Study: NASCAR drivers, CEOs share similar talents

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NASCAR drivers are known for trading paint, spinning out rivals and are seemingly always ready for a fight.

And those are just some of the same elements that NASCAR drivers share with CEO’s of some of the best middle-market companies, according to a story on AllCapCorp.com.

Citing a study by Statistic Brain that compares what would seem like diametrically opposite fields, AllCapCorp.com noted “accomplished CEOs and NASCAR drivers are often recognized as the top performers in their respective industries, and they possess the courage to make complex decisions when challenges arise.”

Here are the top 6 shared similarities between those driving companies and those driving stock cars:

1. Cultivate the right combination of strategic talent to propel them to victory.

The study cited six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, team owner Rick Hendrick and crew chief Chad Knaus for their ability to recruit and hire the most talented and successful personnel “to do one thing – WIN.”

2. Possess the perseverance to rise from the ashes.

The example that Statistic Brain cited here is the resurgence of 2004 Cup champ Kurt Busch, who lost his ride with Team Penske after the 2011 season and how he’s rebuilt himself and his career since.

As Statistic Brain noted, “Like many middle-market CEOs, ‘the Outlaw’ wasn’t ready to give up his dreams when the world thought he was finished. Recognizing that his setback was driven by his own limiting behavior, he gave himself a ‘tune-up.’ … When facing such adversity, top CEOs act no differently. They are willing to work hard and develop creative solutions that allow them to overcome the most difficult of challenges.”

3. Learn from their mistakes.

The elder Busch brother was again cited, along with A.J. Allmendinger, who was suspended by NASCAR for failing a drug test in 2012.

Said Statistic Brain, “Savvy CEOs also understand the importance of learning from their mistakes and making adjustments when major setbacks ensue.”

4. Know that sometimes it pays to be friendly with the competition.

It’s better for drivers to be friends than enemies in NASCAR, because you can never have enough friends, particularly at places like Daytona and Talladega, where the nature of restrictor plate racing has led to a “one for all, all for one” mentality for many drivers.

It’s there that you see Ford drivers work with Toyota drivers, Chevy drivers with their Ford counterparts, and so forth.

“The same holds true for top CEOs who make alliances with the competition or seek synergy through middle-market mergers and acquisitions,” Statistic Brain said. “The best CEOs recognize their firm’s key strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of other players in their industry. This insight allows them to maintain integral relationships that drive optimum results and secure long-term success.”

5. It’s a family affair.

Not only is NASCAR still owned and operated by the France family, the sense of family as a whole is one of the most important elements of the sport.

That’s why so many drivers follow in the footsteps of their own racing fathers, with famous surnames such as Earnhardt, Elliott, Jarrett, Petty and more. Likewise, family is a key component of fandom in the sport, with oftentimes three generations of families attending races together at tracks around the country – or watching races together on TV at their own homes.

Said Statistic Brain, “Like NASCAR, many middle-market CEOs treat their businesses like a family, where multiple family members work together to run a company and make decisions about its future.”

6. Know it’s best to go out on top.

NASCAR drivers go through a lot in their careers. But the most difficult time is when they decide to hang up their firesuit for the final time and retire from full-time driving.

The Statistic Brain study cited Mark Martin and a story about him by FoxSports.com in 2013, in which Martin said, “No matter how hard you work at it, eventually Father Time will extract its toll from your skills.”

Added Statistic Brain, “Smart business owners know that the best time to sell is when their business is still going strong, and they can offer valuable insight during a transition to new ownership. They have a solid exit strategy in place, and are ready to pull the trigger and sell a business when the time is right.”

Unfortunately, some drivers remain in the game far too long and by the time they eventually do retire, many of their earlier-career successes and achievements are forgotten and replaced by the difficult struggles those same drivers had getting to their end-game.

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Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”