He manages his race team’s finances. He coordinates team logistics from tracks in
California to Canada. He finds lodging for crew members, and even cooks for them.
He courts sponsors to help pay the bills. He’s even won a time or two.
Andrew Rains isn’t your ordinary race car driver. Then again, he isn’t your ordinary
Rains, a 22-year-old senior in marketing major in the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, has served as team manager at Rains Racing – where he learned all business and driving aspects of motorsports – for the past
three years in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA).
“It’s a circus, a juggling act,” he chuckled. “There are a lot of difficult challenges.
I can’t explain how many times I’ve looked at a bank statement or analyzed the cost
for a weekend and said, ‘There’s no way. This is absolutely absurd. There are costs
coming from every area.’ Everything is expensive. Tires. Fuel. Everything has to be
accounted for. You have to be able to think beyond that to be successful in racing.
To be able to go fast, you can’t be worried about how much tires and fuel cost. That’s
part of the challenge – rising above that.”
Rains, a road racer who has driven stock cars, VW’s and now Hondas, has five career
wins and 13 top 5’s, including third place at the famed Laguna Seca on the weekend
of September 10-13. He has competed at Daytona International Speedway, Road Atlanta,
Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wis.), Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Charlotte Motor
Speedway and Sebring International Raceway. He earned championship trophies in the
South Atlantic Road Racing Series (SARRC) and V8 Stock Cars GTA series in 2014.
Off the track, Rains has applied principles taught in marketing classes toward building
relationships with sponsors.
“Both Dr. (Danny) Butler and Dr. (Mike) Kincaid had us read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” last spring,” Rains said. “It’s about showing genuine appreciation. You say, ‘thank
you’ you’re genuine and you mean it. There are a lot of people that I’ve encountered
in this business that don’t understand that. Another principle in that book is talking
to people in terms of their wants, not your wants. It’s delivering value to somebody
and catering yourself, your racing team, your value proposition to that want is critical.”
Rains, a former driver with the Auburn Samuel Ginn College of Engineering Formula SAE program, said having the understanding of sales and business is mandatory for success at
the track. “It’s the single-biggest part of being a race driver,” he said. “Driving
the car is probably only 10 percent, or less. It’s really being able to leverage the
relationships around you to put yourself into a position to be in a race car.”
Rains’ hard work in the car and building relationships put him into position to sign
the biggest deal of his young career. In September, Rains Racing announced it would
join with Honda Motorsports of Alabama for 2016 and compete in a Honda for the final
race of 2015. The deal couldn’t have come at a better time for Rains, who was stretched
beyond his boundaries. It’s a good thing he can cook.
“A good friend of mine runs the Honda Motorsports of Alabama Team (Honda Manufacturing
of Alabama’s own factory effort),” Rains said. “During a race weekend at Elkhart Lake,
Wis., (Road America), I actually cooked for his team. I love to cook and I always
cook all of the meals for our team to save money. We started talking about working
together because we’re 40 minutes apart. I made the decision and I called my dad and
we sat down with the Honda guys and said, ‘This is our opportunity. We need to stop
what we’re doing and move in this direction. I’m overextended. I can’t be successful
doing things this way. I need to be able to focus on being the team manager away from
the track and the driver at the track. And I need to be able to do what I’m good at
– which is raising money.’”
The move paid immediate dividends. In his first Pirelli World Challenge start September
10-13 at famed Laguna Seca, Rains steered his Honda Civic to a third-place finish
in the TCA Class.
Instead of dealing with multiple car-related technical issues, Rains will employ a
part-time technician in 2016, as he progresses into the new Honda Accord Coupe.
“I will focus the majority of my time on raising the appropriate amount of funding
to field a competitive effort, and will perform a lot of marketing/public relations
functions,” he said. “I will also reallocate a lot of my time towards developing myself
as a race driver. Delivering results behind the wheel becomes increasingly important
as more team partners become invested in our program, so I have to adapt and grow
accordingly to deliver a strong performance at every race weekend.
“I also will perform a development function for Honda, giving them feedback and data to help them make decisions about what changes
should be made to the car.”
Development function? The Automated Performance Expert (APEX) data analysis tool,
created by Rains Racing partner Deft Dynamics, provides live feedback to drivers taking
4,000 measurements per second to deliver an accurate model of the car’s handling capabilities
via LED light display.
“It becomes almost like a video game to the driver, attempting to match the strip
of red and green lights,” Rains said. “This is technology that has not been explored
by any existing companies, and has a wide-scale application for the entire motorsports
industry, and possibly the automotive and trucking industries.”
Rains said his team will perform the marketing and sales functions for APEX before
it’s delivered to the open market. Honda has agreed to help develop the product, Rains
“We will use Rains Racing and Honda's image and credibility to offer credentials to
APEX, and avoid being viewed as a start-up to hopefully create a demand for the product
quickly,” he said. “I’m beyond humbled to join forces with Honda as our technical
partner. They are a great company with strong morals, and I’m looking forward to a
long and prosperous relationship between Rains Racing and Honda.”
Treating people like they want to be treated. Being genuine. Showing value. Rains
has mastered the art.
“What’s super-impactful in the racing and business industry is to be a person with
a strong moral standing, a good, guiding moral compass and one who learns how to make
good decisions based on ethical principles -- then being a tactful, strategic business
person,” he said. “That was what I wanted to learn how to do. Now I want to go further.
I want to be a championship race car driver.”