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FERNS: Balancing Act – Driver vs. Team Owner

INDIANAPOLIS — Owning my race team and handling all the responsibilities of running a motorsports operation is a new endeavor for me this year.

From the beginning, I was excited for the challenge and appreciative of the chance to showcase the business skillset and acumen I gained during the past few years while assisting in the management of a prevalent law firm.

Being both a driver and team owner is nothing new to the pit area, so I am by no means an outlier. There are a lot of jobs and roles outside of driving the car that racers can assume, presenting endless opportunities for a fulfilling career in motorsports.

In addition to owning the race vehicle, some of these functions include promoting the race, track and/or series; owning the track; being the crew chief on their own car; and sponsoring races, to list a few.

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Taylor Ferns in USAC Silver Crown competition at Wisconsin’s Madison Int’l Speedway. (Shawn Mueller photo)

Like with almost everything in life, added authority and culpability result in added pressure.

For the past 21 years, I have had the fortune to display my on-track abilities, but by adding the team owner title to the mix, I have been given the opportunity to utilize my off-track talents, which presents its own layer of risks and rewards.

Personally, there are few things I love more than racing and tackling challenges. There is something about facing an issue, problem solving and working to get to a resolution that I find gratifying when the goal is met.

Dependent on the person, filling both the driver and owner roles may seem like a daunting task. Individually, both positions have their own set of duties that need to be addressed, with some overlap that allows for greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Typical driver duties based on personal experience and opinion include: Working out routinely; eating a regimented, healthy diet; studying racing videos of upcoming tracks or races; training in the simulator; attending personal appearances/engagements; self-promotion on social media; networking; and sponsor interaction.

Meanwhile, some of the owner’s duties include: Seeking and interacting with sponsors; overseeing operations; handling orders; working with vendors; controlling the finances; managing personnel; coordinating travel and accommodations; attending personal appearances/engagements; networking; and promoting the team on social media.

As exhibited, owning a race team, regardless of size, entails a lot, if not all, of the same duties as running a business. The sponsors are the investors and it is always essential to make all partners satisfied with their investment. Additionally, the driver has a job and set of expectations.

With that, I started the season open-minded and mentally prepared as one can be while maintaining a reasonable set of expectations for myself and the team.

By adding the element of being both the driver and team owner, conflicting interests sometimes arise that I struggle to overcome. I try to be as mindful as possible in terms of decision-making and maintaining a sense of professionalism in regard to the business relationships between my team and the vendors with which we work.

It has been super-important that we, as a team, work with people who are aligned with our mission and goals while having our best interest in mind, which sounds great, but it can be tricky when working with friends and longtime partners.

There has been a fine balance to it all that I sometimes have to talk myself through when difficult decisions need to be made. Sometimes, as mad as you want to be in certain predicaments, it is important to not get lost in the moment and react in a way that presents an accurate reflection of how I want to be viewed as a leader: strong, bold and relentless.

Is it a lot of work? Yes, most definitely. Is it stressful? Yes, most definitely. But what isn’t?

There are times of doubt, stress, worry and sleepless nights. But that is when you have to dig deep to find the strength within you to push forward and get the job done. There are people counting on me as much or more than I count on them. At the end of the day, it is my job to live up to my end of the bargain.

When you are pursuing your passion and surrounded by a great support system, everything will eventually work itself out. But it is up to me to make sure all the right people and parts are in place to make sure that can be accomplished.

I am obsessed with my job and am so lucky to wake up every day to do what I love. For that, all the obstacles and hurdles thrown my way this season, whether it be as a driver, owner or both, will be so worth going through when we can park our race cars in victory lane.

After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.


This story appeared in the July 19, 2023 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.

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