Champion Autocrosser Paul Sexton wraps up our discussion about getting those tricky sponsorships.
In this episode you’ll learn:
- How fitness plays a huge role in your success, beyond the physical and mental aspects
- How your first impression capitol can make you or break you
- Why having a unique hook can give you an edge
- The most important sponsorship strategy of all time: relationships.
Paul Sexton’s Instagram: @toyotechWV01
Announcer: Welcome to ‘How to become a race-car driver dot com’s podcast’- where it’s not about being a racing driver, but learning to become a racing driver. Here’s your host, Matt Covert
MC: Hey everybody, thanks for joining me again it’s so cool that you’re all coming back. I know I’ve been saying this a lot recently but I’m really excited that people are downloading and listening to me talk in their free time. That is so neat, I can’t believe that. So, if you’re new to the podcast my name is Matt Covert from howtobecomearacecardriver.com and I really appreciate you joining me here.
This is the second part of a two part episode where I had amateur racer Paul Sexton come and be the guest on my podcast and we talked about all kinds of cool stuff, mostly about sponsorship in the grassroots motorsports world. I am offering sponsorship from my company and he has done a really great job this year getting local grassroots amateur sponsorships for autocross. We had just started talking about fitness and how fitness relates to motorsport as well as first impression capital and all kinds of great stuff about not only getting sponsorships but increasing your personal brand capital and that has a lot to do with networking and making connections and getting your foot in the door and just building great relationships. That’s all business is, that’s all racing is, that’s all sponsorship is, it’s just relationships. So if you can get off to a good start, on the right foot and give yourself every advantage there’s no reason why you won’t succeed.
As a side note, now that I mention sponsorship, the sponsorship program has been open at howtobecomearacecardriver.com/sponsorship which pays money to auto-crossers for sponsorship. I’m the only company doing this. The program opened August 1st and applications are pouring in. I guess it’s no surprise that when you offer money to people to do the things that they love and offer them support, boy the response has been absolutely incredible. If you haven’t gone there yet, if you want driver support, please go there and fill out an application.
So, we’re going to jump back in here- we had just started talking about fitness and the interview with Paul Sexton will continue and we’ll wrap it up at the end after the audio, here we go.
MC: I’m a huge proponent of fitness as well, if you go on my site there’s a whole page dedicated to it, you can find it at howtobecomearacecardriver.com/fitness. It details where I’m at, what I’ve been through, and also the benefits of physical and the mental side of being fit physically as well as getting the right nutrition. I’m at the point where I’m calculating all of my macros down to the gram, and I think that’s the only way to go- where are you right now on your nutrition situation Paul?
PS: Well I’ve been doing cross-fit for four years. I just recently, probably in the last 6 months, really started to take my nutrition really serious. I started using the Myfitnesspal app, tracking macros- even on the weekends. I know most people struggle on the weekends more than anything else. I get in a routine when I go to work, I pack my lunches, I pack my snacks- weekends I kind of get a little crazy. So, I’m nailing it down and my performance and my physical appearance is changing. It’s sad that it’s taken me 4 years of fitness to get to this point nutritionally but it’s coming together. You can see me now, I’m not really young as you can see by the white and grey hairs on the beard, but I’m definitely in the best shape of my life.
MC: I’m really glad to hear that, that’s awesome. Did you do anything for fitness before cross-fit or was that your first introduction to the fitness world?
PS: No, that was my introduction. I was never an athlete before and I was really a scrawny guy in high school. I graduated at 18 at 135lbs and 6 foot tall you can imagine that
MC: Oh yeah there you go
PS: And after 4 years of cross-fit I’m now 175lbs, I’m not sure of my body fat percentage but there’s not much there.
MC: I believe you, I’ve seen pictures. You’re definitely in shape, there’s no doubt about that. You know, I am so sick of lifting weights- I did it for probably 16 months in a row and I’m back on Sean T’s insanity. I’m doing max30 right now. That’s crazy, I’ve never done cross-fit. I’ve heard cross-fit is basically insanity with extra weights and stuff like that.
