Over the years I have gone through countless driver sponsorship competitions, driver development programs, talent searches, and car Owner ride offers and my girls have done a lot in their careers as a result of these racer support initiatives. Kaley was the youngest female driver inducted into the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation and Amber was a finalist out of Texas for the Red Bull Driver Search. Unfortunately for Amber the Drive 4 Diversity had just been implemented and I was not aware of the program at the time and she would have been an ideal candidate for it (female and Hispanic – NASCAR had been driving hard for Hispanic market expansion for years….) In addition to being unaware, I also made some mistakes along the way on programs that I completely had full knowledge and understanding of the requirements and application procedures. I missed an important deadline for Kaley after she had been sought out by NASCAR’s Marketing Director only to have the program taken over by a 3rd party who did not have that history or background knowledge of her race career. Then when I did make the deadline the following year, my video was complete garbage. I didn’t know how to splice together the driver introduction to the action footage – heck, I wasn’t one of those moms who took video and relied on the internet to find racing footage that she was in. I do get a pass on that since I was always busy running the race program and couldn’t video for much of her racing career because she raced at KAM. I uploaded what I thought was a decent video submission – her driver intro she filmed was spot on and couldn’t have been more perfect – and I had found several different videos that she was clearly in the frame, and what I thought was my finished project was uploaded to YouTube as required. I didn’t know until days later that my video was just her driver intro but displayed sideways and stretched out of proportion because we used an iPhone (older version). In other words, my application was not complete and she was taken out of consideration. Devastating to say the least. When you work so hard and try for so long it’s easy to throw in the towel because the stress of doing it all over again from scratch is just too much to bear. That’s what happened to Kaley. She refused to let me do the process over again the next year because of how stressed it had made me and the strain on the entire family created some very negative moments and turned our lives upside down. Kaley had an amazing karting career and it’s outlined on her website at www.kaleyengstrom.com.
So, I write blog posts to give helpful advice on social media and talk to race parents about Driver Marketing to help them avoid my mistakes and the pitfalls of race marketing and sponsorship, and to enhance your race program which results in a better position for your driver and for your drivers potential success.
How important it is to keep accurate driver race results and records and to take and post videos to a YouTube Channel? Extremely Important! Don’t just post random clips of footage in a stop and go rhythm of how you filmed it. If you have a GoPro on you kart for on track driver perspective view, don’t post the entire thing – you will have a lot of standing still time in the shoot before the driver takes the track, pace laps as the field gets in line until the green flag and going to the scales to weigh with the drive back to the pits after the checkered flag. That’s too much non-essential racing and is quite boring for the viewer. You must get and learn a good video editing software. And believe me there is a learning curve and trial and error when you first get started. But it’s a skill set that all race parents must get if you want to get your driver to a higher level in motorsports.
Okay, enough of my soapbox. Following is a list of some companies that offer Sponsorship, driver development searches, contingency programs and racing contests that I am aware of. If you know of any that I missed, please let me know so I can add them to the list.
Even if your child is currently too young to enter, make plans now and put it on your calendar. The prep work that you do now will only help you succeed in creating an award-winning application that will get selection committee members attention or profile votes on Branded websites in the future. There doesn’t seem to be as many opportunities today as when Kaley was younger, but that could change and you want to be ready to apply for as many of them as you can. My rule of thumb: If you qualify, you should be entering.
This first one has been around for a number of years and seems to keep gaining momentum so I think it will be around for a while.
Champion Spark Plug – They host an annual “Search for a Champion” contest. By far my favorite motorsports related contest! As evident by past winners, this is anyone’s contest to win and being creative, outgoing and telling a compelling story about your racing and why you should get a sponsorship from them are the key elements to winning. The minimum age is 13, but you can be younger with parental approval. You must race equipment that can use Champion Spark Plugs and fit into a predetermined category – karts is acceptable - (no proof that you do is required).
The Promotion begins the first of November and ends mid to late March with the winners being announced sometime in April. Fist you fill out an online form and sign up on their website for a user account. An essay is required, no more than 300 words, and must include a short bio of the driver and the reason why you think Champion should give you a sponsorship. Then the big component – filming a 2-minute video presentation. Be sure to check out the previous year’s winners and finalists on YouTube – just search “Search for a Champion” and a huge list of videos will pull up for you to choose from. You’ll be amazed at the how creative and enthusiastic the drivers are, but it will give you a good starting point from which to create your video. Be sure to write out a sketch and the dialog so you convey a good message that comes across professional.
The videos are uploaded onto their website for Public Voting. During this period, you want to promote and try to get as many votes as possible. The really good videos will go viral in a sense and the votes will just take off. You can do it! This is why I stress that every race team learn how to film and properly edit a video. Video submissions are an application requirement for most of the contests and driver development applications that I’ve come across over the years. The video must depict your racing with your race equipment and a photo is also required for the online profile that is created. After the final voting period, the public voting will determine the 25 finalists in each category. Votes however, are not determinative of selection as a Finalist.
At the conclusion of the Finalist Public Voting Period, each Contest Entry will be judged against the other Contest Entries in its Category by a Sponsor-selected panel of judges (“Judges”) based on the following criteria (“Judging Criteria”):
Inspirational quality - 34%
Best depiction of a Champion - 33%
Number of votes from the public - 33%
For complete details and rules visit this link: http://sfac.championautoparts.com/on-the-track/.
