School of Kinesiology freshman Luke Warhurst enters his last lap at the Midwest Race of Champions. The muscles in his neck and shoulders ache. Driving above 100 miles an hour can become draining on the body, but Warhurst conditions for these moments every day. He’s not slowing down. When the dust settles, Warhurst ranks 11th in the entire Midwest.
Warhurst races with stock cars, the same type used in NASCAR. After COVID-19 derailed his senior season last year, Warhurst is looking to get back onto the race track and receive an opportunity to ascend to the early NASCAR levels.
“For this next season, we’re going to run the Midwest Modified Tour, and our goal is to finish top 10 in those points and get a few wins at our local track,” Warhurst said. Our short term goal is to win and put ourselves in a position to be looked at by NASCAR teams.”
And, like many drivers, Warhurst’s career ambitions don’t just stop at the collegiate level.
“The goal one day is to race in the NASCAR Cup Series,” Warhurst said. “The big thing is having the résumé and the experience in terms of wins and the other biggest thing is sponsor funding. Talking to as many people as you can and hoping that you meet the right people that can give you the right opportunities to race in the NASCAR Truck Series and move up from there.”
Elevating to that level of competition won’t come easy, but Warhurst is prepared for the work.
“It’s a long way to go and kind of a pipe dream, but with enough hard work and getting good results in the next few years, it’s not unattainable,” Warhurst said. “Each step you take the competition gets tougher, and it’s the best drivers in the world. Preparing yourself physically and then mentally you have to be confident to go out there and do your thing.”
Stock car racing requires money, and money requires sponsors. It’s Warhurst’s job to find them, and studying Sport Management has taught Warhurst the importance of branding himself.
“I really had to teach myself about marketing and understand why a sponsor would want to sponsor me versus someone else,” he said. “Writing letters to companies, networking, and meeting people is really how you get it done.”
Studying at Michigan gives Warhurst flexibility in his path beyond racing, though.
“The Sport Management program was a no-brainer,” Warhurst said. “It can really help me with looking for sponsors. I’m learning marketing skills, presentation skills, and it gives me a solid background in getting a job in motorsports.”
Submitting sponsorship proposals requires a meticulous amount of concentration and work, but Warhurst stays persistent throughout the process.
“You get a lot of nos, but I’ve been fortunate to get some yeses and four sponsors,” Warhurst said. “That’s a huge part of racing — if you don’t have sponsors, there would be no racing. Offering something that other drivers can’t, that’s the most important thing.”
Going forward, Warhurst looks to continue expanding his portfolio by leveraging his education and the resources at his disposal, especially in the digital age.
“It’s all about networking and doing different things on social media to set yourself apart,” he says. “Getting a lot of followers and winning at the track sets yourself apart so that the potential sponsors you network with will want to sponsor you. Give them a big bang for their buck.”