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01/25/2011: Racing or College???

Category: Racing Books
Posted by: Mike
I recently finished reading Derek Daly's book Race To Win which is overall an interesting read with some insightful perspectives on what it takes to be a champion driver. One interesting and probably controversial statement Daly makes is about forgoing a college education for racing. Daly seems to imply that doing so is a sign of commitment from a young driver and/or their family. He says trying to attend college and pursue racing at the same time may lead to “divided priorities.”

For the most part I agree with Daly on the second point. If one has a serious opportunity in racing, and college will interfere with that opportunity, by all means, put college on hold. I certainly would. College can wait, that opportunity in racing will probably never come again.

While Daly does address assessing talent level to determine if it is appropriate to put college on hold, he does not really mention opportunity. If you have a fully funded development contract or something along those lines, the decision is simple. If you have a serious shot at one, it might be worth it to focus all your time and energy on getting that ride. But we are talking about a few dozen, or maybe a few hundred drivers that have this opportunity.

What about for us normal people? Chances are, college should be a serious consideration. At 18 years old, I had never even stepped foot on a racetrack. I had a street car that was barely running half the time. It occurred to me that I could build my street car up into a mini stock car or SCCA ITB racecar! Racing was my dream so whats stopping me right?? It didn't take me long to realize I didn't have the money, knowledge or resources to go racing. Forgoing a great opportunity to further my education would have been, frankly, pretty stupid.

It's a lot easier to get someone (like the government or a university) to pay for or loan you the money for a college education then for racing. After graduating statistics say you can get a significantly higher paying job then non college graduates, and that extra money could allow you to pursue racing.

Contrary to a “lack of commitment” or “failure to sacrifice,” attending college maybe actually show the opposite. Working hard to earn a degree may show commitment, particularly if you study a field which will help you in racing. While I hardly think this of all or even most non college graduates, forgoing college for unrealistic shots at “racing” may infact be a sign of... laziness???

Yes, you will be an old hack by the time you graduate from college and won't have much time to pursue a real career as a race car driver, but reality is your chances may well be worse if you didn't attend college and spent those years struggling to get into racing with little or no money. While I never went down that path, I'm guessing I might still be struggling to make ends meet had I not attended college. It seems safe to assume that most of what I've accomplished in racing and life in general is due in part to my decision to attend college.

Everyone's situation is different so it would be unfair to judge anyone's college vs. racing decision without knowing the full story. I don't know the intent of Daly's words (I may be interpreting them incorrectly), but don't be misguided by them!
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
So what does it take to make it to the top levels of racing?

Certainly it takes money and the more you have the better your chances. Pure luck is at least somewhat of a factor. Talent and on track skills are more of a minor point.

But what I've learned is there is something even more important then money. That's passion and desire. How bad to you really want it? Unfortunately, all the passion and desire in the world will not take you to the top without the other factors. But without the desire, you could have all the money in the world and you would never make it. How much are you willing to sacrifice? With no intent to single anyone out, I can say, in my opinion there are some aspiring drivers that don't seem willing to sacrifice things that many would consider a luxury for racing. I've been at this for a few years now, and that's just one of the things I've figured out.