Tough Situation In My "Karting Career" Can Anyone Help?

mindset
sponsorship

(Gage Hembree) #1

Hello Fellow Karters,

First and foremost before I explain my situation in karting, I wanted to talk quickly about my ultimate goals. Eventually my dream would be to try and have a steady career in any form of motor-sport but because that is so far away I am really shooting to achieve a drive outside of karts. I am in the US so I would be looking at championships like US F4, USF2000, FF 1600 or even something like the Lucas Oil Racing School Championship. Now onto my current position in karting.

Now the kicker for me is when I began karting. I had been racing rentals for many years but I didn’t purchase my own kart until summer of 2018 when I was 13. I am now 14. Since then I have been doing as many club races at as many tracks as I possibly could but because of my experience level I have not been ready to move forward yet. Although now I am winning races and fighting for podiums, so I am planning to move into the Texas Sprint Racing Series in 2020 but I will already be 15 which Is way later than anyone else looking to be in an open wheel racing career.

I am racing Lo206 right now and plan to do the same in my regional series next year. But as for after that I understand I am very crunched on time. Regarding that I do well next year, I have the funds to move into x30 or ka100 but what I don’t have is an unlimited amount of time and money to drive all over the country for national race series. Are there any national series in the US that offer lo206?

Now that you hopefully understand my situation I wanted to hear from people about their recommendations.

I have thought about the idea of trying to join a race team or pick up a main sponsor when I am ready to move into 2 stroke but I just have no idea where to go with that. Can you reach out to race teams on your own or do you just have to hope they see/find you.
Would just running a regional series in KA or X30 and 1 or 2 good national race finished be enough to try and get sponsors and a test drive in an open wheeled car.

Thanks everyone for hearing me complain about my situation


(James McMahon) #2

Here’s how I look at it.

First, sponsors and or teams don’t care a whole lot about what you did in karting. It doesn’t hurt, but it really it doesn’t matter a whole lot in the scheme of things. Schumacher, senna never won a world championship in karting. Nor did vettel or ricciardo.

Sponsors care about ROI, exposure and sales.
Teams care about being able to pay their bills.

You need to facilitate those things. Your driving talent, things you’ve won etc don’t matter as much as you might think.

So, so, so many times I’ve seen racers and parents with “professional” racing aspirations spend tons of money in karting, expecting sponsors to come because they won stuff. It’s doesnt happen. Look at NASCAR… 47 cars… how many “winners”?

My 2c…

For driving skills, keep racing that 206 and get deep into sim racing.

Learn how to kill on social by creating interesting stories and sharing your journey.

Go on a deep dive on learning how you can add value to businesses and sponsors. In the near term, in karting that will likely be contra deals and so on.

Read our #sponsorship topics and listen to our podcast episodes on sponsorship that @DavinRS had with Chris Rhoad

Lookup racing mentor on Facebook, she’s an absolute badass. Listen to her podcast, buy her book.

In short, your ability to market yourself and others is far more important than your ability to drive.

Get in front of people. Volunteer to work with kart and car teams. Make connections. Help people and add value.


(TJ Koyen) #3

As far as sponsorship acquisition goes, James’ post is pretty spot on. This is karting, sponsors are verrrrrry few and far between.

Regarding your goal of eventually racing open-wheel cars; there’s no need to be in a rush. I assume you’re racing because you love it. There are plenty of drivers who are older than you and still are getting chances in the open-wheel ladder. But not just off of one or two good national finishes. The best drivers in karting right now, the guys winning the biggest events every weekend still need a big check before anyone is going to offer them a car to drive.

The worst thing you could do for yourself would be to rush forward and move up to something you’re not ready for, and hurt your development as a driver. If you don’t have time or money to travel to national karting races I’m not sure how you are expecting to get through the open-wheel ladder, where you’ll have to dedicate ALL of your time and money to buying rides as you go up the ladder. From a sponsor’s perspective, what benefit do they have from funding a junior open-wheel driver that isn’t getting any exposure from media or fans?

I don’t want to be the rain on your parade, but keep in mind that there are 20-30 IndyCar drivers and 20-30 F1/reserve drivers who are actually making a living in open-wheel racing, in the world. The odds of getting there are very low. Like insanely low. To make it, you need a ton of money, and you need to be the best of the best consistently over many years. There’s really no way to rush up the ladder or take any shortcuts. It’s going to be hard work, a huge cash investment, and constant winning.

It’s good to have goals, so keep working toward those. My advice would be to continue karting for now until you’re a consistent front runner at events like Pro Tour or USPKS, and that’s when you need to start to worry about how to progress. Up until you get there, unfortunately it’s pretty much going to be on your own, as the funding available from potential sponsors is almost zero unless you have some unique perk or benefit you can offer someone. Everyday I see good drivers that I’ve personally worked with to coach and train, with unlimited money, try and move up and they can’t make it.

Keep racing, because it’s fun and you love it, and don’t rush it.


