Affordable Stock Car Racing 101
Stock Car Racing is a great hobby and learning experience, but it can be expensive; especially for the young people getting into the sport, perhaps teenagers with just part time jobs, or with support from parents. So what can a driver do to help pay for his/her stock car racing activities? What can fans and local businesses do to help?
Before I answer those questions, I’d like to thank the 2023 sponsors of Laird International Raceway:
SERVICE RENTALS AND SALES – Super Late Model Division
REYCO SUPPLY / NAPA – Modified Division
LAKEWAY AUTOMOTIVE – Factory Stock Division
NORTHLAND AUTOBODY – Factory Four Division
AIM RECYCLING – Enduro Division
MICHAEL CASE CONSTRUCTION
STEFANIZZI PROFESSIONAL CORP
LAKEWAY TRUCK CENTRE
MR SUDZ AUTO GLASS & DETAILING
NORTHLAND AUTOBODY INDUSTRIAL PARK & SECOND LINE
RAPID CITY REPAIR
RAKER INNOVATIVE SERVICES
SUPERIOR TRUCK REPAIR
ALGOMA AUTO APPRAISALS
MSC INDUSTRIAL SUPPLY
SAULT STE. MARIE AIRPORT COMMISSION
WRIGHT TIME CONTRACTING
Now, with our sponsors recognized, on to the meat of this article… how to make your racing hobby more affordable. New drivers are quick to realize that there are many expenses when racing, these might include but are not limited to: the initial cost of the car and equipment; weekly hauling costs to get the car to the track and back, fuel costs, tires, parts replacement, tools, a place to work on or store your car, pit admission, food and beverage costs, etc. As you move up into the higher level divisions the costs go up accordingly. All cars that run in the feature races for an evening get some form of payout (unless disqualified due to driver error or unsportsmanlike conduct); a minimal amount is paid out for the Enduros, and the highest amounts for the Super Late Models. At times LIR Promoter/Owner, Donnie Varcoe, will provide some bonus money to drivers if the gate proceeds are high enough. All-in-all though, the payouts aren’t enough to support your racing hobby, you need to find some alternative income to support your stock car addiction. I’m not talking about working more hours at your job here, although you might be able to do that, what I’m getting at is SPONSORSHIP for your car and team.
At the highest levels of racing, you’ll see sponsors all over the place. Races are usually sponsored by a large national or multinational company. The tracks are plastered with signage. On broadcasts you’ll hear announcers mention tire companies that supply tires, fuel companies that provide fuel, and much more. The teams, cars, drivers themselves are also sponsored. Each sponsor has provided services, products, or cash in return for some promotion.
A race track like Laird requires three main things to be successful and long lived: #1 – Fans, #2 Cars & Drivers, & #3 Sponsors. If any of these are missing, the track & sport are at risk. Also one doesn’t exist without the others, ie. There will be no fans if there are no drivers. If there are no fans, sponsors are hard to get. The track itself has no sponsors to help provide goods and services, there generally isn’t enough money coming in to cover all the expenses of running a track (there are many!). It takes all three to make the sport successful.
So as a new driver you need to get some sponsorship to help reduce the costs of your hobby and make it affordable. I’m not talking here about getting a large multinational company to sponsor you – what are the chances of that? What I’m talking about are local small or medium sized business owners to help you out. So how do you go about getting some sponsors?
Who do you approach for sponsorship? That’s a fairly easy question to answer. Approach every business owner you can think of. Start with business owners that might be friends of you or your family, or even relatives that are in business. Approach the same businesses you and your family patronize regularly. Sponsors are not just “car related”. You might get sponsors that include car parts distributors, or mechanics, or service stations but don’t limit yourself to those types of businesses. Contractors, restaurant owners, real estate representatives, insurance agents, marketing companies, retail outlets, convenience store owners, pet stores, flower shops, bakeries, or any other business you can think of might want to sponsor you. Think about the fans; what goods and services do they use? Virtually everything.