PS: That would be a good description. I’m sure you’ve heard of the cross-fit stereotypes , and the types of people that don’t like cross-fit but I also like racing a Prius! Stereotypes don’t bother me. I try to break those stereotypes with the fact that I’m telling people that a- you can do things with a Prius that 98% of Prius owners don’t do or wouldn’t do but the same thing goes for cross-fit. It has a bad stigma for multiple reasons but, just like the Prius, I try to break those stereotypes as well. Try to show people that it is a valid form of fitness if done correctly like anything else, and like anything else if done wrong then people can end up getting hurt. And that’s not just for cross-fit, that’s for any kind of sport or fitness.
MC: So, you go to the gym and there’s always those guys that are just huge. They bench 350lbs and that’s great, but when you talk about motorsport I’m nto sure that that’s useful. I think that something like cross-fit where your heart-rate is always elevated and you’re really striving to be strong at any given point, but also through endurance. As race-car drivers, maybe not in street class, people go way out of their way and spend huge amounts of dollars to shed pounds of their car- and I don’t see why we shouldn’t be doing that with our bodies because the effect is the same. How do you feel about that?
PS: I couldn’t agree more. If you’re trying to be the best at something, if you have goals in mind- it can’t just be what you do to the car. The car is a tool. You are controlling the car, but at the same time you need to have control over your body and you need to have control of your mind to do properly operate that car. If nothing else, if you’re out on course shagging cones, and the part of the course you’re working the guy knocks a cone down at 100-200 feet away, you’re going to have to get to that cone and it’d be a whole lot easier if you were in shape.
MC: I hear that- it’s funny, I see some of the less dedicated people and I’ve seen that cone struggle on the hot days, it’s definitely a thing! It sounds like you and I are pretty much on the same page about everything. Like you said earlier, pretty much everyone who’s doing this would not pass up the opportunity to be a pro racer or race on some type of team or just constantly progressing through your racing career and I think it’s a bummer people don’t take steps like that, but most people I talk to- they’ve never sought out sponsorship. They just don’t think it’s even a viable option for them. But here you are, you’re jumping back in again. With a Toyota Prius of all things. You’ve got a handful of sponsorships, you’re out there winning, I’m just so impressed by that. If you want to be amazing you just have to shut up and be amazing. The market is flooded and you just have to, if you want to rise above everyone else, be on point. I think fitness is the number 1 way to increase your first impression capital with people.
PS: Definitely. The first is standing out to begin with. I think the bright red Prius gets attention but at the same time once you stand out and get noticed, there has to be something there for people to notice. There has to be something there to keep peoples attention. Performance is a part of that, you can be as physically fit as possible and have the brightest colored car and even sponsors but if your skill level isn’t there then it’s only going to take you so far. It’s one thing to dream, it’s another thing to keep developing yourself as a driver. I love your site and it’s helped me already but you have to continue to learn. You have to be willing to continue to hone your skills if this is truly something that your willing to pursue and take further than a Sunday auto-cross.
MC: I couldn’t agree more. Where do you see yourself in racing, what’s your end goal here?
PS: Well, it doesn’t hurt to have some lofty goals and if was to mention a lofty goal it would be professional series, the top of that list would be the Red Bull rally-cross. Yes I love the tarmac stuff with auto-cross but funds and limitations don’t allow me to rally-cross but WRC and rally America that’s always been my favorite type of motorsport from day 1. I think it’s because of the challenge that it presents to the driver/co-driver combination. You’re trusting the guy next to you to read notes to you and you’re driving flat out on a road you’ve never been on. It takes dedication and it takes a lot of skill. I wouldn’t argue with any race team that were to consider me for any reason but I love global rally-cross, I love the Red Bull guys. I joke with my wife all the time, I say if I could race lawnmowers I really wouldn’t care, it’s racing. I’m not picky- I have my goals, I have my desires, but I would entertain the offer to go anywhere if it was presented to me.
MC: I don’t think any of us would turn down any opportunity that came along. I’m really excited that you alternate form of motorsport would be either rally-cross or world rally. Do you have any of the rally programs around you at all?
PS: The closest rally-cross program that I’m aware of is D.C region. They normally run up to summit point raceway in Virginia. Although it isn’t the same state, it’s probably about 5 or 6 hours away from me. Unless I just haven’t looked hard enough, I believe that’s the closest one to me.