(Gage Hembree) #4

That is all great info, thanks! And I totally get what your saying about how hard it is to make it into a professional racing career. I almost see myself as being lucky because I have a huge interest in working in motor-sport as an engineer, strategist, ect. Some people I race with only want to be a racing driver and that is it. If they don’t make it into racing their life has failed.

Its like you said, I’m in racing because it’s my passion and I love doing it. My thing about the funding and I guess why I asked about sponsors was just for the simple reason of not being able to spend an entire college tuition into something as risky as the junior racing latter.

Again thanks for all the info, I am just going to move forward in Lo206 in a reasonably competitive field and try to build as a driver as much a possible.


(Gage Hembree) #5

Amazing I will try to check out everything you suggested.

I know the Canadian Karting Championship runs Lo206 at a national level, are there any series in the US similar to that. What would be the best series to run to get exposure and meet people at different companies and so on? Thanks for the help.


(Davin Roberts Sturdivant) #6

James and TJ summarized this pretty well. I’ve also put together a good amount of content about how to raise sponsorship for racing, but effectively it’s about using your other non-racing skills to provide value for business and having them pay you. Then using that money to go karting.

There are 1000s of people all over the country who get first in races all over, but they don’t help a business sell more product, or generate more value, so in the large scheme of things, it doesn’t matter to them.


(Mike Clark) #7

At lower levels of racing most sponsorship is from “Angels”. It doesn’t make any financial, business or fiscal sense to do so, but people do it because they love racing or some other reason. I am not saying don’t try. If nothing else you can hone your skill of being rejected. Don’t get mad when they say no or looked too shocked if they say yes. The vast majority of youth’s in racing are there because of family money. If you raise the money yourself you will have one skill many won’t have.
When I was trying to get into cars there were numerous people that brought up letting me drive their car. It never happened. So not to be negative but just get used to empty promises. Many teams are structured in a way that how much money can the driver provide is a major issue.
Looking like you don’t need the money helps. Being very respectful of other peoples’ money goes a long way when playing in other peoples’ wallets. Abusing the privilege once can ruin it really quickly.


(James McMahon) #8

Good question. For exposure you’re looking for series that product their own hype and or have others produce it for them. SKUSA, Rok come to mind. Some of their events include 206 classes.

There’s a big 206 event at New Castle Motorsports park, IN. Organized by North American Cup Karts. I believe they have EKN coming to that event this year as well.

Other events that attract attention are the street races that run in/around the midwest. The triple crown of Quincy, rock island and The Battle at the Brickyard. Quincy has something like 10K spectators last year.

The other thing of course, is to generate your own hype/content.

Back to cars, single seaters probably have the largest disparity between costs to run vs sponsor value. Keep an open mind and look into different avenues, stock cars, sprints, outlaws, spec series like Miata, LeMons etc etc.


(James McMahon) #9

Oh, the Margay Ignite series is another one that does a good job of generating a buzz around their events and they are VERY 206 oriented.


(Gage Hembree) #11

Margay is actually what sort of got me into karting. I’m based in Austin and have been with COTA Karting since they first opened. I ran the Ignite at COTA weekend and that was my first real time outside of a club race and it was awesome.

I’ve looked a lot at their series in the Midwest and really hope to run that I just have to figure out a way to get from Texas all the way up north. Are there any other ways to transport the kart besides just putting it in the trailer and making the drive yourself.

Thanks


(James McMahon) #12

Reach out to the series and/or racers in the various groups. You’ll either find someone will have a good arrive and drive, or even someone interested in sharing the ride from tx (or somewhere along the way) to the north.


(Davin Roberts Sturdivant) #13

Honestly, I think the smartest thing a grassroots racer can do is to figure out a solid professional career that allows them to have the cash flow that allows them to go racing as often as possible.

Let’s be real. You’re going to be funding yourself. Even Lewis Hamilton’s family had to fund themselves, and went into serious debt before making it, and they’re a serious edge case.

So being able to have the cash flow to go racing is key, and being smart enough to know how to make the best use of your money. That and being well connected.

You need the seat time and so pick a class that allows you to have a flexible budget and running often.

Karting allows you to get a ton of seat time, and have fun, which really should be the point of racing.

If you’re planning to use karting as a gateway to being a paid driver, you’re likely just going to make yourself broke, and also missing opportunities to have provided value to others to allow you to create the funds to do more racing in the first place.

I totally get where you’re coming from, because I was like that when I first got into racing. Real life, however, isn’t like that.


(Dom Callan) #14

If money isn’t a problem: arrive and drive but through a manufacturer or team. Ie tent program.


