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How to Buy a Race Team...on a Budget!

LawnMowerLeague_blog.jpgLawn Mower League
With our visiting friends from South of the Border tending lawns and shrubs these days, what’s a man with a mower to do? Simple: Remove the ankle-chopping blades, trick out the motor, and race other blade runners around a dirt track. “When it comes to your rig, the best mower for racing is a free one,” says Aaron Crowl, founder of ARMA. “The guy who spends $5,000 on a mower isn’t going to be any better than you on your Craftsman.” Keeping your costs low is essential, as the biggest prize on the mower circuit is a crappy $10 trophy.

Circuit Cheat Sheet
The circuit: American Racing Mower Association (ARMA)
Start-up costs: $400 for modifications to the ride-on mower in your garage
Top speed: 90 mph (seriously)
Sprint Cars
The ASCS is like a farm system for big-league NASCAR, and it’s your chance to race the goofiest cars this side of a tractor pull—the ASCS’s weird, winged sprint vehicles. You can build a pretty competitive team for $150,000, but the tab climbs as you factor in extras like food and car trailers. Expenses run $300 per race, and the series champ takes home a $50,000 purse. Again, to slam the brakes on spending, be your own driver, says the ASCS’s Tommie Estes Jr. “If you know what you’re doing and you’re the driver, you can come out a little better than even.” And isn’t driving a ridiculous-looking vehicle the whole point anyway?

Circuit Cheat Sheet
The circuit: American Sprint Car Series (ASCS)
Start-up costs: $150,000 for two cars, a truck and basic trailer, spare tires, and a crew
Top speed: 120 mph
Moto Racing
Motorcycle racing offers all the amped-up rpms of car racing without those emasculating seat belts. Maintenance is cheaper, too; an engine overhaul is only necessary once a year, according to Scott Carpenter, seven-time WERA national champion. Race winnings and sponsorships will be scarce unless you manage to land some top-15 rankings. Still, contact your bike’s manufacturer; some stake skilled pro newcomers with a few grand for expenses and entry fees. When you get your expert license (it requires a full year as a novice, then placing in the top 10 in points in your region) and start winning, you’ll be looking at million-dollar sponsorships for a measly four-figure investment. Plus, the WERA groupies are way hotter than the sad, lonely women who follow lawn mower racing.

Circuit Cheat Sheet
The circuit: Western Eastern Roadracing Association (WERA)
Start-up costs: $5,000 for bike, safety gear, once-a-year engine overhaul, and life insurance policy
Top speed: 196 mph
Unless you can pony up the $120 million it takes to carry a 100-employee NASCAR Sprint Series team, NASCAR West is your best option. West has fewer races (which is much easier on your wallet), and you can make cash in prize money and sponsorships if you score some top finishes, says Randy Lynch, the 2007 NASCAR West Series champion owner. “It’s $250,000 to run in the back,” he says, “double or triple that to win or run in the front.” The cost of fuel, hauler, and moving and feeding a dozen people each race can be expensive. “But if you place or win, man, the money will come,” says Lynch. As will rarely seen relatives looking for a cut of your newfound wealth!

Circuit Cheat Sheet
The circuit: NASCAR West
Start-up costs: $500,000 for two cars, a truck, a trailer, spare tires, a crew, a pit manager, a driver, and a Days of Thunder DVD
Top speed: 210 mph