By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
If you’re a race driver with a big name, the money follows you.
But if you’re a race driver just getting started, you chase the money.
In the thrilling world of auto racing, the pursuit of sponsorships is one of the mundane tasks for young drivers like Richard Harriman. The 25-year-old Maltby native, who lives today in Charlotte, N.C., spends many of his non-working hours searching for financial backers because, he said, “if you don’t bring in the money nowadays, you don’t get to drive.”
“It’s very hard,” he said. “I would prefer not to do it. But to hire somebody to do it for you takes quite a bit of money, too. So in my spare time — and there isn’t a lot of that — I’m kind of doing research with e-mails and phone calls to a bunch of companies to raise sponsorships so I can go drive.”
But there is good news just ahead. Because after years of scrambling for chances to get behind the wheel, Harriman is about to flip the ignition switch for his first NASCAR Nationwide Series event, the Aug. 3 U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
“I’m getting a little excited,” admitted Harriman, who attended Monroe High School before finishing his last two years at Kirkland’s Lake Washington Technical College. “I don’t usually get over-hyped up, but it’s going to be exciting.”
Though it’s fun to imagine winning, “more what I’m looking for is to get the whole race in and to finish,” he said, speaking by telephone from Charlotte.
Harriman got his start racing go-karts as a boy in the horse arena at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe. From 2004 to 2006 he raced street stocks and late models on Evergreen’s big track, and the next year he drove sprint cars in Washington and Oregon.
In 2008, Harriman decided it was time to follow his dream. He moved to Charlotte, home to one of NASCAR’s major headquarters and to many of the sport’s racing teams, and he started looking for work.
He has spent much of the last five-plus years crewing for different teams, though he has also driven on NASCAR’s Camping World Truck series and on the ARCA series.
His work as a crew member “is definitely hard,” he said. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of travel. It’s some six- and seven-day weeks, and those are some long days. … But as much as I like racing, getting to work on the cars is kind of like the next best thing to driving.”
Crewing keeps him employed — he is a crew chief on the Cam-Am Racing series this year — but driving “is what I’m really striving for right now,” he went on. “That’s the reason I moved out here. That’s my main goal. If I get too much older and if I realize it’s not going to happen, then I’ll probably try to get a (crew) job on one of the big teams. But I’m not ready to give up yet.”
In Iowa, Harriman will drive for the Rick Ware Racing team, and he knows a strong finish could open other doors.
“If (other teams) see I do a good job, they could end up calling and asking me to come drive their car,” he explained. “So there is a chance it could turn into something more.”
The ultimate goal, of course, is to be a regular driver on NASCAR’s elite series, the Sprint Cup. But there are plenty of other drivers with the same ambition, and the path to getting one of those coveted spots is long, difficult and very crowded.
“I like to think about (the Sprint Cup),” Harriman said, “but I try not to get too caught up. But I do think about at least getting to race a couple of times.
“For me, I just like to drive. I want to race. I want to be at the top and winning at the top, but ultimately I don’t care about being rich. If I can just have that solid ride, have a home and not be stressed out, that would be good enough for me.”