Here is some information that won’t surprise anyone who has spent any amount of time at a racetrack: Racing is expensive. It isn’t just sort of expensive. It is like, “Why did I pick this hobby?” expensive. Personally, I hate to pay for stuff. And, full disclosure, I’m not in the income tax bracket that can throw copious amounts of money at racing. If I want to play with cars at the track, it takes a fair amount of budgeting, hustling and kissing my wife’s feet to get the chance to go.

Once I get to the track, that is when a normal amount of renewable and expensive resources will be used up. Namely, tires, brake pads, fuel and brake rotors. And that is if everything goes great! Never mind a new front fender or an engine if things don’t go great. This is racing, and racing is chaos, so odds are better than even that not every weekend will go great. The big question is: How are we going to pay for all of this?

Both these Honda Challenge cars have a lot of stickers. Not all of them are sponsors specific to these Double Nickel Nine Motorsports team cars. Some of those stickers are contingency sponsors, sourced by NASA to support all of the racers on the grid.

The good news is even if you weren’t born to a wealthy father living in Monaco who will ensure you have an energy drink sponsorship before you graduate high school, you can still benefit from sponsorship assistance even at the regional level with NASA. Yes, if you are a NASA member, congratulations, you are a sponsored racecar driver — and you probably didn’t even know it.

The staff at NASA have worked hard to cultivate relationships with industry partners to provide contingency sponsorships to all NASA racers. What is a contingency sponsorship? Good question, and it has an easy answer. A contingency is a form of sponsorship where a competitor places decals on their racecar in exchange for products or cash rewards. It is as simple as that. Slap the sticker on your car, fill out some forms, take photos of your car, print the results and submit your claim for cash and prizes.

Contingency sponsorships can pay big, especially at the NASA Championships. Here the Toyo Tires girls handed out the big checks to the Spec E30 field at the 2019 NASA Championships! But contingencies are also available at the regional level for weekend races and regional championships.

NASA has a multitude of contingency programs that can support your racing efforts. Just to list a few of the industry partners working with NASA to support racers, there is Toyo Tires, Hawk Performance, Maxxis Tires, VP Racing, Motion Control Suspension, Hoosier Racing Tire, Hankook Motorsports, Mazda Motorsports, Nissan Nismo, Ford Performance, Injector Pulse, G Loc Brakes, and Frozen Rotors. These programs aren’t just for road racing. Time Trial and HPDE drivers benefit from the some of the programs as well. What is amazing about this list of companies — and big props to NASA for working on these deals — is that most of these products are for resources we all use on a weekend: race tires, brake pads, race fuel, and brake rotors. If you run the correct stickers on your car, a lot of your weekend costs can be offset.

Each of the different companies has specific requirements for sticker placement. Ford Racing provides this specific guideline where the stickers must go on the car to be eligible for Ford Rewards.

Most of the programs require sticker placement on the car for eligibility, sometimes just two stickers, one on each side, and sometimes four or more stickers on every side of the car. The cool part is these stickers are generally provided free of charge. You can usually find them at the tech/scales trailer at NASA events. The companies also require preregistration forms available on the NASA contingencies page, and photos of the car at the track to prove sticker usage. A small warning here: Do not use your mediocre Photoshop skills to fake a decal on your car to try and earn contingency money when you did not actually run the decal on your car at an event. Shamefully, numerous competitors have been caught doing this in the past and it isn’t a good look. Get the stickers, put them on your car before the event and hopefully you can stop paying for stuff.

Toyo Tires requires their stickers to be placed on the front, back and sides of your racecar. And they require that you send photos from the track of all sides of the car to prove you ran the decals.

At the beginning of each season, I surf the contingency page to see what programs my team is eligible for. For obvious reasons, while racing a Honda product, I am not eligible for Mazda money — however, I’m not too proud to slap a Mazda sticker on the front of my Honda if I thought I could earn five bucks in a race! Then I complete all of the preseason registration paperwork, affix all of the required decals in their designated spaces and then take numerous photographs of each side of my car at the racetrack. I also jump back on the contingency page during the season to see if new programs have been added during the year. I do this because I missed out on some Frozen Rotors contingency money one year because I didn’t realize they had connected with NASA. I was bummed because I use their rotors and occasionally send them checks for new rotors. I had won races with their product and missed out on some free rotors. Shame on me. Won’t happen again.

