Always be open to constructive criticism. People will tell you that you can’t do something or that you’re wrong. Have a filter in place, but always take in advice and do your best to test it, apply it and it may become a big part of your success.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Hunter-Reay, Indy 500 Winner (2014), IndyCar Champion (2012), Two-Time ESPY Award Winner for ‘Best Driver’ and Co-Founder of Racing for Cancer.
Ryan is one of the headline guests for the 13th annual Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance presented by Mercedes-Benz and AutoNation on February 22–24, 2019 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. Jay Leno, from the “Jay Leno’s Garage” will be presenting the “Big Dog Garage Award” to his favorite automobile and motorcycle during the Sunday, February 24th judging on the Show Field. The Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance is the world’s largest for charity, and fully benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County and the more than 12,300 at-risk youth it serves.
There is no clear roadmap on how to make it as a professional racecar driver. Auto racing is a prohibitively expensive sport and drivers must have financial backing in order to be successful in the lower levels of racing in order to make it to the top levels of the sport. I learned at an early age that what you put in, the effort and dedication you put in, is directly related to what you get out of it, the results.
Unlike stick and ball sports race car drivers must be brand ambassadors and therefore must have a certain business acumen in order to succeed. At times there is as much, if not more, work to do out of the car than in it. I learned to sell myself, my brand to potential sponsors and supporters. I was quickly educated on how the business world works and how it relates to auto racing.
Obviously, one has to be successful on the race track as well. Winning at every level, graduating to the next step and finally to the big leagues. You certainly have to have the talent and skills to be competitive at the very top levels of any sport, however talent behind the wheel alone often times won’t cut it.
In order to get where I am today it took a massive amount of work away from the racetrack.
When I was karting at the age of 13 or 14, I was winning a state championship race. I was so confident I was going to win I lost focus and thought the race was over when the white flag (last lap) was displayed. I pulled into the pits as the rest of the field went on to complete the final lap and finish the race as the checkered flag waved. I learned you can never lose focus even when everything seems easy and is going exactly to plan.
Aside from my time spent with my family (wife and 3 boys under the age of 5) raising funds and awareness in the fight against cancer is a great passion of mine. I lost my mother to colon cancer in 2009. Her passing inspired me to start my charity Racing for Cancer. We have raised over $5M and in partnering with AutoNation we have exceeded the $15M mark.
I have had the privilege of partnering with or working with too many interesting and inspirational people to list in this short interview. So many people along the way have made their mark on me personally and my racing career. For example; I have had the honor of driving for the legends of our sport and partnering with many other greats: Michael & Mario Andretti, Bobby Rahal, AJ Foyt, Wayne Taylor, Mike Jackson (CEO AutoNation), Mike Maroone, Robert Pereira, Dan Benton, just to name a few.
As for stories, by far the absolute best come from Mario Andretti. He’s such an inspiration. He came from nothing as an immigrant from Italy and is now the most renowned and successful racing driver in the world. To be able to take advice from him and his past experiences is priceless.
Don’t aspire to be a professional racecar driver haha! It is a very difficult business to achieve a steady and comfortable career because it is so dependent on third party funding (sponsors).
My advice would be the same my father gave me when I was a kid in karting. “If you’re going to do something, do it right. 110% commitment”.
You have to live, sleep, eat and breathe racing or whatever it is you are pursuing. It has to consume all of you. If you want something bad enough you will get there one way or another, but it has to come from a desire the burns deep inside of you otherwise the massive amount of distractions and obstacles that are out there will ultimately derail your efforts.
I pride myself in giving back. Whether that be to the local community or especially to those fighting cancer.
As I mentioned previously Racing for Cancer is a passion of mine. My wife, Beccy, and I have been at it for eight years and we’ve been full throttle on this effort from day one. My parter in Racing for Cancer, Tom Vossman, has been critical to our success from the very beginning.
In 2013 we teamed up with AutoNation’s cancer fund raising efforts and the whole company really got behind Racing for Cancer. It’s been an amazing run and we’re absolutely making a huge difference.
We were a big part of Cleveland Clinic’s new world class cancer facility here in Weston, Florida. The first floor is aptly named “The Lydia Hunter-Reay” lobby. I can’t say enough about this facility.
The key to this facility is every type of cancer, every type of surgery and treatment is completed at this one location. No more driving all over South Florida to different specialists and treatment centers (as my mother had to do).
In addition to this we also donated two million dollars to Nova Southeast University’s new cancer research center. Again, another amazing group of people making gains every day in identifying and treating cancer with a greater rate of success. The ultimate goal is a cure for cancer, but at the moment we are making huge strides in early detection, diagnosis and effective treatment before it is too late.
Again, too many people have had a huge impact on me and my career through the years to list here in this interview. The one person who not only believed in me from day one, but sacrificed all of his own personal time and still to this day grinds it out with me; my Father. We’re a team and without him I wouldn’t be doing what I absolutely love for a living. I’m very fortunate.
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. It’s simple and basic, but it’s absolutely true. If you want something, you have to earn it. No other way around it. What you put in is what you get out.
The below list was told to me at one time or another during the early days of my career, however if I were writing a list to my younger self, this would be it.
1. Believe in yourself no matter the circumstances. Self-belief is critical in racing and in business. Circumstances may cause this to waver, however at the end of the day you have to believe in yourself and your abilities or else failure is inevitable.
2. Work harder than the next guy/girl. Everything you do has to be something that is pushing you forward as an individual or driver. There is always someone out there ready to fill your seat and take your role.
3. Always be open to constructive criticism. People will tell you that you can’t do something or that you’re wrong. Have a filter in place, but always take in advice and do your best to test it, apply it and it may become a big part of your success
4. Treat others how you would want to be treated. I have always done this, but it’s a good reminder. Always stay humble and kind, give back especially to those that have taken the time to help or work with you. And on the flip side if someone wants to race you dirty, put them on notice immediately, retaliation sends a very strong and clear message.
5. Take time to clear your head. Racing, business, whatever it may be can be so consuming you get overwhelmed and the feeling of being burnt out can ensue. It’s critical to take time to clear your head, relax and look at things from a removed standpoint. Big picture thinking.
Too many to list! I’d narrow it down to a few…
1. Business — Dan Benton (Andor Capital Management) or Mike Jackson (CEO AutoNation)
2. Sports — Dan Marino (childhood hero) or Mario Andretti (living legend)
@ryanhunterreay on Twitter and Instagram. Ryan Hunter-Reay on Facebook
Originally published at medium.com