"My child wants to be a NASCAR Winston Cup race car driver. How does (he, she) get started?"

The first thing is that it is never too early to start. All of the drivers you see on TV every week, no matter the type of cars, started out young (some as early as 4 years old) at their local race track or in karts. The hard part is to prove that you have some ability there, prove yourself there and you'll quickly find yourself moving up through the ranks. Keep it up and you'll find yourself catching the eye of a big name car owner.
Go to your local race track (dirt or asphalt doesn't matter) and buy a pit pass if possible. Then go in and strike up a conversation with someone. Drivers, crew members and officials are all great resources with different perspectives on what it takes to get started at that track. As long as they don't have pressing work to do most people will be more than happy to talk to you, but please be courteous.
Ask if they have a minimum age. Many tracks' age limit is lower than the state driving age. If your child is too young to race at that track then someone will probably direct you to a local Karting association. There are definitely no "gimmies" here. Hard work, practice, natural skill, luck and money all play a roll in your ability to catch a break.
In addition to your raw racing talent there are other things to think about. Racing at it's highest level is a physically demanding sport. 500 miles with a 120 degree track temperature can be brutal. A regular exercise program will improve your ability to stay sharp over the course of a long hot race. Also, a slim and toned driver will have an advantage over one that's heavier. In racing every pound counts and that includes the driver as well as the race car.
Given all that, sponsors are the true key to success. A good education gives you the ability to speak well in front of the camera. A racer represents his sponsor everywhere he goes. If you want a quality ride then the sponsor needs to believe that you represent them well. In the early days you could drop out of school and be successful, with today's high-tech race cars and the ever increasing business side of the sport a high school education is the bare minimum.
1992 Winston Cup Champ Alan Kulwicki was the first ever to have a college degree, now it's becoming more and more common as drivers are realizing the importance of a good education. It's hard work... if you want to do it there is no "little bit" you've got to give it your all, all the time. If you make it you can be a legend, but if you don't make it you'll still have a bunch of fun and learn a lot along the way. Good luck! And don't forget me when you are rich and famous.

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