Not too many karters use this next Brand, but it’s a simple to enter and qualify process to enter.
Red Line Synthetic Oil – Has on “open enrollment” starting the first of September where they take Sponsorship requests via their website using an online driver application. The key is performance and to use their product in your racing program. (Are you keeping accurate records of race results? Use the Driver Notebook – a copy is under Forms on the website or under Files on Executive Speed Marketing group page on Facebook.) Their requirements go on to say, “Red Line relies on teams to build a positive social media presence and represent themselves with good sportsmanship and citizenship in their communities.” So make sure that your website and Social Media channels are up-to-date and that all your race recaps and posts are positive and upbeat telling a good story about your race team. Click here for more information and to access their Sponsorship page: https://www.redlineoil.com/sponsorship.aspx.
Red Line also offers a Contingency Program. Like most Contingency programs, they require you to run their product and place in the top of the class per their website: “Run our stuff, finish up near the top (or win a random drawing) and you’ll have a great chance of getting prizes redeemable at REDLINEOIL.COM for motor oil, gear oil, additives, grease and more. We like to reward good performance, but also like to say “thank you” to the guys and gals who show us support and don’t hit those top 3 or 5 spots.” You are required to run an 8-inch sticker graphic of their logo and purchase $75 worth of their product in the 6 months before the event or series starts that you plan to run. Email them at email@example.com to see if you qualify.
Valvoline: According to their website: “Team Valvoline is on a mission to lead the evolution of racing by partnering with racers, engineers, builders, auto professionals and students.”
I’m going to highlight this next racer support program because I love the concept and saw it in action first hand when Kaley race her Sprint car at the Knoxville Nationals a few years ago. The program was explained to me by the ladies selling the raffle tickets and this is what I found online about the program:
AlpineStars – Most racers know the brand – they outfit NASCAR drivers with their safety gear. They are high dollar, high quality race apparel. They Take applications (Race Resumes) once a year in November by snail mail only. Send Race Resume to Alpine Star, Racing Services, 2780 W. 237th St., Torrance, CA 90505.
Knoxville Raceway - https://www.knoxvilleraceway.com/Pages/Driver-Support Not that it will help us here at KAM, but I love the idea and concept they have and how they give back to the drivers. I’d love to put a fundraising effort into something like this on a bigger scale than what we offer by way of our awards program. It’s called The Knoxville Racing Charitable Organization (KRCO) and it’s a non-profit organization that was created approximately 18 years ago by several sprint car drivers’ wives in order to provide additional safety equipment (for the cars and drivers) and additional insurance for those that race weekly at Knoxville and are in the Knoxville Raceway Points. They sell the 50/50 tickets and use the proceeds to go toward the driver fund. Of course, at a track that size and fan popularity, the ticket sales are very high with a large payout every race night.
NASCAR’s Drive 4 Diversity - If you are a female or minority driver then listen up! This could be your golden ticket to reach the highest level of motorsports and follow in the footsteps of Kyle Larson. Of course, all the tips and advice I give really count when it comes to the application process for this program. You must create a Video for your submission that has a driver introduction then a sampling of racing from different venues and/or different styles of racing (ie: Outlaw karting, Micro, Midget, Wing vs Non-Wing, etc.) They want to get an overall picture of your driving ability in a short video so video quality is a must. It must also back up your race resume, which must be detailed but very accurate. They will be fact-checking via a special selection committee panel.
The online application wants you to list your recent racing activity and requires total car count in class, starting position, ending position to name a few specifics. NASCAR handed over the management of the program a number of years ago to Rev Racing. They’ve made changes to the process over the years and now the application submission procedure is open year-round but the deadline for that current year’s Combine is sometime in September. The online application and requirements can be found here: http://revracing.net/combine-application/.
They also want a good headshot and one on track shot of driver and car. The minimum age to apply is 15.
Here’s another Manufacturer racer support program.
Simpson Racing – offers Sponsorships by way of product discounts, they do not provide monetary sponsorships. You submit your application by mail sending which includes a detailed Race Resume that lists your background, race history and any special accomplishments both on and off the track. They also want a copy of your Race Schedule. Applications are accepted between October 1st through January 31st for the upcoming race season. For more information and the address to use click this link: http://simpsonraceproducts.com/sponsorships-contingency.
There are not as many Driver Development programs as their used to be, and that’s unfortunate. This next one doesn’t really fall into that category but resembles a development based program, in fact they call it “Athlete Development” in their description of the program. It’s a Brand that any racer would die to partner with and back their race team, and as if they weren’t popular enough they are the new name behind Motorsports highest level of professional racing.
Well that’s all I know that’s available to the Outlaw Dirt Karters. There are more available to asphalt flat karts because there is a bigger market and more manufacturers that service that market. Also, when your driver moves up to the Sprint Car level their Contingency programs will be more common place as most sanctioned race series’ offers a program as part of the membership perk. You just have to run the Sponsor’s stickers on specified locations of your race car and usually finish in the top 3.
Again, if I missed a program that is out there please let me know. I’d love to see this list grow in an effort to help racers and promote the sport of karting. We need to get the Outlaw Kart community to ban together in a petition writing campaign to get more manufacturers to offer more racer support to our sanction of the sport. We use their products in our race programs and karting is, after all, the way most professional race car drivers got their starts in Motorsports. Without karting the race industry would suffer a huge hit because drivers would have no place to learn the sport nor lay a solid foundation from which to launch a racing career from.