Driver Ego: The Key to Building a Successful Racing Series

The Stephen Cox Blog is Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance

The easiest way to increase car count in short track racing and amateur road racing is to keep your drivers happy. Really happy. Fortunately, there is a very effective and affordable way to do that.

It was four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, August 29, 2004. It was blazing hot at the Hallett Motor Racing Circuit just outside of Tulsa. Although we missed the setup and were posting slower-than-usual lap times, we won the GT-2 qualifying race after the leader retired with a broken supercharger belt.


American Muscle

I climbed out of the race car drenched in sweat, knowing that I’d won a race I didn’t deserve. The track owner, the late Mike Stephens, was setting up victory lane and preparing to hand out trophies to the day’s winners. I stopped by to chat with him just before the main event and jokingly asked which trophy was mine. Mike laughed and then responded with some of the most truthful words ever uttered in motorsports.

Stephen, I’m not in the racing business. I’m in the ego gratification business. I promise we’ll take care of you.”  

World Racing League championship ring

The racing driver in me doesn’t like to hear that, but it’s true. Drivers want to participate in events that reward their ego. They’re interested in events that leave behind detailed records so that future generations can see and recognize their efforts.

Records matter. Even the small ones. Heat race wins, track records, qualifying race wins, entry lists… these things are important to many racing drivers. They want to know that the series keeps careful records that will be made widely available and preserved long after their careers are over.

Some may call this nothing more than childish ego. Your drivers and teams will consider it an honest, justifiable pride in years of hard work. But ultimately, what we think doesn’t really matter because human nature remains the same.

The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series is now re-writing their record book to include drivers who won A-main races during multi-day events. Previously, drivers who had won feature races on anything other than the final night of the event weren’t credited with official wins. Now they are. This brings a host of new, officially recognized winners into the record books. It makes a lot of drivers and teams very happy, and it didn’t cost the World of Outlaws a cent.

World Racing League president Joey Todd offers a championship ring to the winners of the U. S. Endurance Championship at the Circuit of the Americas every December. Almost every racing driver I’ve ever met would trade all the trophies and accolades he’d ever earned for just one championship ring.

It’s also a smart public relations move because a ring is worn regularly and continues to advertise for the series for decades to come. Championship rings hold a special mystique. Nobody gets a ring for participation. Few people will ask about a trophy after it disappears into a closet, but everyone wants to know, “Hey, how did you get that ring?”

Midvale Speedway has begun posting the names of their track record holders on the front page of their website. It gives drivers something to shoot for. It shows that the series is interested in promoting their own teams and recognizing achievement at their track. It’s a great move that costs the track nothing.

Every racing series and local track should have a master record book that is digitally distributed at no charge to the racing media, permanently posted on the series website and sent to every online racing database after each season. It should include every team and driver possible, and every record imaginable.

It costs nothing to include short track heat race wins, track records and class champions in your record book, but your teams and drivers will take notice. They will appreciate the recognition.

For better or worse, I really believe that Mike Stephens was right. We’re not in the racing business. We’re in the ego gratification business.

Stephen Cox

Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions

Driver, FIA EPCS sports cars and Super Cup Stock Car Series

Co-host, Mecum Auctions on NBCSN


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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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Stephen Cox is a racing driver in the Electric GT Championship, the Super Cup Stock Car Series and the World Racing League endurance sports car series. He is also a television host and CEO of Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions. He is currently in his 10th season as a co-host on NBCSN’s Mecum Auto Auction. Stephen also serves as producer for the Super Cup Stock Car Series telecasts on MavTV and other programming on Fox, Outdoor Channel, Velocity and more. His past television work includes hosting: Champ Car World Series Indianapolis 500 NASCAR Winston West Barber Dodge Pro Series Paris-Dakar Rally USAR Hooters ProCup Stock Car Series Mid-American Stock Car Series ARCA Truck Series Stephen Cox is among America’s most versatile professional racing drivers. Few drivers have competed on both asphalt and dirt. Fewer still on both road courses and ovals. Fewer still in both open wheel and stock cars. And virtually none can add the elite division of off road desert racing to their resume. Stephen has not simply raced in each of these divisions – he has scored championships, wins, poles or top ten finishes in every single category, and in 2017 he adds the international Electric GT Championship sports car series to the list. From ARCA ovals to SCCA road courses, endurance racing to Rolex GT sports cars, from Tecate SCORE Baja Trophy Trucks in desert sands to the Hooters Pro Cup Series and Super Cup Stock Car Series on America’s famous southern ovals… Cox has driven them all, and won. Track record holder at Midvale Speedway (OH USA) Track record holder at Gingerman Raceway (MI USA) 18 career wins 17 career poles Mitsubishi factory test driver 2004 GT Challenge Series champion 2004 Championship Motorsports Association Rookie of the Year As a writer, Cox has authored: L&M PORSCHE; the story Penske’s 1972 Can-Am championship SHELBY LEGEND, TRANS-AM WINNER; the 1966 Ford Mustang Group 2 SCCA Racer AGAINST ALL ODDS; the 1970 24 Hours of Daytona Cox also authored the Small Team Sponsorship Guide for beginning sponsor-hunters, the classic book and seminar that redefined the way entry level teams attack corporate sponsorship.

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