Skip to main content

Have you ever dreamed of racing cars for a living? NASCAR is one of the biggest names in motorsports. Though many think driving around an oval is easy, becoming a NASCAR driver is complicated. 

Can anyone become a NASCAR driver?

Kevin Harvick and Richard Petty talk.
Kevin Harvick (L) and Richard Petty on Nov. 5, 2023 | Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In the sense that anyone can be president of the United States or a brain surgeon, anyone can become a NASCAR driver. And though it’s never too late to begin your racing career, the best chance for success begins at a young age. Start with the basics to build a foundation for becoming a NASCAR driver. 

Study races and car mechanics

The driver number 12 on Ryan Blaney's car at the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at the Phoenix Raceway
Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 NASCAR car | Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As an adult, working on a pit crew is one of the best ways to learn about racing and car mechanics. We don’t mean the pit crews you see on TV, but volunteering to help a local race team. Local racetracks dot the countryside around nearly every community, and most local teams have social media pages. Become a fan, go to the races, buy a pit pass, introduce yourself, ask questions, and offer to help. 

If you’re still in high school, take auto mechanics courses at a vocational-technical school to absorb all you can. High schoolers and younger kids should persuade their parents and sponsors to help fund a racing go-kart to start their career. Learning to sell yourself to sponsors is a critical skill for NASCAR drivers. 

Start with go-karts, and then try cars on a closed course

Racing go-karts and other vehicles on a closed course is a proven method for developing the skills NASCAR drivers require. Kart racing typically allows racers as young as 5 years old, while competitors of driving age have opportunities to drive full-size cars. Also, don’t overlook racing motorcycles and dirtbikes to gain experience and hone your craft. 

How to get a NASCAR driver’s license

NASCAR race in Phoenix.
NASCAR Cup Series Championship on Nov. 5, 2023 | Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Obtaining a license to race is an essential step. However, before applying for a NASCAR license, one must have racing experience and demonstrate the necessary skills to compete at that level. Enrolling in a NASCAR driving course is one way to get exposure and gain experience behind the wheel of a racecar. 

Another avenue for novice racers aged 14 and up is the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing license. Though the SCCA license isn’t NASCAR, it’s a step toward obtaining experience and developing the skills needed for higher-level racing. 

Then, when you’re ready, you can apply for a NASCAR driver’s license online.

The importance of sponsors and network connections

Bubba Wallace greets fans.
Bubba Wallace on Nov. 5, 2023 | Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Operating a race team is incredibly expensive and requires sponsors’ support for funding. Sponsors plaster their names and logos on racecars and drivers’ suits in exchange for the money it takes to go racing. Building a reputation that encourages sponsor backing is crucial for future NASCAR drivers. Likewise, creating a professional network of fellow drivers and crew members can open doors to unadvertised opportunities. 

Physical fitness is an overlooked but critical part of motorsports

You might think driving around a track is easy. However, temperatures often reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit inside the cockpit of a NASCAR racecar. Those elevated temperatures, constant G-forces, and jolting bumps produced from speeds approaching 200 mph make physical fitness paramount to maintaining the laser-like focus NASCAR drivers require. 

Few experiences top the thrill of taking the checkered flag, but the excitement of being at the races is a rush of its own. Do you have what it takes to be a NASCAR driver? Are you willing to accept the risks and do the work required to achieve that reward?