(Phillip Kopp) #15

I don’t post often but your position reminds me a lot of my start in karting and brief stint in cars. As far as sponsorship goes, you can find product sponsors if you can sell for the manufacturers. You can get free or highly discounted motors, chassis, tires, helmets, suits and things like that if your position sells. I didn’t win championships or even a lot of races, but I was always in the first couple rows and great at promoting. When I started the only people in the US using Topkart was Giacomelli brothers and an enduro racer in Kansas. I brought them to California and by the time I left they were dominant in the market and sold 1000’s of chassis. I never paid for chassis even though I didn’t win. Topkart wasn’t the best chassis, far from it. There are ways to kart for less even at the highest level. A few karters get paid factory drives but they mostly don’t move on to cars. Davide Fore is in his 40’s now. The ones that weren’t gazillionaires that moved up had talent agents that found investors. They paid the racing expenses in exchange for future revenue rights. They were signed in karting or early formula. They were winning races at the top level. They got signed in series with very high competition. And they got into Junior teams for factories. I also seen a lot of kids winning races, had money. Looked good in pictures. Didn’t make it either. No explanation at all. I went to extreme lengths to try and make it without the money. I worked for multiple world champion Nicola Gianniberti in his Jollykart factory just to get him to train me. I could drive as fast as he could in a Super A at Parma. I passed Manetti in his factory CRG Formula C 125 with Bola wrenching. That wasn’t enough. I didn’t have the money to keep going. And when your racing cars it amplifies a lot. Stuff a car in the wall gonna cost you $30-$50 grand. Once. I’d never trade my racing experience at any cost. Was a great time and memories. But the formula of who makes it and who doesn’t? The biggest common denominator I would say is the drivers father. Willing to sacrifice everything for nothing. Crafty and great at networking with rich businessmen. Not really the drivers themselves, after all most drivers are just kids and don’t know much about life. It’s the fathers that get their sons or daughters all the way through. I recommend you Have a good long talk with yours! If he is on board and your fast enough, he can make it happen. If he’s not into it, I’d say enjoy your hobby. Don’t expect to become a pro.


(Ji Simmons) #16

I’ve no experience in kart racing, so I can’t comment on the value of your record or how to transition to open wheel, but having raced cars and bikes, I can speak from that perspective.

It takes an absolute insane amount of cash to go pro, and an even larger amount to make enough as a driver to pay the bills. The attrition rate is huge, too. It’s easy to have some success at the local and regional level, but when you’re at the national and international level, you’re out there with guys that are out for blood. If they don’t win, they don’t eat, and you’re between them and their paycheck. Back to the money- unless you have financial backing from a major corporation, discounted and free parts aren’t going to put gas in your rig or pay the motel bill. I presume kart racing expenses are similar to motorcycles on the national level… A friend of mine runs an AMA team backed by a major liquor distillery, and I’ve heard they burn about $250k a year… Before crashes, trips to the ER, or any other unforseen expenses. You mentioned spending your college education money on racing and honestly, that is about the worst thing you can do. The chances of you or anyone else out there making it big and making a living from driving is so infinitesimally small that you’d be better off spending that money on lottery tickets. I’m not kidding.

If I were you, I’d go to college, get an education and then a job in a field that interests you but has nothing to do with your hobbies and that pays enough and gives you enough free time to enjoy said hobbies. Or, if you want to spend the college fund on karts, go join the military and use the GI Bill to get a free college education and pick up halfway through the last sentence.

I can tell by your typing that you’re very well read, especially for a 14 year old, and I’d tend to think based solely on what I’ve read that you’ll be very successful in whatever career you chose. But to put all your eggs in the racing basket and blow your chance for a future is extremely short sighted. Get an education now. Embrace knowledge. The karts will always be there and when you’re making enough to toss $10k at a new kart like it’s a week’s worth of groceries, you’ll never regret your path.


(Gage Hembree) #17

All of your points are great. You are totally correct with not spending your college funds on racing and that’s why I almost see myself in a better position than some of the other people I race with. They have no interest in doing anything else I’m life except trying to be a racing driver. A friend I race with wants to move into formula ford soon and they would be spending almost 30k for one season and thats just the minimum.

Again thanks for commenting, not sure if anyone on here is interested but everyone has really helped me decide what direction to go in right now and that is just to keep racing in karts in an environment where I’m not going bankrupt and I’m still having fun.
If I’m doing well I’ll try to search for some sponsorships and we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll make it to junior formula and maybe not but at the end of the day racing is what I love to do so it doesn’t really matter.


(Dom Callan) #18

I get it. It doesn’t have to be just fun and there’s a ton you can shoot for within karting itself. Compete regionally, then nationally. Try to qualify for international events. Head south for the Florida winter tour. Etc.


(Alan Dove) #19

Laurence Stroll buying an F1 team for his son pretty much sums up the state of the game :slight_smile: Get educated, get a good job and by the time you’re in your mid-20s you can afford to race what you want.


(James McMahon) #20

True, but it’s not the only way to go.


(Warren Chamberlain) #21

True, being born rich is not the only rout; another way to go would be to marry Lance’s sister Chloe. :wink:

But seriously Gage, if you are interested the race car engineering, strategy, etc. you should check out iRacing. I’ve been looking into this recently, and there is an insane level of ‘data scraping’ and chassis setup tweaking that can be done. I bet if you messed around with the free MoTec (or McLaren, or ?) data stuff available in iRacing from now until you finish college, you’d be well prepared to earn a living doing what you like.