In Part 3 of Spider Energy's conversation, Ellis, a seasoned NASCAR driver, delves deep into the nuances of racing, emphasizing the physical and psychological challenges that racers face. He underscores the importance of emotional intelligence and the ability to re-center oneself amidst the adrenaline-fueled environment of a race. Ellis highlights the grueling conditions drivers endure, especially during long, hot races, and the significance of staying mentally engaged. Beyond the track, he stresses the pivotal role of team dynamics, marketing, and personal branding in the world of NASCAR. Ellis candidly shares his journey, emphasizing the value of embracing the sport's racing and business aspects. He also touches upon his personal preferences, revealing his taste in music and TV shows, and encourages fans to connect with him on various social media platforms.
Spider Energy: When racing and you have an adrenaline spike, is there anything you do that brings you back down to focus and stay calm?
Ellis: I feel like I have a good grasp on the value of emotional intelligence. I assume I am one of the older drivers, probably a little over the median driver age, so I’ve learned how to calm myself down. I may start cursing and lose it for 30 seconds; then I’ll say, “Ok, I'm good now, and will re-center myself.
The most challenging points in a race are when you have a long, hot race and get a long green flag run. You’re battling for 75 or 100 laps at a track like New Hampshire Bristol, and you must stay mentally engaged. You're sometimes in that hell of 100 to 135 degrees; staying focused is hard. The crew sometimes will talk to drivers, root them on to give them something to focus on…something to distract them from the heat.
Spider Energy: What advice would you give all aspiring NASCAR drivers regarding the physical preparation and psychological demands of NASCAR racing?
Ellis: Trying a couple of team sports growing up will help you a lot from the psychological aspect because a lot of what you fight racing is understanding how to work with people, whether your crew chief or pit crew. You're all in it together; it's not a blame game, so that's one, but investing in the business side and going to school, understanding how to sell and market yourself as a brand representative, is enormous for off the track. On the track, I think being in good shape with good cardio and learning to manage stress behind the wheel is integral. I don't think you can do that without just putting yourself in that spot; as I said, you must put yourself in stressful situations and learn to manage it.
Marketing yourself is a big part of the sport…I can’t say it enough. If you look at many men and women with big names in our sports, you can see that personalities are becoming everything in sponsorship; you want to be sellable, something people like and want to get behind. Sponsors would rather get behind someone who runs 15th place and does a great job for them off the track than someone who runs 10th place and is not likable or doesn’t represent himself well. Everybody wants to win, and I do, too, but you’ve got to be well-rounded at everything - on and off the track.
Spider Energy: If you could give your younger self some race advice, what would it be?
Ellis: Having faith in the journey. Many things happen on and off the track that you don't necessarily plan for…things that initially seem like won’t help you get to where you want to be.
I took a few years off the sport as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for a race team. After that team shut down, I got a job as a lead generation marketer, and without that job, my career would not be anywhere close to where it is today.
Young drivers want to believe that success on the track is all that matters…but the un-sexy truth is that the business and sponsorship side can bring you to where you want to be! So, what I've been able to do with my business/marketing team over the last year or two in building a sustainable business has helped me develop my career and opportunities on track. Trusting yourself and trusting your processes is huge, and not necessarily focusing on the racing side as much as you do when you're growing up. Have fun with that, learn all you can, and be the best driver you can be - that’s the fun part.
Just remember that now, you need to be well-rounded. Everyone preaches learning marketing and sponsorship when you're growing up. It's not the sexy thing you want to hear when you're a kid. You want to hear winning matters, but at the end of the day, it's a little bit of everything. If you can figure out both, you’ll have a long career.
Spider Energy: If you can go back to when you just started your career, would you do anything differently regarding mental or physical preparations for NASCAR?
Ellis: No, I don't think so. I feel like I am well-rounded in my background, which made me who I am today. I’ve raced many different types of cars and competed in many different series. I think that's helped me be prepared for many different situations in NASCAR, so it's just getting out there and getting reps and being out there and having a diverse background that helps a lot.
Spider Energy: Favorite music you listen to:
Ellis: I'm so boring!! LOL! I like country music, EDM, rock music, and most of the music I grew up listening to, like Blink 182, Lincoln Park, Drake, etc. That “emo” stage of Warped Tour was my favorite music generation.
Spider Energy: What are your favorite TV series:
Ellis: The only TV I watch is Washington Capitals hockey. I was into Breaking Bad and Ozark…I’ll occasionally put on Always Sunny In Philadelphia or Family Guy. Most of the shows I watch are during our long flights. Now, I listen to Joe Rogan's and Theo Von’s podcasts.
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