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 Columns & Editorials

August 17, 2001

Difference Between A Driver And A Racer

by Sharon Fancher
Do you know what the difference between a Driver and a Racer is? I know the vast majority of the public will in some instances disagree. But to me a Driver is someone who is out there not so much to win a race, but someone who'll profit financially either way. Racers on the other hand get out there and race their heart out to win. And knowing that in the long run the profits will be minimal, if any at all.

A Racer doesn't race for the fortune or fame it might bring, but instead for the love, excitement, and satisfaction of knowing they did their best. As amazing as this may seem, I find it to be the cold bitter truth. You will see a Driver most often in the higher-level series. That's where all the money is to be made. And very little of it is made in race winnings. The team owners take most of that home anyway. The real payments are shelled out for appearances, sales pitches for sponsors, and driver-themed memorabilia.

Play the game right, and you can get pretty rich. Even if you don't win. And so, there is a surprising number of drivers out there who don't mind not winning. Who needs to win if you can finish in the top twenty and still get paid? Hit a few top ten finishes in a year, keep your sponsor selling hats, T-shirts, or motor oil, and you've got it made. Other drivers are paid so much by their team owners that they'll do anything to keep them happy... including taking a dive for a teammate.

But if you ask an actual racer what the best way to win a championship is, and he'll tell you flat out: "You win races." If you are looking to find the true breed of racers, you'll have to go to your local racetracks. That's where all the drivers are racers. There is little reward for racing on a local level outside of the little sparkling trophy and the purse that wouldn't even cover a set of tires. The only other outcome is having that picture taken that proves you made it to victory lane.

At a local track, there is no satisfaction in a top ten finish (sometimes there aren't even ten cars in your main feature). You haul your pitifully small team and your beat-up sheet metal to the bullring and throw it around like tomorrow you'll be working on it again anyway. And even if you only get paid enough cover travel expenses, you will still have the satisfaction of winning that race.

I bet you the drivers in higher-level series racing look back on those days, when they were still hungry and lean, racing to eat instead of racing for luxury. And when they think about it, I'm sure they must wonder when their focus changed. And wonder if it was worth it in the long run. Speed, noise, naked aggression and a pure rush of adrenaline. I think that's an effective way to sum up the amazing experience of a Racer behind the wheel of a stock car at any of America's finest local short tracks. It is a great chance to develop your driving skills, as there is a good deal more to stock car racing than simply thrashing around the track and colliding into your opponents time and time again. You learn control on the edge, and avoidance, although that's not to say you won't have the odd spill or two. Yes, it can be dangerous, but your safety should always be first priority. Local Short Track's, "Will always be the Home of theTrue American Racers!" The true definition of a racer!

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