How do you approach a business owner for sponsorship? When you approach a potential sponsor, have your act together. Have a small sponsorship package that you can hand them. It doesn’t have to be extensive, just an overview of you, your proposed race activities and what you might be able to offer them in return for their sponsorship. A hand delivered written package allows you to drop it off, then with some luck it will land on a desk and the owner/manager will see it a couple times over before making a decision. Let them know what you are looking for and what you promise to do in return for their sponsorship (more on this in a bit). When meeting someone in person be neat, clean and presentable. Look people in the eye; smile, be pleasant and show your excitement about your stock car driving. Practice your presentation skills and your “spiel” in front of friends or family. It might feel uncomfortable; that is natural; uncomfortableness usually just means you are learning something new. Kind of sounds like a job interview doesn’t it? Not much difference. You are trying to sell yourself. With time and practice you’ll gain confidence and the discomfort will disappear. Also develop some thick skin; be prepared to hear many “No Thank You’s”. Take those no’s to be a “maybe” and visit them again in a few months, or before next race season. Be prepared, you’ll usually get way more no’s than yes’s, don’t let it get you down. It takes time and effort to get sponsors, but if you give them some value, they will remain a sponsor and your number of sponsors will increase with time. Let potential sponsors know that they are supporting you and your team specifically, not the track in general.
What will a sponsor give you? What should you ask for? As you begin your race career, in the Enduro or Factory Four divisions, don’t ask for too much. Any business owner wants some value for their marketing/sponsorship expenditure. In the beginning sponsorship might be small – maybe enough money to buy some “new to you” tires. Maybe you can get a small gas retailer to sponsor you with a few gallons of gas for your car. Maybe a pizza shop or restaurant will give you a free pizza or discount on food on race night. Maybe you or your parents are getting some renovations/repairs done on the family home, ask the contractor for a discount in return for sponsorship. Some companies will just sponsor you with some cash, great! You need that too. Talk to some of the other drivers at the track to see what their sponsors provide them, and in turn what they provide to their sponsors. Some drivers might not want to talk to you about that, in fear that you will “steal” their sponsor; never do that!
What do you give your sponsors in return for their sponsorship? This might be one of the most difficult things to do. You might have to get creative here. Almost all business owners want the same thing in return for their sponsorship; that is to see a return on investment, either an increase in sales, or new customers. How can you help your sponsors get that? First thing that probably comes to mind is to put some stickers on your car with the sponsors logo. A good start. Stickers themselves cost money, so maybe you have a friend or business that can give you a discount on those. Your biggest sponsor should have the largest presence on your car – perhaps on the hood. Also, consider that many stickers on your car might get “rubbed off” during the race nights. Make sure you have some spares/replacements.
When a NASCAR driver gets interviewed after a race, you’ll almost always hear them mention their sponsors during an interview. They wear ballcaps with their sponsor logos. If you watch carefully, when a driver gets to Victory Lane, and during a post race interview, you might see hats getting swapped on the winners head during the interview, they are trying to recognize different sponsors while they are on camera. The drivers and pit crews wear uniforms plastered with sponsor logos. Model your own efforts to recognize sponsors in the same way as the pro’s. If you ever get a chance for an on track interview in front of fans, recognize your sponsors first. Take a look at the top of this article… first thing I did was to recognize the track sponsors; you should do the same any time you get the opportunity. If your sponsors have ball caps or tshirts with their logo on it, get one from them and wear it often and with pride. Keep hats and clothing clean and presentable, don’t use them for crawling around on the ground working on the car. Treat them as your “goin’ to town” clothes. LOL You are wearing that clothing to give your sponsor’s logo some “eyeballs”.
If you can’t afford to print and give away a pile of t-shirts or ball caps to fans, maybe you can afford to print up a small quantity for your friends and family in the stands. If you do, make sure your sponsors are on them. Other fans will see these during the night.
Most race nights, before qualifying, you’ll likely see the track announcer(s) wandering the pits, maybe getting some info on new drivers, or getting some info from drivers about their car status. A good announcer wants to hear from you. If you haven’t done so already, let the announcers know who your sponsors are. If you have a new one, bring it to their attention. Remember those stickers I mentioned above? Make sure they are viewable during the race by the announcer, it helps them to remember who your sponsors are quickly when speaking on the track PA system.
What else can you do to recognize sponsors? If you have raced at Laird, and received a point in a race, you’ll have a driver profile created on the MyRacePass network. Laird subscribes to this service for maintaining point standings and the lairdraceway.com website. As a driver, you can sign up to the MyRacePass service, the basic service is free, then “claim” your driver profile. Once that is done, you’ll be able to add the details about your race team, including your sponsors. Fans can also click on you and get stats and information you’ve provided in your profile. Go to https://www.myracepass.com/ and in the search bar search your name to get started.
Is there anything else you can do to recognize and help your sponsors? This is where creativity comes in play. The sky is the limit. If your sponsor has some promotional items like ball caps, tshirts, pens, screwdrivers, keychains, or whatever; try and get some from them and drop them off with the track announcers to be giveaways during the race night. Maybe a restaurant owner can provide you with discount or buy one get one free coupons that can be handed out at the track. Get the business owner to create a coupon that identifies where it came from – that it was from you promoting their business.