MC: Do you have any plans now? How do you envision yourself going from auto-cross to the world of dirt- which we all know is completely different.
PS: It is. My goal right now is just to stay out there and stay fresh. Keep the Prius and myself being noticed. Like you mentioned before, I would never have dreamed the activity that has come up in just a short amount of time through Instagram and the SECA page. I just want to stay out there and stay fresh and hopefully the right person will notice me at the right time. If not, I’m gaining experience along the way, I’m getting exposure, so I’m just going to ride the wave and see where it takes me.
MC: I think that’s really smart. Your personal brand which is Paul Sexton is still pretty young. I network with a ton of people through the site and social media and whenever I’m out racing I have these big ostentatious stickers on my car. People like to come up to me and say hey I’ve been to your website. I think you’re probably by far the most noticeable guy out there that I’ve networked with so far. You’ve a lot going for you, there’s no doubt about it. I think you’re doing pretty much everything right to get your brand in front of the right people, and not only a brand, but such an interesting brand with such a great hook like the Prius. I’m really excited for you about that.
PS: I appreciate that. That’s my thing, I’m not going to knock anyone that’s on course and trying to get better, trying to improve their skills fast- there’s a ton of great drivers out there that are faster than I am but, you know, in the world of orange cones you have to do something to stand out and unfortunately it takes more than just driving skill to stand out these days. I’m not knocking any car or any other class of car, but when you go to an auto-cross and see a dozen or so Miata’s, there’s nothing there to set you apart from anyone else. Yes, it’s a lot more fun car to drive than a Prius, a lot faster, but you don’t really take a lot of attention. Let’s face it, a red Prius on course gets a lot of people watching.
MC: I completely agree with you, it happens to me every time I go racing anywhere- you just get lost in this sea of Miata’s and like you say they are amazing cars, and quite honestly I feel the same way about my car too. I wish I had something so ridiculous as a Prius. The North East is just littered with amazing drivers and unless you’re going on the results page and just looking at the names by the number there’s really nothing to make people stand out. I’m going to shift gears for a moment, I really like the way that you’re treating the people helping you, treating the sponsorships and stuff like that. I see it all the time on Instagram, always giving shout outs to these people that are helping you. I think that’s really important. We live in the land of entitlement, especially on the internet where so much activity happens. People have a tendency to take more than they give, and I think you’ve done a great job turning that around because your sponsors are going to be feeling great about that. For me, as someone who is looking for people to sponsor, I’m looking for someone who’s not necessarily going to win all the time, but someone who has a great relationship with me and just gets my name out there more. Do you follow anyone in the Pirelli world challenge?
PS: Just a handful of drivers. I’ve only just recently got into that series so I don’t yet have a favorite. I just keep up with the schedule. I was actually trying to get to an event this year but that fell through. I’m trying to get more involved with it.
MC: I follow Shea Holbrook, she has such an interesting story. She was a professional water skier and I guess she hurt her back or something, and is now a pro racing driver. She’s in her mid 20’s and she’s just done some amazing things in the past few years and if you go on any of her social media accounts her sponsors are everywhere. She doesn’t post anything without giving huge credit to the people that are helping her. And you better believe that when that contract is up those sponsors are going to want to re-sign with her. It’s scary to think, as someone who sponsors drivers, that someone is going to come to my site and apply and try to pull one over on me and just take my money and not push my brand around. I guess that’s a risk that anyone who does marketing is going to take but I vet as many people as possible. You’re the kind of person I’m looking for. I’m not going to lie, I’ve thought about it having my name on the side of your car and it looks pretty good out there.
PS: I think that would look good on the side of my car. I’d be proud to represent your brand. One thing people need to realize, especially if you’re going to apply for sponsorship and you’re wanting to take this somewhere- as soon as you sign that contract, as soon as you commit yourself to any brand, you are representing that company. Their name is on the side of your car, their name is on the t-shirts you’re wearing, the hats you’re wearing. I have some nutrition companies, some clothing companies that also carry into the cross-fit box with me- you’re representing that company, every time that company is visible on your car or on your person you are an extension of that company. You need to remember that. They are looking to you to promote the brand and be a good ambassador for them, not tarnish their image.
