There are over 1,000 motor racing venues throughout the United States, ranging from rural dirt tracks to modern speedways. The three main types are: stock car (NASCAR), open wheel (Indy Racing League), and drag racing (National Hot Rod Association). Part-time drivers may race for prize money, known as a “purse.” Professional drivers usually have a contractual agreement with a sponsor or racing team owner, and they receive a percentage of the winnings which is supplemented with income from product endorsements.
Race car drivers must be physically fit and able to skillfully maneuver cars at high speeds. Drivers must remain acutely aware of track conditions and the position of other drivers. They make quick decisions about shifting gears, braking, and accelerating. They must understand the geometry of the racetrack to move efficiently. While successfully maneuvering past a competitor, drivers must also prevent other competitors from passing them. Drivers consider every detail, from the position of their own bodies to weather conditions, and constantly re-evaluate and monitor the performance of their car.
Preparation for a career in auto racing often starts with interest in the sport at an early age. Familiarity with car engines, bodywork, and mechanical technology is common among workers in auto racing. More importantly, they must have highly developed driving skills. Most race car drivers don’t begin on big tracks. They might get their start racing go-karts and later work their way up from lower-level auto races. Race car drivers must complete courses to get licensed in operating high-speed vehicles.
There are numerous schools that help drivers improve their skills. For example, the NASCAR Technical Institute specializes in racing technology education. By gaining experience and taking specialized courses, drivers are able to control faster and more powerful cars as they advance in auto racing. Many break into racing through family members or friends who are already in the racing business. In the case of NASCAR, most team shops are located near Charlotte, North Carolina, so drivers who want to rise to NASCAR ranks must live near there.
Pit crew member
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition.