What Does A Weekend Of Racing Cost?

By Winding Road Staff

April 11, 2016

Racing isn’t cheap and, like many things, it ends up costing more than you might think at first.  In our experience, the costs are a cause of stress for some racers.  Learning the facts and setting more realistic expectations can partially reduce the stress. If you go in with eyes open and build a decent budget, then there are fewer surprises and more happiness.
Between tires, entry fees, towing, fuel, repairs, updated safety gear, hotels, engine rebuilds, setup, fluids, upgraded parts needed to get more competitive and food, a weekend can be pretty expensive. We’ve done the calculation a number of times and we figure around $3000 for a weekend is a middle-of-the-road budget (a more powerful or fragile car will cost more):
Tires: $1000
Entries: $500
Fuel: $60
Fluids: $50
Setup: $100
Race car repair and depreciation: $600
Tow vehicle operation, repair and depreciation: $400
Upgraded/compliance parts: $200
Upgraded/compliance safety gear: $80
Hotels: $200
Food: $60
Total: $3250 per weekend
We know lots of people who spend more and a few who are really frugal and who can do it for less.  You could, for example, stretch a set of tires across two weekends. If you own an RV that can tow and figure that you’d have it anyway, you can reduce hotel and tow vehicle costs. Limiting upgrades and outsourced setup may make you less competitive, but it could save money. Doing all this might bring the cost down to around $2000 per weekend.
You can also go the other way, and have more comprehensive service, fresher tires and run more classes, which changes these costs:
Tires: $2000
Entries: $800
Fuel: $100
Crew chief/data analyst: $400
Mechanic: $800
Professional setup for each race: $600
Transport service: $600
Storage: $200
Upgraded parts: $500
This approach would cost about $6990 per weekend (for context, pro arrive-and-drive costs between $15,000 and $100,000 per weekend). The above is just an example of something closer to a full service weekend, with more money spent on running very competitive equipment and doing twice as much racing. Because of the latter, the cost per race is basically the same: $1625 in the first case and $1750 in the second example.
Of course, you can spend less per weekend by sharing a car. The classic examples of this are ChumpCar or WRL. You might have a team of 4 drivers and in theory do 14 hours of racing, which is 3.5 hours each. That’s more track time than you get in SCCA or NASA sprint racing (which offer perhaps 2 hours per weekend on track) if your car runs the whole endurance race. You can also split a car in NASA or SCCA or BMWCCA or PCA. That lowers your cost per weekend, though not your cost per race.
The reality is that many people spend "less" simply by not doing the full accounting (and in actuality even the above isn’t the full accounting because it assumes that your time has zero cost).  For example, we got a comment on a draft of this article that said "I was able to run my Corvette for $500 to $1000 per weekend. I ran against guys who were spending ten times as much." Now, given that entry fees are about $500 on average, you can never run for $500 per weekend unless you ignore even the obvious costs like fuel and tires. But ignorance is bliss, and taking that idea a step further, we know some racers who just don’t budget at all – for fear of knowing the real cost. 
We will also say that we know families who spend a full race season’s budget on one vacation per year. So, in the context of entertainment, the cost of racing isn’t exceptional for most people who do it. And, for most racers, the fun factor is higher than just about any alternative activity; so racing ends up being an extremely good value.