ChumpCar racing is a grassroots, accessible-to-all twist on professional stock car racing. ChumpCar International, the sport’s major organizer, describes the activity best: "Real Racing, Real Tracks, Real Cheap Cars." Surprisingly, however, despite its rugged and rusted appearance, ChumpCar racing can serve as an inspiring example for eager leaders looking get their companies’ engines revving.
“ChumpCars” are race-ready old cars, valued at less than $500 not including required safety equipment. To get in on this every-person's version of endurance racing, a potential racer need only scour the want-ads for "the perfect hefty-hunk-of-screaming-junk." After stripping out the entire interior of the car, removing all glass but the windshield, a roll cage, racing seat, and racing harness are installed. Once numbers are painted on the side of the vehicle, one’s very own ChumpCar is ready to compete.
After about an hour of training, a driver should be able to race a $500 car for 24 hours. This provides for a great many laps around the track. It takes a minimum of three drivers and a couple of crewmembers to form a ChumpCar team. A group should be kept simple, attracting teammates who know what end of a screwdriver to use and who can think clearly at 3:19am when a wheel bearing starts to disintegrate.
Chump teams approach their preparations for racing very seriously, foregoing the theatrics and drama at times found in other racing pits. Teams go to extraordinary lengths to keep cars in the race, and the enthusiasm and ingenuity displayed by the crews working in the garages is a wonder. ChumpCar racing is serious fun. It is not about looking good. It is about getting the job done, when no one, not even the driver, knows if it is truly possible. It is about hanging in until spent and then seeing where you are. Ultimately, it is about being committed to something greater and making a difference by blazing a trail of originality and uncommon sense.
Racing requires a gut-wrenching, seat-of-your pants, wits-testing commitment. It takes effort, requires some planning, and generally means that knuckles are going to get scraped-up. It brings to mind many successful entrepreneurial leaders. With their passion and intellect, they have birthed businesses, often without much financing, and sometimes with a second mortgage on the line. They have foregone big compensation packages at someone else's firm to go it on their own and test their ideas and self-sufficiency. They risk all for the thrill of pursuing their own dreams in their own ways.
We all need to find the entrepreneurial leader within these days, focusing on our commitment to making change happen. We should risk seeming unreasonable in the lengths we go to achieve our goals. We need to move beyond the self-limiting beliefs, our own and others, and not worry about how we look or if we will win. No matter how circumstances turn out, we can be proud we held nothing back and gave our all. We will be amazed by what can occur when we move beyond customary boundaries and common knowledge and begin “free-styling,” using every ounce of our brain and being. When there are no easy options and constraints abound, it all comes down to our wits, tenacity, and passion.
ChumpCars are self-made, patched-together triumphs of innovation and grit, on a shoestring budget. ChumpCar drivers, also known as “Chumps,” are a breed of their own. As ChumpCar International says, "If you screw-up you'll be docked laps. You can still run in the race and you'll have a great time... but you’ll never win. If that doesn't bother you, you're our kind of Chump! It's about being there... sharing, competing, laughing, cursing, making things work under pressure — but, most of all, it's about being there at the checkered flag. It's not about winning."
Those who drive ChumpCars are just as tenacious, just as passionate, and just as caffeine-loaded as we are as leaders. We can take inspiration from their willingness to work toward an audacious and significant goal that requires them to put their hearts on the line. Like the “Chumps,” we can radically change ourselves, and the world.
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