Once you have your car with the correct stickers, the right patches on your uniform and you have taken photos of the car and completed any pre-event registration paperwork, all that is left to do is go fast and place well. Many of the contingency programs pay out money based on two specific parameters: car count and where you place in the race. For example, for Toyo Tires, if you are running its spec tire, and you have four stickers on the car, you can earn $500 if — and here is the big if — there are 19 starters in your class and you finish in first place. Fifth place would earn $75. If there are only 5-8 starters in your class first place earns $150 and fifth place gets $25.

This is where it is important to make sure your buddies sign up to race with you. The more people in your field, the more money you can earn. Also, what is interesting about Toyo Bucks is they pay for first through fifth, but they also pay for tenth through 14th place. Why is this important? Because at the end of the race, if you are in ninth place, it pays to let somebody pass you, because tenth place earns $50 in Toyo Bucks. Knowledge is power.

The wheels are off these cars at Thunderhill because they are at the AIM Tires shop getting fresh Toyo rubber for the Western States Championships. The tires were paid for with Toyo Bucks.

It may sound like the dumbest thing to say, but placing well in the race certainly will help your cause. It is a case of the rich getting richer. Those who have a well-prepped car and drive well, win more contingency money, which helps them prep their car better and drive better, which, again, helps them win more contingency money. I went on a four-year streak in Honda Challenge where I won regional races, regional championships and National Championships. Toyo pays contingency for all three categories separately, so I didn’t pay for tires, ever. You read that correctly, I did not get my wallet out for tires. This helped me immensely to stay on track. Thank you NASA and Toyo Tires.

To prove you earned contingency money, you must provide race results. You can see for the Honda Challenge race, there were 10 competitors in a regional race. My team, Double Nickel Nine Motorsports, earned first place and 10th place, which netted us $200 for first place and $25 for tenth place. Did we intentionally fall back from eighth place to tenth on the last lap to earn $25? I’ll let you decide.

Once the race is over, your work isn’t done. Nothing happens automatically. Other than at the NASA Championships where Toyo will literally hand you a huge check for winning, you will need to complete the requirements of the contingency by submitting claim forms, attaching race results, photos of your car with the stickers on, etc. This process can be time consuming, but it is worth your time and effort. Think of it as a job. You earn money completing these online forms and submitting paperwork. The crazy part is many racers don’t take advantage of all these programs because they don’t finalize the extra step at the end to get their contingency earnings. If you are made of money and this is a waste of your time, congratulations. But that just isn’t the case for me at my house. I try to take advantage of as many of these contingency programs as possible to continue my addiction to racing.

Two hundred Toyo Bucks cashed in. This was provided after uploading photos of my car, race results and registration paperwork to show Toyo Tires I complied with all of the parameters of the contingency program after winning a regional race with 10 competitors in the field. I then sent this to a participating tire shop for free Toyo Tires. You can combine multiple certificates from different races to pay your whole tire bill.

Once all of the paperwork is completed, then you earn your contingency money. Sometimes that is cold hard cash — Mazda provides cash and even towing money for teams going to the NASA Championships — and sometimes it is product. In the case of Toyo, it is Toyo Bucks to buy more Toyo Tires. In the case of Frozen Rotors, it is credits to buy more brake rotors. In the case of Motion Control Suspension, it is credits for more shocks or to rebuild shocks, which is a cool service. Whether it is cash, products or service, it is usually stuff we as racers were going to have to pay for anyway so all of these programs are massive benefits to us.

This Acura Integra has been using the chrome horn a bit too much, which has damaged the NASA and the Toyo Tires decals on the front bumper. Obviously, it is time to replace them to ensure we are keeping our contingency sponsors and sanctioning body happy.

So, that’s it folks. You are a sponsored racer. All you have to do to take advantage of the programs NASA has worked hard to provide you is complete some online forms, slap on some free stickers, take some photos with your phone and then go fast and win. Good luck and remember, paying for stuff is lame.

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, Jeremy Bryner and Ford Performance

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