suffice on public roads

NASCAR Licenses Aren’t Valid In Public

While NASCAR drivers are world-class in what they do, state driver’s licenses show that drivers are capable of driving street-legal production vehicles. NASCAR cars are built from the ground up in race shops, not on production lines, which explains why NASCAR licenses will not do a driver any good when they operate a road vehicle

Take one look at a NASCAR car, and you can see massive differences between them and their showroom equivalents. One major difference is that there are no headlights or brake lights on the cars. These are actually decals that teams place on them to make the cars better resemble production vehicles. 

FUN FACT: NASCAR cars are very different to road cars, meaning the licenses required to operate each one are very different too

There are also no speedometers, fuel gauges, tachometers, airbags, or even air conditioning inside NASCAR cars. There is no way to roll windows up and down, no installed windshield wipers (though in some cases teams may install them), anti-lock braking, or even traction control. 

For these reasons, NASCAR licenses aren’t valid for public vehicles. If a NASCAR driver had only driven a NASCAR car and they had no experience with production line cars, they may not know about head or taillights, blinkers, driving assists, or even automatic transmissions. Therefore, they could not legally drive a production vehicle on public roads without a normal license

What Do You Need To Apply For A NASCAR License?

To apply for a NASCAR license you need to spend a lot of time preparing for the certification. You will need in depth knowledge of NASCAR and the automotive industry. You should get as much experience as you can and consider attending NASCAR-sanctioned driving schools. 

Applying for a NASCAR license is like taking a test to become a personal trainer. Anyone can apply for a NASCAR license, just as anyone can study to become a personal trainer. You don’t need any special prerequisite to apply for either. However, it is unwise to simply apply for a NASCAR license without any real knowledge of NASCAR or stock cars in general. 

Think of a job application when thinking of applying for a NASCAR license. When you applied for your first job or dream job, think back to what you needed. For one, you needed a resume that listed your latest credentials and achievements. It is the same when applying for a NASCAR license. Listing every recent championship or accolade won is a great place to begin building your resume. 

You should also have references that stem from other drivers (not necessarily NASCAR drivers), people in the NASCAR industry, and even the decision makers from local sponsors. If you can think of any type of relevant influencer, put them down as a reference too. 

Years Of Preparation

It takes years of preparation if you are serious about attaining a NASCAR license. Just as with the personal trainer example above, the successful trainers out there spent years preparing for their certifications. Ditto for NASCAR drivers. Although once you start the actual process of attaining a NASCAR license, it is a relatively quick process.

You need to start building your background as soon as you can, preferably at a young age. Many of the most successful NASCAR drivers today raced karts and quarter midgets when they were in grade school. This is by no means a prerequisite, so if you have not raced until you were in your teens or later, don’t worry. 

NASCAR Driving Schools

There are also NASCAR-sanctioned driving schools you can attend. If you cannot find one in your area or online, you can always start racing at local dirt tracks. Build a car, enter it into races, build connections with some of the top people there, and network with potential sponsors. 

As you can see, so much more goes into it than simply driving. You need to know how the industry works. However, if you know nothing, don’t fear. There are people there willing to teach you their wisdom. Start as soon as you can, find a mentor, let them introduce you to people, and work your way up the ladder well before you apply for that NASCAR license.

KEY POINTS

• You need a strong motorsport background to apply for a NASCAR license

• You should treat it like applying for any job

• Try to build up experience in the industry as soon as you can

Where Can You Get A NASCAR License?

You can get a NASCAR license at any NASCAR-sanctioned premise. Since NASCAR is a private entity, you cannot obtain a license at your local BMV. Instead, you need to go to a local track or through NASCAR’s headquarters either in Charlotte or Daytona Beach. 

If you have no tracks near you, then it’s time to gear up for a vacation with attaining a NASCAR license as your end goal. Head over to your favorite search engine, find out about the track nearest you, then make plans to attend it and obtain your license.

One thing you want to note here is that you do not need to head over to one of the main tracks on the NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity, or Truck Series circuit. There are many NASCAR-sanctioned tracks across America that offer NASCAR licenses. If you cannot find time to visit a track that runs races at NASCAR’s top three levels, you can always find smaller venues to apply

Final Thoughts

A NASCAR license grants you the right to participate in NASCAR-sanctioned events. While you do not need a state license to obtain a NASCAR license, the process to attain one is not easy. Therefore, you must thoroughly prepare before you go to a NASCAR-sanctioned track to apply for a license.