How To Earn A Shit-Ton Of Cash As A Pro Racecar Driver

Illustration for article titled How To Earn A Shit-Ton Of Cash As A Pro Racecar Driver

Ever wondered how you could become a ridiculously wealthy racecar driver? An individual who only bathes in SmartWater, possesses 17 white Persian kittens and maintains a staff of five to dispose of all the purple Skittles?


Yes, the life of a professional racecar driver is filled with superfluous perks unimaginable to the regular man. After all, racecar drivers don't own toilet paper. They use wads of $100 bills.

Read on and find out how this could be you.

I believe it was my distinct hatred for the purple Skittle that led me to become a professional racecar driver. I remember being eight years old, scouring through the Skittles packet, cursing the quantity of inedible purple filth, and thinking there has to be an easier way to rid myself of this dreadful problem.

After hours of deliberation, I decided I must earn enough money to employ people to undertake the woeful task of Skittle removal. And the only surefire way I knew to make that kind of money was to become a racecar driver.

Some drivers do it for the helicopters, some for the chicks. For me, it was all about the Skittles.

So how do you become a racecar driver? Simple. Get out Daddy's checkbook.

Like any sport, you must begin at the bottom of the ladder. In racing, all the greats start out in karts - just a few years post-diaper. In fact, I once knew a kid who started at the age of three. He was probably still wearing his Huggies Pull-Ups.

Illustration for article titled How To Earn A Shit-Ton Of Cash As A Pro Racecar Driver

Of course, you don't earn money at this point. You pay money. Karting is not cheap either, at least if you want to do it right. Expect Daddy to pony up over $40k per season.


As you progress up the karting ranks and prove your innate speed and prowess, you'll likely be thinking about moving from karts into cars. I made this transition at just 15 years of age.

You are now no more than three or four steps from your ultimate goal. But you're still not a big shot. And Daddy is going broke.


Let's say you want to be an IndyCar driver. A likely step from karting may be into the US F2000 Championship -– the perfect training ground for any budding superstar. The problem is, this perfect training ground will set you back around $200k per season.

At this point Daddy will likely be getting pissed, wondering why the hell he ever agreed to this. But he can't turn back, because you probably haven't paid much attention in school and have no qualifications to speak of.


Never mind, you think, who needs a degree when you will soon have enough money to buy the entire Harvard campus?

Illustration for article titled How To Earn A Shit-Ton Of Cash As A Pro Racecar Driver

If you have been lucky enough to get to this point (with your family still intact) then you will be aware that the costs to race are about to balloon. After US F2000 you will have to find another $300-400k to jump up to the Star Mazda Championship, the next step on the ladder. Then you'll need around $1 million to race in the Indy Lights series.

Of course, if you went the NASCAR route you will be even poorer. A ride in the truck series will set you back a couple of mil, and the Nationwide Series between three and five mil. Either way, as you progress up the ranks to becoming a world famous racecar driver, you are hemorrhaging money faster than the US Postal Service.


Most of you, it is fair to say, will now be working in McDonalds. Not because you are a talentless hack, but because daddy went bankrupt, mommy filled for divorce and you spent the vast majority of your time at school reading Playboy rather than "To Kill A Mockingbird."

Those with daddies not named Donald Trump will need a sponsor or two. That is, a company willing to pay ludicrous amounts of money for you to race in a junior series with no fan base, little TV coverage and zero chance for any return on investment.


With that said, no driver finds a legitimate sponsor. It is always daddy's cash, a friend of daddy's, or the cash of a company daddy is affiliated with. Because why else would a sponsor give you money to race in Star Mazda?

Think of racing like basketball. You have high school, college and the NBA. Imagine if you had to pay hundreds of grand just to play in the high school league. Then if you wanted to move up to college basketball, you'll need to pay the team over a million dollars. How many of the current NBA players would have still made it?

Illustration for article titled How To Earn A Shit-Ton Of Cash As A Pro Racecar Driver

Now imagine that despite being the leading college scorer, you are still required to pay three, four or even five million dollars to play in the NBA. We wouldn't have guys like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. It'd be folk like Lord Charles Picking III and Ernest Hummingbottom, instead.


Some of you might get picked up by a manufacturer. Or you might get lucky finding a guy who has a shit-ton of cash, loves racing and thinks "what the hell." It happens. Rarely. But it does.

So why does it cost so much money to become a racecar driver? And why are many "pros" still paying millions even though they have already made it to superstar status?


Because teams can't find sponsors. So they take money from the rich drivers to keep their business alive. You can't blame them for it. It's the way it is. It has always been this way, to some extent, made worse by a languishing economy and a sport that (as a whole) does not garner the same attention as the likes of the NFL.

To put this into perspective, Pastor Maldonado (Formula One race winner with Williams) bought his drive for an estimated $50 million dollars. Even the great Ayrton Senna needed daddy's cash to get him to Formula One.


