Motorsports is a complex beast with a lot of moving parts. It’s almost too much for one person to take on. Formula 1 teams certainly don’t operate that way. Team Red Bull has more than 1,000 employees for a two-car team. One guy’s job is just to polish and blueprint lug nuts eight hours a day.

Your average NASA amateur racer is all of those 1,000 employees in one. He or she tows to the track, is the mechanic, the engineer, and the racing driver. What this means is there is undoubtedly a component of racing that the racer who is juggling 1,000 jobs is not an absolute expert in. The reality is none of us is an expert at everything in racing and this is where networking can help you.

It takes a team to win. Nobody can win alone. Networking, connecting and collaboration are the key to success.

Networking is connecting with different people and then learning something from them you didn’t know. It might be tire pressure advice. It might be the name of a guy who builds good roll cages, or it might be the spot for the best BBQ in town — if you are at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, that answer is Terry Blacks BBQ, no question. Networking will connect you with all of these answers, and the more you do it, your networking web will grow and your resources will get better and better. Your tire pressure advice will start coming from a Toyo Tires engineer, your shock absorber advice will come from the head builder at Motion Control Suspension. As your network improves, the advice improves and your lap times improve.

A long time ago, 14-time NASA National Champion Dave Schotz crushed me at an autocross. Then he was kind enough to explain to me how he did it. We’ve been friends ever since.

The people I try to seek out and network with are usually the people who just trounced me in a race. How did they do it? What do they know that I don’t know? Who is building their engines? What sway bar are they using?

This all started for me way back in 2002 when I learned a difficult but important lesson. I was autocrossing a Bullitt Mustang in Central California. I had been pretty dominant in the car locally. I went to a National event and I had to compete with a guy I had never heard of before. Some dude from Arizona in a Cobra Mustang. I gave the car a quick glance and sort of discounted it. After the first laps were in the books, I was getting destroyed by this out-of-town guy. His name was Dave Schotz, who currently holds the title of most NASA Championship wins by a single driver. After he beat me — handily — Dave and I have been friends ever since. We have teamed up on projects, drove in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill together, and gone to numerous NASA Championships. I can say without a doubt, networking with Dave made me a better racer.

One of the best places to absorb information is the late-night paddock parties at NASA events. Beer is a great ice breaker and has been known to loosen the lips of competitors who don’t always want to give up information.

The trick to successful networking is to be a curious person. Admittedly it does help to be a bit of an extrovert. I like to stay at the track during a NASA weekend. Sure, leaving and heading to a hotel for a clean shower and a good night’s rest is the correct move to be a fresh driver on Sunday. However, if you go to the hotel you will probably be missing out on a lot of networking opportunities.

During race weekends, I grab some cold beer and start strolling the paddock at night. I just walk into peoples’ RV spaces and trade beer for stories. I ask them about their cars, their setup, their weekend. You give people a few drinks and then you ask egomaniac racecar drivers about themselves, believe me, they’ll start talking. Sometimes they will tell you too much. I don’t just look for advice among the racers in my class. I’m curious what everyone is doing. There is plenty to learn in the paddock when the racing is over.

I purchased some Smart Strings from, who I later found out, was the designer of the tools and who is also a race engineer for a professional Porsche racing team. When I make any adjustment to my Porsche, Craig Watkins is the first person I call.

Connections are key and they can often lead to things you never imagined. I was on the phone one day just ordering some Smart Strings tools to do my own alignments and I found myself not talking to a sales representative but the actual person who designed the tools, Craig Watkins. I started asking a lot of questions and he was patient enough to take the time to explain to a pretty ignorant person the idiosyncrasies of wheel alignments.

I later learned Craig was a race engineer for Flying Lizard Motorsports and worked directly with Porsche factory engineers during their time racing in the American Le Mans Series. He is an encyclopedia of knowledge about all sorts of race craft, from set up, shocks adjustments and aerodynamics. He and I became friends, we’ve enjoyed dinners together where I picked his brain for hours on end, and I still reach out to him with questions and advice, especially when it comes to Porsches.

