Roller coaster days
Hopefully you brought your Dramamine, as we enjoy the ups and downs of racing and with the news around mental health, you can see how professional athletes also struggle with doubt and depression. As the story goes nothing is final until you are on the grid. In 2009 over the course of about 6 months I went from planning a move with Parris Mullins (an awesome guy who was going to be my roommate and partner in crime on the F1 circuit) to Charlotte and planning how we were going to create fun videos for YouTube and the fans; before Tiktok, Instagram, and others were a thing. I was out talking to sponsors about personal endorsements and working on a new helmet design. It was very exciting times with so much going on. Well a couple months later I got word of some struggles and negotiations that had taken place and things were looking rocky. I put everything on hold. A month later around early November I was told that some team members had been let go, this of course was a shock after all the work so many had put into the project along with money. I decided it was time to make some calls and face the reality of the situation. There was so much going through my mind from doubt to anger to sadness. I was so close to starting my F1 career but found out that this wasn't meant to be. As soon as I found out, I decided to fight for a seat somewhere else but I had also turned down multiple offers from some LPM1 teams which had filled the seats at that point. This was proving to be very difficult and was mentally tolling.
All the F1 seats were full, and I had no GT experience, I had been out of touch with most of the US racing series for over 5 years which made things very difficult again in times where PR and your website were really the only way to share your success/personality. I was without a race seat going into 2010. I decided I should try to go to Indycar. I spent most of my time working on sponsors, working to get to know the teams and owners that year only to come up short. I honestly thought my racing career was done. That year it was a rollercoaster of emotions, from knowing I was so close to the ultimate in racing to having no clue where or if I would drive again. I of course used the power of positivity and kept training hard ready for that next chance but it dwindled, I received tons of "I'm sorry we would love to but just don't have a seat" or "sponsors are cutting budgets and we just don't have the funding to run another car". I had thoughts that you never want to think. I was wondering my purpose, feeling like a failure, not knowing what to do. I became a hermit and honestly rarely went out with friends, became very closed up, and honestly struggled with socializing as I was known as "The Racing driver".
I eventually found a factory deal with BMW in sports cars almost 2 years later (2012) but things just weren’t the same. It was a whole new group of contacts and people and having won Sebring 12 hours my first race in the car along with running in the top 3 every race I drove, nothing came of it. I again trained like never before, interacted with the sponsors and teams, pushed myself to a new level. It was hard to walk away and not continue after having won Sebring 12 hours in my first ever GT race.
I spent many nights wondering what could I have done differently, why didn’t I just do the easy path being American and stay in America racing up into IndyCar. I had a dream to be competing with the best in the world and racing all around the world. What did I do wrong constantly went through my head. I was at the pinnacle with potential to earn millions and be able to help give back, living my dream and becoming an F1 driver as an American. This was all stripped and I was left trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t have a college degree, didn’t know anything other than racing. This was very hard for me as all I knew was racing and winning. Over the coming years I was able to pull together small deals that allowed me the opportunity to drive but things just never got back to where they were. The industry had become a pay to play world more than ever with very few opportunities for talent to really be the determining factor. I contemplated becoming a team owner or manager as my love for racing has and always will be a strong fire burning within.
Through all of this the things that kept me going was my faith in my abilities, staying positive, and making sure I was pushing myself everyday. Racing was not just about physical endurance but also about mental toughness. You have to always be thinking ahead, playing chess with the car in front, pushing yourself when no one is around, and when you lose, learn, improve, and move on. Many of these same characteristics I use today in business. Over the coming months and years I honed my skills that I learned from racing, thinking outside the box of solutions, strategy, politics, sales, marketing, connecting the dots, financial analysis etc. Did they pay off for a racing seat, No. Did I learn a lot through all of this and meet some great people, learn that not everyone has your best at heart, and know that I have raced with world champions, some of the best factory drivers in the business. YES. And I can guarantee that anyone I have raced against and competed with in the top levels of the sport will remember how competitive I was, how I would race hard but fair, how I was always a threat in whatever I was driving, and that no matter what I was always smiling. I was known for the one who always had a smile on around the paddock. To me I look back and it was because I knew I was living a dream, I knew I could be a world champion, and I knew that sharing that smile made all the difference in making friends with all my competitors. It’s through these friends and connections I have been able to launchpad my business career which I plan on sharing more next week along with the mental strength and transition from racing to business.