This is sort of like asking what does a car cost. You can go from a $10,000 Kia to a $2.5 million Buggati Veyron. This is a tough question to answer because it depends on so many variables. What type of auto racing are you doing, what class or car are you in, how often you race , how far you have to travel, if you do your own maintenance and repair, etc. We are going to exclude professional auto racing where the sky is literally the limit. Hendrick Motorsports, who has won the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship for a record five consecutive years, has over a 100 million dollar annual budget. Formula 1 teams are probably spending over 500 million.
Even in amateur auto racing there is a huge range of costs from Crap Can racing, which are endurance races in which the cars cannot cost over $500, to a vintage racing Ferrari which may cost over $10,000,000. We will give you the costs of racing some of the more common classes. We are going to give you the cost of operating only the race car itself for a typical weekend race and to be competitive with the front runners. Keep in mind that things like travel and hotel expenses can be significant. You will also need some way to get the race car to and from the track which means some sort of trailer and tow vehicle.
Perhaps the most popular car in amateur road racing today is the Spec Miata. This is an entry level class where Mazda Miatas are allowed only very limited modifications and is intended to emphasize driver skill and car set-up rather than who has the biggest wallet. It is not uncommon to see 50+ cars entered at an event. You can buy a good used Spec Miata for less than $10,000. A set of new tires and brake pads costs approximately $1,000 and will last about three weekends. Your entry fee is $250 and you will use about 15 gallons of 91 octane gas. This means a weekend of racing will cost you about $630 just for the race car.
You should also budget some amount for “racing incidents” or crash damage and maintenance items. There are a number of companies that rent Spec Miatas and other types of cars and have an “arrive and drive” program. They bring everything to the track and do all of the support and maintenance and you just bring your helmet and driving suit. These programs start at $1,000-1,500 per weekend for a Spec Miata. This would be an excellent way for someone to “test the waters” without buying everything necessary to go racing and then finding out this is not what you want to do.
There is a saying in auto racing that says, “Speed costs money, how fast do you want to go?” Unfortunately this is all too true. The next class we will talk about is a vintage or historic NASCAR stock car. This is the type of car that we race on a regular basis so we are real familiar with what they cost. Good used cars can be bought for as little as $35,000. Go to our club’s web site at www.stockcarraceseries.com and click on classifieds.
The cost to race these cars for a weekend can be high. You will need one set of new tires at $1,100 and about $200 of race gas. Your entry fee will range from $300 to $600. You will need to factor in some ongoing maintenance costs for engine rebuilds, transmission rebuilds, rear end repairs, brake pads and rotors, etc. We would suggest you allocate $1,000 to $1,500 per weekend for these costs. So you are looking at about $2,500 to $3,500 for a weekend of fun! Remember this does not include any travel expenses. There is not anyone we are aware of that are providing these cars on an arrive and drive basis but, if there were, the cost would probably exceed $6,000.
Racing at a local dirt or paved oval track would be cheaper on a per race basis but the total cost for the year could be higher. This is because the local short tracks race every weekend whereas a typical road race schedule is usually 6 to 10 races. Also oval track racing tends to be a “full contact” sport where “rubbin’ is racing” and so your costs for damage repair may be higher. Also your time commitment may be substantial if you plan on racing every week.
Drag racing can be the cheapest form of racing at the entry level because your car preparation and modification costs can be very minimal. You can take your wife’s minivan to the local Wednesday grudge races and have as much fun as the guy with the dedicated race car. The downside to drag racing is the actual track time you get is measured in minutes where as you will usually get several hours of track time at an oval track or road racing event.
We would recommend you attend the different types of racing events that you think you might be interested in doing. Go into the pits or paddock area where the cars are being worked on and talk to the racers. Most of them are very friendly and happy to talk about their sport. Ask them how long they have been racing, what they like about it, what it costs, etc. One of the best things you can do is offer to help them with their car in exchange for teaching you about racing. This can be a priceless education especially if they are a front running team.
Look for more articles on getting started in racing future posts.