A great way to learn more about racing is to volunteer for the club that you want to race with. Almost all clubs would absolutely love to have you volunteer in one capacity or another. But, of course, what you really want to know is how this is going to help you. First and foremost, it can be an enjoyable experience. There are many people who simply decide that volunteering is their thing and don’t race at all. Volunteering can also be a great way to get your friends and family involved. I certainly have gained a true appreciation for volunteers’ efforts and the work they do. Without volunteers, many clubs wouldn’t exist. Until you have volunteered yourself, you won’t truly understand what it is like. Another significant benefit is that you will meet many great people who are very knowledgeable about racing and who know the right people. These connections you make through volunteering will pay off later in your racing career. You might even hear of someone who is selling his racecar at a modest price through this experience. You know the old saying, “It is not what you know, but who you know.” You better believe this also applies to racing as well.
There are also many other areas you can become involved with, depending upon your interests. It certainly is not a bad idea to try volunteering in a couple of different areas. A few other areas for which you can volunteer include registration (where all racers, crew, and workers must go to check in for a race), tech inspection (where racers’ gear and cars are verified to be safe), and the timing / scoring booth. Some of these areas may seem a bit daunting at first, but any decent club will have people to coach you through the process. Since the focus of this resource is to help you reach the goal of racing yourself, I won’t discuss the other various areas for which you can volunteer. Just know that if you or someone else you know is interested in volunteering, there are many possible areas in which clubs would welcome assistance.
The other way you can volunteer is to offer your assistance to a racer and become a part of their “pit crew.” There is a lot to learn about getting started in racing, and it can be helpful to crew for an experienced racer. Unfortunately, it is not as glamorous as the NASCAR pit crews jumping over walls and changing tires during a race. In fact, other than endurance racing, there are no pit stops (at least not intended ones). Depending on whom you crew for, you might only be doing simple things such as cleaning the windshield, checking the oil level, and adjusting the tires pressure. Well, that is until something unexpected happens. These unexpected happenings are often great learning experiences. By crewing for another racer, you will gain from all of the experience that the person has, as well as from other racers that pit around him or her. You do want to make sure that you crew for someone who knows what he is doing. That is not to say they have to be a master mechanic or always tuning their car, but he should be a decent driver, respectful to their fellow competitors, and understand the basic rules of the club he is racing with. There is not much helpful information to be learned from someone who has bad habits or a total lack of racing knowledge. You should also try to crew for someone who has a similar car, or who races in a similar class as you would like to. For example, if you plan on racing in Improved Touring with SCCA, it still might be fun to crew for someone who races an open wheel racecar, but it won’t be nearly as valuable as crewing for another Improved Touring driver. While crewing, don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially during the down times. The person you are crewing for expects you to ask questions. Helping you learn and acting as a mentor is often why people have crew members. At the club racing level, most people really could care less if they have to wash their own windows themselves or not. Racers enjoy passing along their knowledge and helping new people become involved in racing. People realize that you are crewing to gain experience and have a fun time. After all, that is what club racing is all about. In time you will have the opportunity to return the favor to someone else.
When I was trying to get into racing, many people stated that I really should crew for someone for at least a year or two before racing myself. While crewing for someone else can be a good learning experience, I don’t agree that it is necessary. If you have the means to race now or in the near future, do it. One thing you will learn about club racing is that you are never alone. Fellow racers are almost always willing to lend a helping hand, even if you have never met them before.