Why do you motorsport?

By J.A. Ackley
Apr 6, 2024 | Grassroots Motorsports, Motorsport, Column, Blog | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Chris Tropea

One of the last things my 100-year-old grandmother told me before she passed was that she didn’t understand why people did motorsports. But she quickly added, “It fits you.” What’s that supposed to mean, Grandma?

I’ve thought about this off and on over the years. It came up again as I drove through the middle of the night from middle-of-nowhere Kentucky on my way back home from a dirt track. At the break of dawn, I went to an East10Drift event just a few miles away from where I live. It was a doubleheader day. Not uncommon for me.

Last month, I flew from Tennessee to New York on a Tuesday to revive my mom’s old Caddy. Flew from New York to California on Sunday to drive a Nissan Z NISMO at Sonoma Raceway on Monday. Flew back home on Tuesday. (The only thing that stopped me from another race was that I didn’t want to drive the Caddy 60 miles one way on a Saturday night.)

I should have had enough after that, right? Heck no.

The next weekend was a tad lighter–on travel, that is. ARA Boone Forest Rally parc expose in Kentucky on Friday. The following day I planned to go back to the Bluegrass State for a dirt race, but I stumbled upon the Knoxville Drive Electric Festival at a coffee shop. I had to go. So I did both. Then, ETRSCCA autocross on Sunday at Bristol.

Does the management here require me to do this? Not at all. They’re great with respecting personal time.

Do I want to do this? Yes, absolutely.

But why?

Perhaps you’ve asked yourself this, too, when it’s 2 a.m. in the shop and you’re wrestling with how to fix something on your car.

For a racer, the reason’s clear, right? Okay then, everyone say it on a count of three. One. Two. Three.

Wait, why did I hear a bunch of different answers? Shouldn’t it be about racking up trophies?

You didn’t have that answer? Don’t worry. Motorsport is not all about winning. (Sorry, Ricky Bobby.)

If being first isn’t the answer to the question, then what is? Well, it depends.

Maybe you just love turning wrenches and fixing things. If so, a race car provides plenty of chances to do just that. (Moreso with some cars and drivers–choose wisely.) To give you an idea of my mechanical ability, I once fried a light switch by changing a light bulb. Like I said, choose wisely on who you help.

Do you wish you went to school for engineering instead of business? No worries, motorsport can scratch that itch, too. The sport offers the opportunity to test your theories and obtain real-world results. I entered college as an engineer and graduated with a business degree–and I was happy about that. This might not be my reason.

Love working with your hands and creating beauty? Motorsport can satisfy that urge, too. What better medium to work in than metal, fiberglass and other materials found in race cars? If 2D is more your thing, you can create gorgeous graphics for liveries that make sponsors shine and give character to a ride. I loved art as a kid, but I never went this route, so it isn’t this.

Do you just like watching and cheering on your favorites? That’s okay, too. Drivers and teams need the support, and your support often makes a hard day at the races worthwhile. I’m known for typically sharing a kind word, but I’ve never been into fandoms. I certainly appreciate them, though.

Perhaps your spot is behind the wheel. While yoga has its perks, getting behind the wheel of a race car provides a great form of meditation. It’s amazing how every second behind the wheel can shed worry after worry from your day-to-day life. Maybe I do need more of this, but this isn’t my first reason.

If you have a competitive spirit, motorsport provides a challenge unlike many other sports. It involves so many moving parts and requires so much to go right. Even a little personal victory, like just finishing a race, gives you such a sense of accomplishment that it can put pep in your step until the next event. I know this feeling firsthand and it is addictive. While I love competing, it wouldn’t explain some of the motorsport things I do.

Others get involved in ways that don’t touch a car. One example is capturing the sport through the lens of a camera or the written word and sharing that with the world. Motorsport certainly isn’t boring, nor are the people involved in it, which makes that task much easier than with some other subjects. I love telling stories through words and pictures, so we might be getting warmer.