Networking isn’t just about being an extrovert and talking to people. It also has a lot to do with where you are. The SEMA show in Las Vegas in November and the PRI show in Indianapolis in December are the two most important places to be when it comes to connecting with people in the automotive/motorsports industry. If you have sponsors, there may be an expectation that you show up. They may even want your car on display.

What is so key about these shows is that the people in the exhibition booths are not random employees of a company. They are usually the actual people who design and build parts or even own these aftermarket parts businesses. If you have been sending blind e-mails to a company looking for support, show up at SEMA or PRI and meet them face to face. This can go a long way toward racing support.

I ran into an engine problem one Saturday at Auto Club Speedway. I was not going to be able to drive on Sunday without the expertise and quick hands of a competitor who knew a lot more about Hondas than I did.

The connections you make through networking not only can improve your own race craft, but those connections can be clutch when you have a big problem during a racing weekend. When I started in Honda Challenge, I was welcomed into a great group of NASA SoCal racers who had been racing in the series for a long time. One of those racers was Marcel DeKerpel. He was the go-to guy when it came to maintaining the fleet of cars that compete in SoCal. He built engines, maintained cars, and was a fierce competitor in the series. I had been learning from him as much as possible and sharing beers during those Saturday nights in the paddock.

Then one weekend at Auto Club Speedway during Saturday’s race, our Integra motor decided to throw all of its valve springs and keepers randomly inside the valve cover. The engine sounded terminal to me. I didn’t see how we could be racing on Sunday and there were regional championship points on the line. Marcel came by our garage and explained what had occurred was common for Honda engines. Then he brought some tools and helped me get all my valve springs back into place. I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were done. I took the green flag the next day. Without Marcel, that never would have happened.

I connected with Stephen Young in 2010 for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill when he was working at a garage that was doing prep on our racecar. We have been racing together ever since and we co-drove the 2021 One Lap of America sanctioned by NASA.

Another lucky networking story — very lucky for me, that is — came when I was prepping a Nissan Sentra SE-R for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill and we had our car at Performance In-Frame Tuning in Napa, Calif., for some chassis dyno tuning. While we were working on the car, an employee of the shop came by and asked us what we were doing. I told him, “We’re going to race in the longest race in America. You wanna come and stay up all night to put gas in this car? I’ll give you a Krider Racing T-shirt.” He said, “Sure.”

His name was Stephen Young and little did I know at the time, he wasn’t just a guy who slapped brake pads on soccer mom’s vans at my friend’s repair shop. He was an engineer. Stephen worked the entire 25 hour race, never quit and was a huge asset to the team. He moved up in our team and became the engineer for my Honda Challenge effort and was with me at Circuit of The Americas and Mid-Ohio for NASA Championships victories. We co-drove in One Lap of America and picked up a class win. Now he races Spec Miata in the NASA Arizona Region.

Placing subject matter experts into key roles during a big event, like the NASA Air Force 25 Hours of Thunderhill, is crucial to your success. Networking helps you find those talented people.

Stephen Young has been massively instrumental in my team’s success, and I met him randomly networking through my friend’s shop. You just never really know where a connection will go. If I had been too busy or in my own head prepping my Nissan when he came by to ask a simple question, I might have missed out on a great teammate and friend. Stephen is smarter than I am and knows tons about car setup and data logging. I lean on him all of the time and he has made me a better driver.

The bigger the network you build, the greater the size of your family that will surround you during your biggest moments.

For racers, networking is essential, but not all networking equals sponsorship, and should not be approached in that way. Sure, sponsorship is great, and networking can sometimes get that for you, but networking is about gaining contacts, information, assistance. That doesn’t always mean money or product. What you are building through all of this networking is a larger racing family. Stay curious and social and see where your network can take you. And, remember, don’t forget the beer.

Networking will manifest the connections to gain the knowledge, parts, help, and confidence to find success on the track. This Honda Challenge Integra and all of its trophies would not have been possible without years of networking and assistance.

So, the next time you are at a NASA event, and you are walking to the driver’s meeting, make sure you talk to your peers. You never know what that connection may bring you, or bring them, in the future.


Rob Krider is a four-time NASA Honda Challenge 4 National Champion, the author of the novel, “Cadet Blues,” and is the host of the “Stories and Cocktails” podcast.

Images courtesy of Rob Krider and

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