You've seen the guy around the track ever since you've been going there. He doesn't work on any one team, but kind of moves around and talks to nearly everyone-except that goof in the green car that nobody likes. Whenever he visits with someone, they always seem glad to see him. He's stopped by your car between races now and then just to ask, "How ya doing?" He's a friendly sort, but now, late one night when you're alone in the garage fixing last week's damage, here he comes walking up your driveway.
"Hey, man, how's it going?" he asks with a genuine smile.
"It's cool," you reply, wondering where this is going.
"How much car did they leave you?" he asks, looking not at the car but around your garage.
"Not too bad. A bent A-arm and a lot of stuff that needs to be put back into alignment so it'll be ready for this weekend. What, uh, brings you out here tonight?" you ask, not knowing any other way to say it.
He smiles again, looks you right in the eyes, and says, "You know, I've been watching you for two seasons, and you've got talent. You know how to get a lot out of a car without beating it into the ground or eating the fence. But while you're turning left real good, I can see your money turning right into the wall week after week. You up for a little gut-check talk about what to do about it?"
Whoa, you think, what's up with this? But he's already got your attention.
He can see you're interested and says, "Grab some paper and pen, and have a seat on that tire and take some notes, dude. I think I can make your racing life a little easier for you. And before you ask, there are no strings. I like what you do out there, and I'd like to see you get up to the next level. You game?"
"Yeah, man," you say as you head for the workbench and grab some paper and pen.
"OK," he says, "here are 10 ways to make your racing go better without spending a dime." And so he goes...
1 Learn how to tell the difference between wants and needs for your team. Ask yourself: Do you want this, or do you really need it? Sure, having a spiffy new pump jack or a stack of skyscraper toolboxes would be neat and maybe even make you look a little more pro, but not if you need a new clutch or fresh tires to run better. Learn which parts you truly need for better results, and put them high on your priority list. Keep in mind that this is where you have to be hard on yourself to make the right decisions. When you make a bad one, you pay the price-literally. And you go backward because you put your money in the wrong place.
This tip not only applies to parts for your car, but also tools and shop stuff, too. Learn the difference between needs and wants, and your money will go further and with better results. After a while of training yourself on the difference between the two, you'll end up doing it automatically. Wants and needs-learn the difference to get the results you are looking for. But remember that along with those, you need to constantly keep assessing your priorities-kind of like on the track when you're deciding which groove to use to pass someone. Which one is going to work better right now, at this minute? Here's an even better tip: Use a spiral-bound (at the top) pocket notebook to keep this list of hints for yourself. On the front of it mark a "W," (wants) then put a big "N" (needs) on the back. The notebook will help you set your priorities before you write them down.
Learning head-casting symbols is one way to know you are buying good stuff.
Knowing engine-block numbers can keep you from buying something that will not get you to t
You can save money in your race program by learning to weld.
Swap meets are one of the most effective ways to find good parts at substantial savings.
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.
6 Read Stock Car books and magazines until your head explodes, then read some more. This racing stuff is based on mathematical formulas that really hasn't changed much over the years. Even an old book or magazine article can jog an idea back to life, if not give you a fresh new one. If you're serious about racing, you should have about a half a million questions you'd like answered at any given time. Reading will help the thought process and might answer a few of them. Remember, it's a successful day if you learn something new-even if your car does get torn up.
7 Visit other tracks; study other types of cars and racing. If you run pavement, go look at a dirt track. If you're a dirt tracker, hit the pavement track and look around. Check out all the different ideas you haven't seen before. While you're at it, make sure you understand how those ideas actually work. Try talking to some of the people there (networking), and see if they'll answer your questions. You're no threat to them-you don't even race there. Look for anything you don't understand, and learn how it works. Then you can see if it applies to your car. The same goes for driving style, and even in the pits, where you may find some ideas for better pit equipment and procedures. Watch for timesaving methods and tools, too.
8 Learn how to weld. Learn gas, stick and wire welding. If you can make it yourself, you don't have to fork over the cash to buy it. Look at it this way: You can make a shock mount with a welder and some steel. Can you make a tire? If you learn how to weld, you cannot only make your own parts but also someone else's. Hit that new network of yours and find someone with a welder, buy them lunch, and have them give you the basics of welding. Buy a box of rods, sticks, or wire-and practice. The highest sought-after commodity in NASCAR shops is the dude or dudette who can fabricate. Once you get good enough, start thinking about getting your own machine or rig. Read on for several places to find them at a good price.
9 Go to garage sales, flea markets, swap meets, and auctions. Garage sales and flea markets have almost anything-most importantly, surprises such as parts and tools. Even if it's not what you need, it might be trading material for a great price. If you go to enough of these events, you'll probably find someone asleep on something good. It will pay off. Imagine a neighborhood artist who wants to sell the welder he uses to sculpt metal. Will it work on a race car? What do you think? Car and even truck swap meets and shows are also great places to find deals. At truck shows, the motor, tranny, and rear-end parts are just the same as oval-track swap meets. If nothing else, you can expand your contacts even more.At all these events, however you should know your prices to tell a good deal from a bad one. Visiting these sales should also teach you another talent you'll really need: negotiating. Learn how to negotiate at these events and once you know the correct values, you'll save even more. You don't want to pay a penny more than you have to. Make your money go further.
Auctions can help teach you the values of items as they are being sold. But keep in mind they are just the prices that are going for the day of that auction. It depends on the people there that day, but generally you can get an idea of a going price. IRS auctions are great places to get good deals on almost anything a business could have. This includes tools, cars, parts, and office equipment. Keep in mind that if it's a really good deal, you might want to grab it and sell it to someone else. All this will help you with the next one, too.
10 Trade stuff. Trade parts, trade tools, trade favors, and trade some of your networking contacts. Chances are your pit crew works for nothing, right? Trade them for their work with tools and whatever you've found at those flea markets and swap meets. Repair some street cars for money, or something you need, with friends and neighbors. Remember the guy who taught you to weld? Maybe he needs a brake job on the family beater. Now you can weld the tractor for the guy next door for a few bucks and a lot of good PR in the neighborhood. Trade stuff and favors with the guys you compete against. After all, some of them are at your level and already know the value of trading.
So now that your head is spinning with all these cool ideas, this guy is on his feet and ready to leave-just like that.
"Hey, man, I don't even know your name," you say.
"My name is Turner, but all my friends call me Lefty. See you at the races," He says, then smiles and waves good-bye.