2 Learn how to read engine-block ID numbers and head-casting symbols so you can see a good deal if you trip over one. All those numbers and letters mean something, so learn them. Learn which ones are the good numbers and which ones are the turkeys. It'll keep you from buying a boat anchor when what you really want is something that'll make you haul the mail. Look at every block you can so you cannot only get better at it, but maybe lucky, too. There was a guy, who ran a stock block at Indy one year that came out of a school bus, no kidding. "Don't walk by any vehicle without looking at those block numbers, you'll never know what motor is in there until you look. There's nothing saying that every car has its original motor, right?
The same holds true for heads and their casting symbols. If your division uses cast-iron heads, can you tell which ones have the biggest valves without taking them apart? You don't have to-it's all on the casting symbols. Find some reference books and make your own set of notes. Learn them and maybe even memorize them.
3 Network with people. You don't always have to know the guy with the motor for sale if you know one of his buddies. The more people who know you and know you're racing, the more chances you've got for finding things or information. How many times have you heard someone say, "I know a guy who can help us." The more people you know, the more access you have to all kinds of stuff. Not only can they get what you need but you can also help them. Network without any limitations. Do it at the track, at the parts store, in the neighborhood, and at work. Someone has what you need, but only if you can talk to them-directly or not-and find out. While you're at it, teach all the guys on the crew to do the same. Spread the word and reap the benefits.
4 Get to be friends with a junkyard. Don't go to a junkyard that is already involved with a racing team. As a matter of fact, go to one that is far away, so you're not competing for the same parts with the same guys you're racing against. Don't forget the value of scrap material such as steel, aluminum, lead, tubing, and so on. You use those on your car, trailer, and shop, don't you? Why buy that stuff retail? At the junkyard, you can also test your new talent by reading those block numbers and casting symbols. And while you're there, don't forget to look at the trucks, either. They're good sources for sturdy blocks, transmissions, rearends, and other parts.
If you can work out a sponsorship with the folks at the boneyard, cool, but at least give them some wall-sized (8x10 inches or larger) color photos of the car showing the junkyard's name on it, and chances are you might get a better deal the next time you visit. To round out the deal, give him all your own scrap material, and refer all your nonracing buddies to them. Again, you've given them another reason to help you.
5 Use a computer. If you don't know how, learn. You don't have to buy one just yet, but learn how to get around on one. There's most likely as many computers at Robert Yates Racing as there are people working there. You can surf the Net, but more importantly, you can network with other racing folks to expand your circle of contacts. Once you become good enough, use the computer to log your notes. Then when you get really good, create one-off proposals for sponsorships and perhaps your own press kits. Your public library may have one or more computers, which are usually free to use.
Want to take it to the next level? Take some classes and get a computer of your own. You can keep great records for your team, and toying with a computer on a regular basis gives you a better overview of your racing operation. Create the forms for your at-track notes with setup logs, inventory, results notes, and your tax and financial info. If you want, you can even write sponsorship proposals and press kits for other racers. Accept money, or trade, for helping them too.