Militaries for centuries would burn a bridge after crossing it to prevent the enemy army from pursuing them. While this may not be the Army and there are not traditional enemies in pursuit, many people who work in NASCAR find that it is still very possible to burn bridges. This incredibly dangerous move sets individuals up for a speedy exit from the sport they worked so hard to get into. To best highlight how this can be done, let us examine a couple of fictional situations when burning a bridge can be so detrimental that finding a job is nearly impossible.
The first situation is the crew member. This crew member, we will call him Bob, worked very hard to break into NASCAR. He started with a small team, eventually working his way through the ranks to one of the sport’s largest teams. Despite working for years to get to this point, Bob is let go by the team. Bob’s only option? ARCA or leave racing.
So what happened to Bob? Well you see, Bob has trouble getting along with others. He is arrogant and belligerent. The small team put up with Bob’s antics for several seasons because he did good work and they did not have many options. Unexpectedly one weekend Bob quits to go to work for a larger team. He gives no notice and leaves the small team in a bind. At the big team Bob thinks he is hot stuff. He works on the pit crew and brags about his years of experience. Needless to say he is not well liked by his fellow team members. After just one season with the big team they decide they have had enough of Bob causing trouble and they let him go. By this point he has a reputation within the sport as an unreliable trouble maker. For months he applies for every job he can find, even landing a couple interviews. No one seems to want him though. Finally Bob is offered a job with an ARCA team that he has no choice but to take.
For the second situation we examine Jim who is a crew chief. Jim began in the sport years ago working as an engineer. Eventually he worked his way up with different teams rising to the level of crew chief. During these years though Jim developed a reputation for his temper. He is famous for berating his crew members whenever things do not go like he thinks they should. Often times he likes to threaten to fire employees when he gets angry. Unfortuanately for Jim, as so often happens, he is let go because he is not performing as the team sees fit. For months, Jim, like Bob, goes on job interviews but no one is biting. The fact is, Jim’s temper finally caught up with him. When crew members catch word Jim is a potential hire they complain and refuse to work for him. In order to keep other team members, owners realize they have no choice but to not hire Jim, no matter how good he may be.
The NASCAR community, as we have discussed before, is a very small one. Gossip spreads like wildfire, and reputations are built over night. For better or worse everyone in the sport is just a phone call away from every employer you have ever had. And you can bet when you are up for a job they will be called. This means the reputation you have built is now the most important thing you have. I know crew members who have gotten jobs site unseen based purely on their reputation. I also know others who, like our examples, could not find another job because they burned every bridge in town.
Teams crave stability and quality just like any other business. Once a team views a person as a problem they are out. Eventually, being the problem enough times can get a person blacklisted. And once they find they are on that list, chances are the they will never find their way back off.