Becoming A Racecar Driver: 5 Steps To A Career In The Fast Lane

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated December 17th, 2023

Kids all over the world dream of becoming a pro driver!

But the reality is, very few go on to become professional race car drivers. This does not mean it is impossible, but it is definitely challenging.

This article will help break down how to improve your chances of landing a race car job and what to expect along the way.

Strategies To Become A Race Car Driver

So, what education is needed to become a race car driver?

There is no formal education needed to get into race car driving. A natural talent for driving would definitely help.

The bad news is, you usually need money, connections, or both.

So, if you are wondering how to become a racecar driver with no money – or connections, it will be tough.

Not impossible, but tough.

The one thing every successful professional race car driver has in common is passion and drive. Every driver will have a long history of racing experience, usually going back to toddlerhood.

You will need to live and breathe all things motorsport from a very young age. As you grow, you can grow your skills into different areas.

This might include:

  • Go-karting
  • Quarter midgets
  • Outlaw sprints
  • Micro sprints
  • Junior drags
  • Bandoleros
  • Legends

Having experience in all, or many of these, can be a great way to build critical skills and gain much needed experience.

Once you build some experience, enrolling in a course, such as the one by the Sports Car Club of America will be the next step. This will help you earn your competition license to be able to enter races.

It might also be helpful to attend a school that will teach some automotive technology. Understanding how the car works will be critical to handling it on the track.

Nascar works with Universal Technical Institute and offers the perfect program at their Nascar Training Program in North Carolina.

Taking a course and learning auto mechanics can also be a great option in the event racing does not work out!

In this video Kenny Wallace joins some wanna be racers to help them learn what it takes to become a race car driver. This is the time to start!

3 Race Car Drivers That Did It on Their Own

Below are a few examples of drivers that become race car drivers with no money.

As you will see – the common denominator is hard-work, confidence, and the ability to make things happen!

Josh Berry is a self-made racer who successfully made his way to to Nascar Xfinity Series with a little bit of luck. He also drives part-time in the Nascar Cup Series.

His start to racing came from a chance meeting with he met Dale Earnhardt Jr. in an online sim racing league in 2008. At the time he was doing som local racing in his hometown of Nashville while attending a community college.

It was that meeting that would have Berry signed to the JR Motorsports team, owned by Earnhardt Jr. His start in racing was filled with loss and criticism, but he did move past that to have several wins.

Jeff Gordon is said to be one of the most influential NASCAR drivers and also worked his way up to get to the top. His start begin with a racing quarter midgets when he was just five years old. Then he moved in to karting races and then sprint races.

At just 16 years of age he was awarded the United States Auto Club license, the youngest driver to ever receive this license. He continued on with his racing and won many races in a variety of speedways in the US and even abroad.

When Rick Hendrick watched a young Gordon race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, he was invited to join Hendrick Motorsports. He proceeded to become a top driver in his No. 24 car for Hendrick.

Lewis Hamilton is a professional driver in the Formula One series. His family was not one of means, but his parents nurtured his passion for racing. When he was just six, his dad got him a go-kart, which is one his dad promised to support his race car dreams if he worked hard in school.

His dad worked several jobs to help his son achieve his goals and managed to attend all of his races as a kid. Lewis became a successful kart racer winning the British cadet karting competition at the age of 10. The youngest to ever win the competition.

The same year, Lewis attended the Autosport Awards and introduced himself to McLaren Formula One team boss Ron Dennis. While asking for an autograph, he stated to Dennis he wanted to race his cars someday.

Dennis told him to call him in 9 years.

Lewis called him 9 years later and the rest is history.

The Future Of Racing

There has been little growth in the racing industry. Nascar has not seen any growth in recent years and there seems to be a decline in the sponsorship money as well.

With an aging demographic and lack of interest by younger generations, the future of racing is unclear.

For now, race teams are still looking for new diamonds in the rough so to speak that can make an impact in the racing world.

So, for now – if you want to get paid to race and you have been at it for a while – get out there and make it happen!

How Much Can A Race Car Driver Make?

Race car drivers do not earn “salaries” like the rest of us mere mortals.

Their pay is what would be called performance based and some keep the numbers a pretty big secret.

But here is some of what we know about race car salaries.

  • Race car drivers can earn a salary, but it may be based on their performance for the season and how many races they win.
  • Time in the sport can also affect their salary.
  • A more experienced driver can place lower than a newer driver, but still earn more.
  • How much a driver makes per race will depend on the race itself and where a racer finishes.

In 2020, it was announced that $23.6 million dollars would be distributed among the 40 drivers at the Daytona 500. It is estimated that the first position would win a staggering amount of just over $2 million.

Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.