MC: You’re just saying all the right stuff, you’re totally on point with this. I know a lot of contracts between drivers and sponsors is you have my name on the side of your car and you get this in return. And that’s really the only thing under contract, but if you want to do more. I mean, companies talk, the people that make the decisions at these companies talk and know each other and they all know you by extension. It’s really a small community so if you’re doing a great job with someone, then someone else is going to hear about it. So go out of your way to give back to your sponsor. Even if it’s not in your contract go on Instagram, wear your T-shirt all the time and stuff. Going the extra mile is really going to shoot your brand up to the next level. I’m sure you’ve heard that expression, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. You don’t have to be the greatest driver out there, but if you’re networking with people and building great relationships- that’s all business is, and all racing careers are about is networking.
PS: Exactly, and it takes effort. You just can’t be relaxed with it and take it easy once you have a sponsor. You need to get those results back to those sponsors and show them they made a good decision. My initial contract with Rhino power was for 6 months so that was nearing its end and I love the company- it was the very first company that signed me and I was proud to represent them, as I am my other sponsors, but I re-applied for their sponsorship and they actually have extended my sponsorship through the end of 2020 so my 6 month contract just got extended by 4 more years. That tells me that I must be doing something right.
MC: Yeah, well congratulations, that’s another huge accolade for you. We know there’s people out there who want to turn themselves into somebody in the motorsport community and here we are talking about local auto-cross like it’s pro driving, and we love it. I just hope that my brand and this podcast is able to make people see that it doesn’t matter what level you are, even if it’s auto-cross and picking up cones. A lot of people think that that’s not real racing, and I think that’s ridiculous. I want to make people see that auto-cross is an incredibly viable first step into the racing world. I’m glad that there are people like you out there who are not only talking about it, but proving it. I think that’s really awesome.
PS: I try to tell people all the time, especially those that get discouraged, you don’t have to have a ton of money or a race car to do this, my motto this year in racing and fitness is ‘Do what you can, where you are with what you have’. It’s about progression. You’re not going to be the best right at the start. If you’re committed to it and committed to improving then it’s going to come and you will rise to the top. You may not be noticed in 6 months or even 6 years, but if you stay persistent and you stay dedicated to it then it’s going to go somewhere.
MC: I completely agree with you. And I’d like to talk about commitment for a second, we talked earlier about how we live in an instant gratification kind of society- we get everything we want instantly via the internet, and it does take a huge amount of effort to end up somewhere important. I think hard work is incredibly easy, anyone can do it, but to really achieve something you have to do the hard work consistently. It’s the consistency that’s going to get you to where you want to go.
PS: Exactly, I couldn’t agree more.
MC: So this has been such a cool talk. It’s been really cool to meet you in person. You and I are really on the same page about everything we’ve talked about today.
PS: Yeah and I think we’re both going to go places. I’d like to see both of us progress in this and climb the ladder together and pick up a few more people to carry along with us. The right mindset’s going to take us places, I do believe, and your website is filled with so much knowledge to help myself and other drivers. There’s no reason we can’t get a group of people to shake things up in motorsport at a higher level.
MC: I’m glad you feel that way about the website. So if people want to follow you, where can they follow you to hear about the racing world?
PS: The best place is Instagram, it’s ToyoTechwv01, that’s dedicated to my racing endeavors with the Prius and some occasional fitness things to give people an insight into my life and how I’m prepared to take the step towards something wilder if the opportunity arises. I try to keep it up to date every couple of days. You may see an abundance of sponsor shout outs.
MC: Yeah I don’t think you can give back to your sponsors too much. Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?
PS: No, not really, just to thank you for having me on here.
MC: I’m glad to have you on and am looking forward to your application for sponsorship this season.
PS: I sure will, thanks very much
MC: I just want to give a huge thanks to Paul Sexton for coming on the podcast and spending an hour with me talking about stuff we love and sponsorship. We both totally believe that if racing is what you want to do then you absolutely can do. You can find other episodes of the podcast on the website or iTunes. There are people out there that want to help you if you’re a grass roots driver. I want to help you, but you have to put in an application for the spon