Automobile racing is a lot of fun, a very expensive, time consuming, amount of fun. But just because it can be ridiculously expensive doesn't mean you can't be involved in motorsports. Join a pit crew.
Race teams are always looking for more people to
work volunteer on their pit crews. Being on a race team is a good time but it's also hard work and this hard work is usually paid for in bologna sandwiches and beer (if you're lucky). Here are some of the jobs available, see which one fits your style.
If you don't mind the risk of being run over or burning to death you could be a fueler for a race team. You get to wear a cool nomex suit (in reality it is a very hot nomex suit) and jump over the wall. In most cases you only have to work for about thirty seconds at a time. Inevitably during your down time you'll be wheeling gas cans long distances in the paddock to be refilled. Depending on the team you're with you will be doing this in a custom painted golf cart or by dragging along a red Radio Flyer wagon with a warped wheel.
Race cars go through tires like Kim Kardashian goes through athletes and rappers, which means they need to be changed constantly. Pit stop tire changing is a quick athletic task, but your job isn't over once the car is back on the track. Tire changers spend most of their days mounting and balancing wheels, cleaning rims, adjusting air pressures, shaving tires and making decisions on tire compounds. It is an enormous task and a huge responsibility. Everything the racecar does on track it does using the tires. If it doesn't, your team's car is upside down and you have bigger problems.
Even if you don't know what you're actually saying, just wearing a radio headset makes you look important. Chances are these three guys are staring at a girl walking by in the pits (and forgetting to spot for their race driver) or they are in a deep discussion about which beer tastes better after a long hot race day (Answer: Dos Equis). Regardless of what is on their minds (girls and beer) they look like they know what their doing. Spotting is a fun way to be a part of motorsports action without the risk of "sheet time" at the hospital.
Timing and Scoring
If spotting doesn't work out (because the team figures out you don't know the difference between an apex and your anus) you will probably be demoted from spotter to records keeper. That's okay though, you still get to wear the cool headset therefore you'll still look important. Outsiders won't know if you are writing down lap times or just the pit crew's lunch order (you can have any sandwich you want as long as it's bologna). Keeping track of the team's progress and lap times is an integral part of a race team and the information you gain can help the crew chief make those all important last second calls.
If your handwriting is so horrible you can't keep records and if your drawl is so thick the driver can't understand you over the radio, you're probably the mechanic. If you're not sure if you are a mechanic, look at your fingernails. If they are stained with grease, you're the team mechanic. And if you're one of those guys who can fix anything with a pair of needle nose pliers and some duct tape, you're the perfect racecar mechanic. Chances are the team only bothered to bring about 30% of the tools and spare parts they'll need during the weekend, so your shade tree mechanic ingenuity will pay big dividends for the race team.
And if you don't have the firing order for a Chevrolet small block 350 memorized (1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2) you probably won't be promoted to head mechanic. However, every good mechanic needs some fool to lie underneath the car, get dirt in his eyes and hold the wrench. That could be you, Biotch.
And if you're not even qualified to be the guy underneath the car (i.e. you don't know the difference between lefty loosey and righty tighty) then you can always don a pair of Mechanics gloves, and tell everyone else what they're doing wrong. Every team has this guy.
A good crew member doesn't eat and doesn't sleep, which helps the race team because chances are they forgot to make arrangements for a place for you to sleep and didn't bring enough food to feed you. Plus race teams inevitably need to work on their cars all night long to make sure their ready for the green flag in the morning. If you like to stay up all night, freeze to death and smash your fingers with a wrench while working with a half dead flashlight between your teeth, then there is a race team happily waiting to oblige you with just such duties.
Remember the phrase, Those that can't do, teach? When you make poor decisions in a racecar (like you crash one) that makes you an expert on what not to do. Therefore you are totally qualified to lean into the driver's window right before your driver heads out and give him some last minute advice, "When the track turns to the left, go left. Lots of throttle, lots of throttle. Don't crash and, oh yeah, don't forget to win!" That's some good coachin'. The crew chief's job is to run the entire race effort. It means you won't get a bathroom break, ever, because as soon as you go hide in a port-a-potty to relieve yourself all hell will break loose. The crew chief is the most important person on the race team and is usually responsible for when a team actually wins a race. Of course, the a-hole driver will take all of the credit.
If you can't talk on the radio, fix cars, keep records, be in charge, or help in any possible way, there is only one job left on the team; driving. Sometimes the driver is one of the most worthless people on a race team and doesn't know crap about cars. "Hello, I'm the driver. Could one of you chaps show me where the door handle is so I can get into the car and drive it flat out?" Of course, after the crew works their fingers to the bone, the driver will be on the podium chumming it up with a trophy girl and telling everybody about his heroic last lap pass. Refrain from punching him in the mouth until after he's handed out the beer and bologna sandwiches.
Photography by Jeff Balliet of ASK Photography.