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A Youngster's Path to the IRL

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  • A Youngster's Path to the IRL

    Enough about Midgets and Sprints and car control an all of that mumbo-jumbo...take it from one who has steered them...that is a nice form of racing but if you are a kid and want to run Indy some day take note:

    1 - Karts, karts and karts. Get your *** in the seat and steer! You will learn all the car control and feel you can imagine as you progress. Get to the KT-100 class quick as you can. Learn it, live it, love it! Then get some 80CC and 125 CC seat time if you wish. You can transition into entry-level singel seater formulae out of lower kart classes.

    2 - Read Bob Bondurant's book. Many have been written. Bob gets the Pulitzer. Also, read anything of race car engineering by Paul Van Valkenburgh. This is mandatory reading!

    3 - You don't need to be another Smokey Yunick (learn who he was) but do take your basic auto shop class in high school. This is basic knowledge some professional drivers I have known barely had.

    4 - When you are old enough, enroll in a half-day driving school course on a summer's vacation day. Treat like an outing. Get a feel for a real race car (albeit a school car) without the added pressure of being there for a week. The, go back and get some more with a full-course. Ideally, choose a school with a race series. Russel is good. Bondurant has the best school I have ever scene, however. Daly out of Vegas is good too. Stay away from schools who cater to fans who want a thrill ride. They are ******** for a serious racer.

    5 - With an SCCA license and so forth, race in whatever open-wheel class you can get into
    and try to get into that school series. You wouldn't be sorry to try put Russel's mechanic program for a year. I have not. See Memo Gidley. Better yet, contact Memo Gidley and ask him "How do I (fill in the blank). He'll know.

    6 - Spec Racer, FF2000 are good classes to run. DO MAKE SURE YOU FIND A SERIES THAT FEATURES SOME OVAL STUFF!!! Especially schools!!! This is an area that needs work regarding what is available. I see progress here in the near future.

    7 - Stay away from the dirt tracks, the Sprint 360's, the Late Models, midgets etcetera. Period. THIS IS REALITY!!!!! If you are to succeed as a formula-style race car driver you need to eat, sleep and drink that existence...Period!

    8 - Stay in school. Get an education. Learn to talk like Tom Brokaw and brush your teeth. Comb you hair. Eat your Wheeties. Limit your drinking. Do not smoke. Take up a cardio-vascular exercise such as running or cycling and lift free weights regulary but do not buff!

    Too many promising racers have chased all over the place trying to find a combo to get them to places like CART or the IRL and wound up spinning out. FOCUS ON FORMULA RACING!!!!

    See you at Indy!
    You are what you greet

  • #2
    Well said.

    Amen to the karts - especially once you work your way up to shifters.

    I would also add an endorsement for the Skip Barber school. I've done both Russel and Barber schools and, at least in my experience, the Barber school was tops. I'm teaching a formula group in a few weeks at a track here on the west coast and, though it's been over ten years ago, I'll be passing along a lot of what I learned from the Skip Barber folks.

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    • #3
      I would rather sit on top of 800 HP with a torque tube between my legs, slingin' some dirt!

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      • #4
        Parsons is right. Barber is a good school, though I did not attend. Add that school's book to your required reading list.
        You are what you greet

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        • #5
          A few additions:

          > Take a public speaking class.... or two. Dale Carnegie or Toastmasters can give you a bunch of valuable training in communicating at very small cost.

          > Read. Stuff other than racing stuff. Read the business magazines, the Wall Street Journal, and the business section of your local paper. Like it or not, this is a part of the world which will impact your success.

          > Hook up with a charity early, and stay connected. See Robbie Buhl (amongst others) for why. Give back.

          > Promote yourself. Issue press releases, not just to the media, but to the teams, crew chiefs and officials of the series you hope to run. Build a case for somebody noticing you. If you can't write well, either learn, or hire someone to do it for you. And use spell chack. Ask Ricky treadway how it works.

          > Meet people and treat them well. Develop relationships and keep them. Stay in contact. Let people join your success, share your dream. And treat everybody in every situation as if they are a potential sponsor, a sponsor's spouse, or a sponsor's child. They are.

          > Find some money, no matter how small. Develop at least a couple of personal sponsors who will go with you wherever you go. It not only brings money, but it gives you references from people who have "employed you". That carries weight with owners and other sponsors.