Do you ever earn enough money to acquire a G650, swim in a pool filled with Dom Perignon and own 152 show-winning llamas? Well, some do. Ninety-nine percent of pros, however, do not. In fact, most drivers never get the chance to show what they can truly achieve, because they run out of cash prior to landing that lucrative paying gig.

It's not out of the question that you could defy all odds and become an uber rich professional driver. But you probably had better odds of winning the $500 million jackpot a few weeks back. Racing is political and littered with wealthy, yet talented drivers. If you can't pay, you can't play.


And if you do get a paying drive, you'll likely have to save up for 672 years to afford your Bugatti Veyron, such is the typical racecar driver's paycheck. By which time, the Veyron might be a touch old fashioned, anyway.

See, the illusion that every racecar driver lives in a house made of pearls and wears pants made from preserved dinosaur skin is a complete myth. There are a few that do. But most are simply trying to survive.


So how can you make a shit-ton of cash as pro racecar driver? I refer you to a famous old saying: "To make a small fortune in racing, start with a large one." I feel bad for my broke parents. But even worse that I still have to disperse of the purple Skittles myself.

About the author: @Alex_Lloyd began racing in the U.S. in 2006. He won the Indy Lights championship in 2007. He's competed in the Daytona 24-hour twice and the Indianapolis 500 four times — placing fourth in 2010. The native of MADchester, UK began racing karts at age 8, open-wheel race cars at 16 and finished second to Formula One World Champion - and close friend - Lewis Hamilton, in the 2003 British Formula Renault Championship, followed by a stint representing Great Britain in A1GP and winning races in Formula 3000. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife Samantha (also from England) and three young "Hoosier" children. He also enjoys racing in triathlons and is rather partial to a good old English cup of tea. But not crumpets.


Fred Smith

of course, there is one guy out there who brought no money in any stock car class, didn't have much family money and makes tens of millions a year: jimmie johnson.

he started in what is probably the most affordable form of racing for parents to support (dirt bikes), did extremely well, moved up to trucks, did extremely well, moved to late models, did extremely well, caught the eye of the herzogs, ran NNS, did relatively well but during a hiring bubble in cup, caught the eye of jeff gordon, went to cup, won his fifth race out and won five titles in the last seven years.

he never paid for a ride in anything more expensive than a regional late model, he just had the right talents in the right place at the right time. he simply had the talent, negotiation skills and, most importantly, timing to skip the two hardest parts of the ladder (late model to K&N, K&N to ARCA, ARCA to trucks, trucks to NNS, then NNS midpack to NNS front of the pack, NNS front of the pack to cup midpack, cup midpack to cup front of the pack).

but again, that's damn near impossible. an unimaginably talented young late model driver named ross is trying the same thing right now but is unable to make that jump from late models to K&N.

and his last name is kenseth.

yes, the son of the reigning daytona 500 champion can't find the funding to run five tiers below the cup series.

of course, some pay drivers "reform" before others do. sergio perez waited until the midpack F1 to front of the pack F1 jump to stop paying, while some development drivers stop paying straight out of karts (though many of those red bull drivers that claim to be doing this are still funding themselves, for the most part). 17 year old K&N west driver dylan kwasniewski's father was a high ranking executive at the rockstar energy company, so that's where his funding came from originally, but after a six race first partial season, he caught the eye of royal purple and became the only driver sponsored by a national company he's not directly related to in the 2012 K&N pro series west, in which he won the championship.

the K&N east title did a similar move, but instead of a sponsor he found a development contract. when you take the wings off, kyle larson was the best sprint car driver out ?there. but now? he's the top cup prospect. chip ganassi was smart enough to hire him out of USAC in late 2011, but he didn't race a stock car until the first K&N pro series east race of 2012. he did well enough for chip to give him an ARCA race in june, in which he ran in the top 5, then he started winning K&N races, so mr. ganassi gave him a few shots in the truck series. he ran in the top 10 in both.

then, he won the championship in K&N. he was announced to be moving up to trucks immediately, and he lead late in both of the two races he ran at the end of the season, just one restart away from winning in phoenix. he's now been rumored to skip trucks and go straight to NNS. somehow, the worst performing well funded team in NASCAR's sprint cup series now has likely the best development driver anywhere waiting in the wings. oh, and if he wants, he can switch to IndyCar at any time.

toyota was mostly funding his USAC endeavors, and in the end it was only his first season of midgets that his family funded. he might be the last ever driver to not pay that low down the ladder.

but, of course, when he gets there he'll have to deal with the reality that paul menard (son of john menard and surprisingly not all that talentless pay driver) has better equipment than him, partly due to chip's inability to organize a NASCAR team and partly due to richard childress's attempts to pick up every full pay driver in NASCAR.

right now, he's collected the aforementioned menard in cup, brian scott in nationwide, brendan gaughan in trucks and nationwide and tim george jr in trucks, but he lost the shockingly talented joey coulter to KBM this year.

well, I'm not sure where I'm going with this, it's way off track now, but there's your short history of high level pay driving in stock cars, I guess.