Interview with a Race Car Driver
Even with great talent, it takes money to get to the professional racing leagues. Champions included. Recently I had the chance to meet a very nice and successful amateur race car driver named Brandon Aleckson at a Club Auto Sport function. Brandon was helping at a racing simulation demonstration for one of his sponsors, Trinity Racing Concepts. Brandon was very personable and I asked him a few questions about his racing experiences that evening. Later I felt complimented when he contacted me looking for help or suggestions for raising funds to continue racing. I then realized there are a lot of things I don't know about climbing the ladder in racing and that we should talk more in depth.
Brandon has quite a list of accomplishments highlighted on his website including the 2006 national championship for Formula SCCA cars and received the Motor Sports Press Associations 2006 Open-Wheel Road Racer of the Year Award www.brandonalecksonracing.com. He also saw noteworthy success in '07 and '08. Take a look, Brandon has more accomplishments in amateur racing than most could dream of.
He used to race Go-Karts but it became too expensive needing 2 chassis, 2 motors, parts, rebuilds, etc during the season. This is also became very time intensive as you can imagine. Buying a Formula FE spec racer turned out to be the way to go. Back in 2003, it was "only" $28,000. Now it's about $50,000 to buy a new one. Start adding up all these figures, you'll see the dilemma, if not already!
The one difficult part of the racing for Brandon is dealing with the parts, despite the 160-170hp 2.3 liter Mazda engine being sealed and lasting 4-5 seasons. A huge bargain. But there are wear and maintenance items or updates to be competitive such as floating brake rotors, and they are not cheap. There are not a lot of sources for these parts and they are obviously not massed produced.
This means during the season, figure about $15,000 - $20,000 maintaining the car. For instance, tires are $650 for a set and they last a weekend. Entry fees are $300-$400. Run multiple weekends and suddenly the decimal point starts moving the wrong way in the checkbook and the commas disappear.
Asked about the most trying aspect, the answer was the logistics: ex. Leaving California four days before a race in Atlanta. But Brandon's crew chief, chassis set-up guru and driver is also his source of his funds: his Dad. Being a business owner that can gladly spend the money and time away from the office with his son is a enviable situation. Having a racing background himself has obviously paid off. But keep in mind Brandon's winning seasons are with himself, his Dad and sometimes an assistant versus teams of 2-3 cars and a full staff.
When asked what are his most and least favorite tracks, Miller Motorsports Park in Utah was his top pick. The track, the facilities, everything according to Brandon there is top-notch. Previously, it was Road Atlanta, one of the faster tracks in North America. His least favorite is Button Willow in California. Granted it is personal taste, but one interesting observation is that it doesn't have "character corners". In other words, turns that make a track unique and memorable. For those that that are only able to go to Button Willow and feel dissed, don't. You are still in an enviable situation doing something many cannot afford due to time, funds or both.
Looking at his winning record, I asked about confidence. He was obviously consistent and that is a study in concentration in itself. Brandon usually qualified on the pole so confidence level was always high.
Asked what the important piece of advice, the answer is to network. Get to know people and sponsors because it's all about the funds. The next move up for him would be to Star Mazda. But to "try out" means over $5,000 and most likely $10,000 for one day of testing. Not only that, a season runs about $750,000 and Indy Lights would be $1 to $1.2 million dollars. For one season. This means there are drivers in the pro ranks that are there due to having money, not talent.
Brandon impressed me when I first met him and when we spoke on the phone. He is obviously very talented and his accomplishments are very impressive. If you would like to sponsor Brandon or know someone who wants to help fund a top-notch driver, contact him here.
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