Do you have young fans coming into the pits at the end of the racenight? Give that kid a ballcap and it will likely become a prized possession that they will wear everywhere. Many years ago I operated a business in town and I sponsored a men’s hockey league team, including purchasing new jersey’s for them a couple times. During one of the Mayor’s Cup tournaments I noticed pucks flying over the boards and kids running in the rink to pick them up. Next year, I bought a box of 144 pucks with my business logo on them for the tournament. Those pucks would be carried home and dropped on the kitchen table, or coffee table and my business logo would likely be seen by the parents or others in the household. Hey, a local grocery store owner did it at Greyhound games (Who Cares?), why couldn’t I? Those jerseys I bought the team were in use for years after the business closed! It’s just creative marketing.
Maybe you can arrange to get some sponsor logos on some frisbee’s then toss them out to the crowd during intermission? I recall a number of years ago, one driver’s sponsor, the owner of a local pizza shop, approached me and asked if there was a way he could get more exposure from the announcers. My response to him was that you have to get your product in front of the announcers. So he began to drop a pizza in the booth on some racenights and the consequence was an announcement by the track announcers about how delicious it was. Mission accomplished. If your sponsors have a product or promo item that can be given away, get them to the announcer’s booth to be given away during the night.
Many drivers in the past have had racecards printed up that drivers sign and hand out to kids at the end of the night. Kids love collecting free stuff and love showing their collections to others. If you get some of those printed up, make sure your sponsors are on them – logo and name. Anything you can do to get your sponsor “seen” helps the cause. Cards can be professionally designed and printed in quantity, but if you can’t afford that yet, an alternative is to take a photo, add some text and logos to it, and have it printed at a photo shop (like Walmart). 4x6” prints are relatively inexpensive.
Facebook and other social media can also be used to promote your sponsors. You can do this on your personal page, or you can create a team page for your racing activities. After each and every race night, post a blurb on your page about how you did, or how you felt, and first thing, thank your sponsors. Most of your Facebook friends will see your posts. Make sure your posts are shareable. Keep your posts positive in nature. Yes, it’s ok if you broke down, or didn’t finish a race, or got knocked out of a race, those are not negative, just racing. It’s not ok to knock the track or other drivers; your sponsors don’t generally want to be associated with negativity like that. Add a photo to your posts for attention. As track photographer I post about 250 photos after each race night to the lairdraceway.com website, feel free to use any of those photos in your posts. For the Enduro drivers: I don’t usually get a lot of action photos of your races at the end of the night, as it is just too dark, so if you’d like a new photo taken, perhaps you have some new stickers on your car, or would like to get a shot of you and your family with the car, just let me know in the pits before the racenight and I’ll be pleased to take your pic and post it. I’m easy to spot, the old big guy with the camera. LOL
At the end of the season, print up a few 8x10 photos with a thank you note, frame them, and give them to your sponsors to hang on a wall in their business, a small gift in return for their assistance during the race season. It will help to recapture them as a sponsor next season
Perhaps you are a small business owner, what can you do to help? Locally we have an influx of new drivers just starting out with the Enduro division, and some in the Factory Four division. Most of these new drivers are young people, many in their teens, still attending high school. If approached, consider helping them out with some form of sponsorship. It doesn’t have to be a lot. The sport of stock car racing locally is in a growth stage. We’ve had crowds this season and last of about 3000 people between the grandstands and the pits. What would you be able to give or pay a young person to get some exposure to that size of crowd? Feel free to get creative with the driver(s) you sponsor. Also consider that by exposing someone to what you do in your business, you might be helping a future employee too! If nothing else you’ll be helping a young person learn and grow.
Perhaps you are a fan that attends the track, or maybe a parent or family member of one of our new drivers. What can you do? That’s a somewhat easy question to answer; just support the local businesses you see promoted at the track and by the individual drivers and teams. By buying goods and services from those you see sponsored at the track you are supporting local, keeping more money local, and also in a small way helping to support the entertainment you enjoy at your local stock car track… Laird International Raceway. When you are in making a purchase don’t hesitate to mention to the business owner that you saw they sponsored a driver at LIR. Every little bit helps.
Thanks sponsors, fans, and teams for making LIR successful for over 20 years!
Article Credit: Tom Stephenson
Submitted By: Tom Stephenson