It’s three o’clock and your heart is pounding, waiting for the race to start. As the green flag drops, you floor the gas pedal, and your car accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. Your speed is increasing. Almost immediately you approach the first turn, and you pray that everyone is driving heads-up as you struggle to maneuver your vehicle-now zipping down the racetrack at 130 mph-through the turn. It can get as hot as 115 degrees in the front seat, and with all of your gear on, it’s stifling, but cooling off is the least of your concerns. You’re in it to win it, rhythmically covering 2.5 miles every 90 seconds. In a flash, you complete the required 40 laps and cross the finish line. Have you won?
That was the scene in 1994, according to Mark Mitchell, at the Laguna Seca race in Monterey, California. The Los Angeles-based financial consultant for AXA Advisors finished ninth out of 24 contenders. Although it was the 43-year-old’s biggest race at the time, it was only one of many exhilarating competitions he’s participated in. Mitchell began racing cars in his early 30s and has been hitting the roadways on a regular basis ever since. In fact, the sport continues to be the driving force that helps Mitchell excel in his professional and personal life.
“I’ve built my business around my personal passion,” he contends. Mitchell says the money that he’s earned from his racing contacts-turned-clients is just one of the many ways the hobby has enhanced his career. On the flip side, Mitchell’s customers have connected him with sponsorship dollars to support his interest. Some backers have included Simpson Race Equipment, GT Bicycles, Dion Scott Clothiers, Boyd Harrison (African American owner of a Ford dealership in Pasadena, California) and Horstman Manufacturing.
On a personal note, auto racing has kicked Mitchell’s family life into high gear as well. “It’s an excellent opportunity for us to do something together. Each of us has a role,” he beams. Although Mitchell’s wife and daughter enjoy car racing as spectators, his 14-year-old son also races cars and aspires to become a professional race car driver and team owner. “I know exposure was key [in his decision],” Mitchell says.
Car racing was also the inspiration for the creation of Mitchell’s family foundation, 1 Less Than 2 Ltd. The organization provides scholarships for children in the inner city, exposes them to car racing events and enables them to meet some of the sport’s celebrities. The organization even has its own clothing line, which helps to fund its efforts. And Mitchell donates a significant amount of his own funds to the effort.
Car racing is no cheap thrill. In 1997, when Mitchell and his son first competed in Sprint Karts, he spent about $150,000 for the two of them. Nevertheless, he feels the benefits far outweigh the costs. “I’ve developed some good relationships,” he says. “And I can be supportive of my son.”
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