Six Tips To Succeeding Professionally In Motorsports Media

It’s been nine years since I embarked on my journey of working professionally in the racing world. In some ways, it seems like just yesterday. In other ways, it feels like it’s been 100 years. The grey hairs atop my head confirm the latter sentiment.

Making it in the dirt track world is tough. In fact, it’s damn tough. Whether or not we want to admit it, we are a small, niche sport, and there’s nothing wrong with that. While we might only occupy a small sector of the sport’s market, we are mighty in passion and entertainment.

Making it in the dirt track world can be a challenging endeavor.

I’ve been truly blessed to get some great opportunities from some great folks. I’ve done my very best to capitalize on each-and-every opportunity. Almost a decade after beginning my pursuit of professional success in the dirt track world, I’ve gotten to a place I never dreamed possible. Sure, there have been some failures along the way. While disheartening at times, I grew and became stronger from my mistakes.

I frequently get asked for advice on making it professionally in the racing world. As a result, I thought it might be helpful to share some tips for my fellow ambitious souls out there.

Tip #1: Leave No Stone Unturned
These days, I’m lucky to get to work on projects with some of dirt track racing’s top organizations. I also get to live my dreams of doing television for companies like CBS Sports and MAV TV. While some of my current endeavors seem like fairytales, my career definitely didn’t start this way. Early on, there were a lot of jobs I took which I really didn’t want.

I can remember announcing shows for divisions that didn’t particularly pique my interest, at tracks a thousand miles from home. Hell, some of those shows cost me money to go work because the logistics were so brutal. However, I knew I needed to accept any reasonable opportunity presenting itself.

Ironically, some of these farfetched announcing gigs are what paved the way for my current endeavors. So the bottom line is, whenever possible, don’t turn anything down. You never know when an inconvenience might lead to your big break.

Tip #2: Thick Skin is Imperative
Some people are always going to root against you. Others will never like your style of work. Still, others are going to say downright hateful things about you. It stinks, but it’s the reality when you work in the public eye.

No matter what you do, there will always be doubters.

I’ll be the first to admit, it can be hard to ignore. However, if you are going to make it in racing, you have to learn to shake off the negativity. Otherwise, it will eat you alive on the inside. Trust me, I know.

If I had given up every time somebody posted on social media or an internet forum that I was “terrible,” I would’ve given up a long time ago. You’re never going to appease everybody. You just aren’t.

With that being said, it’s good to listen to the criticism from time to time. Some of it can be very constructive in helping you hone your skills. It just becomes imperative to be diligent in sorting the constructive criticism from the basher criticism.

Taking nothing personally allows you to separate emotion from the equation. The result will be a far-better you.

You’re never going to appease everybody. You just aren’t.

Tip #3: Be Yourself
It’s always positive to observe how others do things. We all have idols whose work we admire. Take notes on individuals who perform roles similar to the ones interesting to you. However, and I can’t stress this enough – be yourself!

Don’t try to imitate what someone else is doing. How can you ever expect to climb the ladder, if you are trying to be exactly like someone else, who is already at the top?

Always be yourself in everything you do.

Again, pay attention to the successes and failures of others. Take bits and pieces of what they do, but always make the finished product your own.

Tip #4: Be Persistent
Whether or not most want to admit it, the reality of trying to find a full-time job in racing can be a very cliquey experience. Since there are a finite amount of positions available, most people who already work in the sport are looking to protect their interests. Because of this, it can be difficult to get your foot in the door.

This is the point where your passion and determination will truly be tested. You have to be diligent and persistent when inquiring about jobs. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t initially get a response. Furthermore, don’t give up if you get a response, but it’s just to notify you there’s no opening.

Follow up regularly. Now by saying this, I’m not insinuating you should harass people. Just be respectful, and periodically drop an e-mail or a phone call to the entity you’re trying to engage. Thank them for their time and reinforce you are very interested in working with them if an opportunity ever presents itself.

Please understand persistence guarantees you nothing. However, if it pays off 1 out of 100 times, then there’s one more opportunity you attained than you would have otherwise. If you don’t try, you don’t know.

Tip #5: Outwork the Next Guy
I joke all the time, the reason I’ve gotten all these opportunities isn’t that I’m the best at what I do. It’s because I spend many a sleepless night making sure I’m doing everything to the best of my ability. If I’m going to do something, I give it 110-percent. I honestly believe this has been one of the biggest factors in my success.

I don’t care if you want to be a broadcaster, a photographer, a journalist, a PR person or any job in racing, you can’t half-ass it. You just can’t.

There are too few jobs and too many people, who want them. If you don’t give it your all, odds are pretty good you aren’t going to get to where you want to be.

When you get complacent, you set yourself up for failure.

To operate in this mindset, you have to be willing to make some sacrifices. There’s going to be sleepless nights. There’s going to be times you don’t get paid for the amount of time you invested. You’re going to have to forego parties, get-togethers, personal trips, etc. These sacrifices can suck at times, but there’s a payoff at the end.

Nobody can truly tell you if you are giving it your all. Deep down inside, you are the only one who truly knows if you are laying it all on the line. Stick to this approach, and you’ll quickly find things will begin to fall into place.

Tip #6: Never Stop Learning
I operate under my own motto, “When you get complacent, you set yourself up for failure.” From time to time, I see highly successful, brilliant people who get to a point where they are far too comfortable. They assume they already know everything they need to know.

This is a tragic mistake.

Continued-learning is imperative to be successful.

Throughout my time building my company as well as working for multiple other entities, I’ve always kept my head on a swivel to observe what was happening around me. We live in a world where things change at a breakneck pace. I don’t care if you are flipping hamburgers for a living or you are designing spaceships, things change all the time. Being cognizant of this is important to becoming and staying successful.

Take note of what others are doing. Again, don’t try to be somebody else, but be aware of what is working and not working for them. Stay abreast of the latest technology and trends. Decide what applies to you and what doesn’t.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take chances. Stepping outside your comfort zone can sometimes be the delineating boundary between being great and failing miserably.

The Conclusion
While everybody’s path to their goals is different, I hope at least a few of my tips will be useful to you. Digging deep to find a job in racing can be grueling, trying, and downright dejecting at times. However, reaching your dreams produces a feeling like none other.

Best wishes, and thank you for taking the time to ponder my suggestions.

About the author

Ben Shelton

Ben got his start at historic Riverside International Speedway. His accomplished motorsports media career includes journalist, race announcer, and on-air personality.
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