          > Get to know the supplier people... engine guys, chassis guys, manufacturers, tire guys, PR people, and the sanctioning body volunteers. They are the true communications system in motorsports. When something is happening, they will be the first to know. They can help you or hurt you with only a couple of words.

          > Act like you're serious. As if everyone watching you at any time could be the owner you really want to drive for. Remember that you are in a public profession, and everything you do will be treated as public information. Behave... treat people with respect... don't do drugs... don't abuse alcohol... don't abuse people. It matters, and bad news travels fast.

          > Have fun. And show it. There's a reason HCN's fence climbing is popular. Besides, you only live for a short period of time, so enjoy yourself.

          Comment


          • #6
            All of those Kart ideas are great. And a kid really should spend some time there. But, the one thing that is ignored is MONEY. Nearly every step you mentioned requires lots of it, with NOTHING in return. They don't pay squat. Hard to eat that way.

            I'm all for running ff2000 and stuff like that. But, I think a guy should also run WoO and USAC. Race almost ANYTHING anywhere. With the main concern being COMPETITION. Go where the good guys are and WIN. That's the route to getting PAID to race, and not renting SCCA cars to race on weekends in front of no one. Don't worry about championships early on. Instead, run every night you can and WIN RACES.

            The money from a Sprint car win should be invested in an FF2000 race. Keep investing in yourself all the while hunting backers. DON'T sit around and wait for rides and WHINE. Breaks are MADE.

            I will agree that running a 360 or dirt late model will get you nowhere quickly. You need to run with the big dogs. And don't spend your life trying to win the WoO championship. The guys in that series are professional sprint car drivers. For most of them, that is what they do 100 nights a year, and they aren't trying to go anywhere else. You'll waste away following that tour. HOWEVER, do run the big races. The media exposure is important, and they pay pretty good.

            The advice on looking good, and keeping your nose clean are very important. Learn who the money guys are, and be very nice to them. I also recommend that a kid move to Indy as soon as possible. Go to college there if necessary. During the summer spend every day dropping by the race shops or working on your car (if you have your own). Find a cheap place to live, and own NOTHING personal, except maybe a PC to keep yourself educated and up to date. You need to be willing to go anywhere at a moments notice to race a car.

            Don't stick with bad rides very long. And make sure your uniform is clean EVERY time you hit the track.

            And RACE ALL THE TIME. That's the key. Seat time. You'll need the RE experience, but if you are good, you don't need it from birth. Learn to RACE first, you can learn to drive later.
            We flipped our finger to the King of England
            Stole our country from the Indians
            With god on our side and guns in our hands
            We took it for our own!

            Comment


            • #7
              If you are a young kid then you should print all of this out and stick it on a wall and read it often.

              Yes, money is a huge factor...the determining factor...I wrote this based on the assumption you have some cash to get underway If not, then see the other entries here, namely anything that references hanging around a garage and pushing a broom or running errands for a few dollars and a chance to meet potential sponsors.

              However, I disagree about running dirt anything, Sprints or Midgets...although that is great racing and we all love it, you A( Run the risk of being stereotyped into that form of racing B) Getting hurt a lot quicker and C) Wasting valuable time hangign around a place like Manzanita when you should be at Phoenix, for example.

              Now that is not to disparage those forms of racing. But they are much more suitable for a career aimed at the rotating mass being in front of you and not behind you.

              STAY FOCUSED ON SINGLE-SEATER FORMULAE.

              Recent Indy Winners:

              1996 Buddy Lazier
              1997 Arie Luyendyk
              1998 Eddie Cheever
              1999 Kenny Brack
              2000 Juan Pablo Montoya
              2001 Helio Castro-Neves

              I don't recall any of them running dirt or Supers anywhere at any time. And, believe me, they could! FOCUS ON SINGLE-SEATER FORMULAE!