Then there’s the social aspect of it. Racers know how to enjoy themselves. How many times have you seen quite the spread of food and drink in the paddock? Many of us have made lifelong friends through this sport over beer and chicken wings. I’m one of the odd ones who enjoy people. Getting hotter.

Speaking of social, motorsport embraces all who love it. Jocks? Nerds? Popular kids? It doesn’t matter which clique you were in–everyone is welcome. I was definitely that kid who lacked a group in high school. When I first started going to the races as a teen, it felt like my home away from home. I had found my fit.

Wait, that’s it. I found my fit.

Hey, Grandma, I get it now. I think.

So, why do you motorsport? I’d love to hear your reasons.

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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
10/18/23 10:53 a.m.

I was surprised at how calming my first track day was. It was like I was able to channel all my anger and frustration into turning the fastest lap possible.

The drive home was probably the most relaxed I've been behind the wheel in a long time.

Mndsm MegaDork
10/18/23 10:54 a.m.

It's marginally healthier than crystal meth? 

RyanGreener (Forum Supporter)
RyanGreener (Forum Supporter) Reader
10/18/23 10:57 a.m.

Been playing racing video games since I was 9 years old and I've been in a car enthusiast (not racing) family so it sort of just happened later on in life (started at 26 years old). I love learning how to masterfully drive the machine that you own. It's a continuous journey of self improvement and the people you meet are interesting and from all walks of life.

bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand UberDork
10/18/23 11:41 a.m.

It helps me to funnel my competitive fire, my love of cars, and lately teaching a younger group of enthusiasts into a zen moment of fun. There is nothing like hurling down the straight, nailing the braking point, and rolling through the apex to give you a great feeling of accomplishment. 

That and I just find a lot of the people I meet have the same interests, awesome stories, and fun tales to tell so the off track beer after the day is done is just as fun. 

msterbee Reader
10/18/23 12:45 p.m.

Because photography is not nearly expensive enough as a hobby.

Tom1200 PowerDork
10/18/23 1:22 p.m.

Because when I was five I declared I wished to be a racing driver.

Because when I was nine I saw the movie On Any Sunday and immediately identified with it.

Because I am the ADD poster child and we ADD poster kids are the Jack Russell Terriers of people.............if you don't give us an outlet we find something and it won't be good.

Because racing literally saved my life; it's a positive outlet. As a young man I had some not so positive outlets.

Because it earned my father's respect; he saw that racing motivated me in life and gave me direction.

Because much like my grandmother I love interaction with groups of people and the social aspect is huge in Motorsports.

Because racers are good people.


sfisher71 New Reader
10/18/23 1:31 p.m.

In reply to Mndsm :

I've always loved this line from Peter Egan:

"Racing makes heroin addiction look like a vague craving for something salty."

sfisher71 New Reader
10/18/23 1:49 p.m.

When I was eight years old, I read "With Moss In The Mille Miglia," Denis Jenkinson's account of winning the 1955 Italian classic in a 300SLR. 

I put the book down on my chest and declared that the only things in the world worth being were either a writer or a race car driver.

As I often say, if I could go back to 1964 and tell that younger version of myself one thing, it would be to add "wealthy" to those occupations. Ah well.

I did have the opportunity to drive a 300SL roadster eventually (the roadgoing version, not the straight-eight desmodromic-valved engine used in Moss and Jenks' victory) along Seventeen Mile Drive for Monterey Car Week in 2021, courtesy the Mercedes Classic Division. I was one of a number of people invited to drive five classic SLs, and my story appeared in the next issue of "The Star," along with a  feature on the best in show at Pebble that year, a 1938 540K Autobahn Kurier. 

Probably the best day I've ever had at work.

DjGreggieP Dork
10/18/23 3:34 p.m.

I enjoy visualizing how things could go together, and having near zero artistic skill, putting parts together and getting the finished product is very rewarding. 

The researching to figure out IF something could work is also fun. 

husky450cr GRM+ Memberand New Reader
10/18/23 3:55 p.m.

The sights, the sounds, the smells and of course, the people.  :)

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