              And print this stuff out, what I had to say about the racing and what Fueler had to say about getting an education and keeping a sharp image. See Scott Sharp about this.

              and ps...ALWAYS respect your brethern in teh forms of racing I just said to stay aways from. There are awesome talents in those forms of racing. Know who they are, because one or two will defy the odds and somoe how sneak in one day and smoke you! See Tony Stewart! See Billy Boat about this. Jusat remember, they are exceptions to the norm.
              Respect them, but STAY IN SINGLE SEATER FORMULAE!
              You are what you greet

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              • #8
                ps...learn to type better than the Hubbster!
                See Robin Miller about this! No, wait...don't do that!
                You are what you greet

                Comment


                • #9
                  Sounds like good advice for a kid wanting to get into driving in the IRL. Anybody have any advice for a "youngster" wanting to get an engineering job in the IRL?
                  Life's too short to worry/Life's too long to wait
                  Too short not to love everybody/Life's too long to hate

                  "There are a number of very knowledgeable and entertaining race fans here. There are also a number of morons. Your job is to figure out which is which." - Rev-Ed

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                  • #10
                    God,

                    You "experts" missed a very important step.

                    Always have your driving equipment (suit, helmet, shoes, medical records, etc.) in a bag and with/near you at all times. Ya never know when an opprotunity might pop up. Be ready.
                    Terrible moderators can destroy great forums

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by bever911:
                      <STRONG>Sounds like good advice for a kid wanting to get into driving in the IRL. Anybody have any advice for a "youngster" wanting to get an engineering job in the IRL?</STRONG>
                      actually the steps are similar.

                      Get lower series experience. Work on any car you can get your hands on.

                      Sweep race team floors for cheap/free. (**** , I don't even follow my own advice)

                      Constantly visit the teams, drop off a resume, let them know you are interested.

                      get that Mech. Engineering degree. It will help out in the long run.

                      Get some 3D cad experience. Get that advantage that most (from my experience) in this area (Indy) don't have.

                      Don't get married, don't have kids, don't get any pets.

                      (Those are jokes, though some people might actually tell you this in seriousness)
                      Terrible moderators can destroy great forums

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        These are all valid points that you guys make. BUt do not throw away midgets, Sprints, or the any of the like. THe future is not on dirt, which I agree; but if I am not mistaken midgets run alot more races on pavement. I agree on all of the P.R. stuff, getting in shape, and I do tell drivers to go to racing schools, since I am a (Skippy Grad myself), and it has helped my racing career alot. I started in SCCA Solo2, Went to Barber, raced FOrmula Dodge, tested FF2000 (On ovals), and Raced for 2 1/2 Years in an all oval Formula Car series. Now Next year is my first year in midgets. I will be racing at the Speedrome with NAMARS. NAMARS is one of the leading sanctioning bodies to endorse PR. with their own Toastmasters Group that meets every Wednesday at IMS. I think you must go through midgets to get to Indy, Midgets teach a driver how to react with torque, and Indycars have alot of torque. Your points are valid, and I do think formula car racing needs to be in your diet also. All I am saying is don't disregard Midgets, and their drivers because they are on the "Road to Indy" also, and go to the Indianapolis Speedrome on Thursday nights this summer, and show your support for the future of IRL.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Mike,

                          I agree with everything you say except for the midgets is a "must" for Indy. Too many options and too much proof to say otherwise.

                          Billy Boat did it right IMO. Ran all of the USAC type stuff and then ran a little Indy Lights stuff. Gave him familiarity and understanding in both.
                          Terrible moderators can destroy great forums

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            This sure might be the best way to get to Indy, but this also guarantees that nobody will know whom you are when you get to Indy.

                            This is the single biggest problem with Indycar racing today.
                            I would think by now that this administration would have a clue as to what it takes to get the job done. So, Get-er-done!!!!!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The key to the driving part is to RACE. Race early and often. If that means running the speedrome on Thursday, IRP on Friday and Saturday, Mid-Ohio on Sunday, and Haubstat on Sunday Night; DO IT!!!

                              It's all about seat time. Get it in everything someone will let you race. Except the IMCA modifieds and dirt late models.

                              As for the mechanic thing, I keep hearing that you had better get about 6 room mates, and be prepared to live VERY cheap.

                              Here's a joke I heard recently:

                              Q: What do you can an Indy Car mechanic without a girlfriend?

                              .
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                              A: HOMELESS
                              We flipped our finger to the King of England
                              Stole our country from the Indians
                              With god on our side and guns in our hands
                              We took it for our own!

                              Comment

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