“I’ve heard thousands of no’s, and I don’t let them get me down”
In developing her career as a pro racer and monster truck driver, Collete Davis has faced a lot of rejection. Go inside her process, here, to find out how she deals.
It’s April in Colorado Springs. Collete Davis, 24, has just finished competing in her latest Monster Jam show, taking home two overall event championships. With her signature truck—a 12,000-pound behemoth emblazoned with the Wonder Woman logo—parked behind her, she began greeting fans. A man approached, looking for an autograph, and stopped a male member of Collete’s crew. “Actually, she was driving the truck,” the crew member said, motioning to Collete. Confused, the guy walked away. “I think he thought we were joking,” Collete says, in retrospect. “I just laughed.” That day at the race wasn’t the first (or the last) time Collete’s been underestimated in her decade-long racing career. It comes with the territory of being one of the few women in the world of professional motorsports. She began the process of pursuing that goal at age 15, when she started racing go-karts. She competed against guys who were afraid of “getting beat by a girl” (something that happened often when she was on the track). By 16, she had graduated high school and started college for mechanical engineering. And by 18, she was racing professionally, making her debut in the USF2000 Championship Series in Sebring and St. Petersburg, FL. Now, at 24, she’s on track to become the first top pro female in Formula Drift series history. Meanwhile, Collete has expanded into other facets of driving, like racing monster trucks. In her debut weekend last year, Collete won the Monster Jam Championship. Yeah, that’s a pretty big deal. This year, she’s participating in more than 30 Monster Jam events. Maybe most passionately, she has dedicated herself to normalizing the image of women in STEM careers, including, yes, racing. In workshops she talks to girls about owning their passions—and not letting anyone dictate what spaces they have the right to inhabit.
How to cross the finish line
There’s a lot more to a successful racing career than just hitting the track, according to Collete Davis. Click the numbers above to find out how the pro racer and monster truck driver divides her time.
Raise funds and manage partnerships
“The business side is what actually enables the racing part of the job. In order to get the funding that I need to practice on a track or compete in a series, I’m always fundraising—approaching new sponsors and negotiating deals. After I’ve secured partners, I spend time on the partnership activations. I’m speaking at events, doing commercials, and participating in events after races.”
Build visibility as a pro athlete
“A big part of my job is personal brand marketing—doing media interviews, talking to fans on social media, updating my website, posting videos to YouTube, all of that kind of stuff. That branding work raises my value as an athlete, which is important to securing funds. Plus, I love talking to my fans.”
Train off the track
“The training I do off the track is just as important as the training I do on the track. I try to train at least five days a week. I like to mix up my workouts with a mix of weight lifting, cycling, and CrossFit-type exercises. I have to be in surprisingly good shape to race. Then I do a lot of mental training. I practice in simulator machines, doing driving reaction training.”
Go to on-track practices
“I’ll get to the track before dawn and drive until the sun goes down. Renting a track for a day is expensive, so I have to make it count. I’ll sometimes spend 10 hours in the car on a practice day getting ‘seat time.’ That’s racer-speak for driving time. Those days are so important.”
“I only spend a small percentage of my time actually competing in events. Right now I’m doing a mix of sports car races, drifting, and Monster Jam competitions.”
One major obstacle in Collete’s own way into the racing space? Funding. Beyond the vehicle itself, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, just renting a practice track for a day can take a small fortune. Put it this way: “I’ve had a couple hundred dollars in my bank account many times over the past 10 years,” she says. Coming from a modest background, Collete couldn’t rely on family money the way some of her competitors could, so she had to convince sponsors to take a chance on her before she could get in a car and prove she was a competitive driver. Years ago, to secure her first sponsorship, Collete met with the president of her Florida college. She didn’t tell them she only had go-kart racing experience—she knew that, given the opportunity to race, she’d be good at it. “Rather than saying, ‘I really want to drive race cars. Would you maybe help out with that in the future?’ I went into the meeting and said, ‘I’m going to do this. Do you want to come on board?’ ” That confidence landed her that very first yes—and crucial starter funding. “The first person who has to believe in you is you,” she says.
She's got tricks
Just a little sample of Collete’s driving skills. Pretty cool, huh?
Since then, Collete’s gone after many, many sponsorships and deals. “And I’ve heard thousands of no’s,” she says. Her trick for dealing with that rejection is not to get attached to any one deal and to keep pushing forward. “In the beginning when I heard no, even when there was a 1% chance of something working out, I’d get down for a few days,” she says. “Now I’ll be down for an hour. I think my brain is wired to forget the failure and move forward.” That attitude got her funded, kept her on the track after a loss, and brought her where she is today—in that winning Wonder Woman monster truck and continuing to race cars professionally.
What is Collete’s secret weapon?
A fitness obsession “No one really realizes how physically fit drivers have to be, but temperatures in my car on a race day can reach 140 degrees, and when I’m going around a turn, the gravity pressing on me can reach up to six times my body weight. I need to have the stamina to make it around the track, and the last thing I want to do on race day is worry about whether my body is going to be exhausted. So I work out a lot. I switch between cycling, weight lifting, and cardio, and I’m really obsessed with CrossFit. It’s high-intensity, and you’re never sure what you’re going to get from it each day—you only know that you’re going to get your butt kicked. I’ve always had a lot of muscle, but CrossFit has given me so much more strength overall.”
– Collete Davis, pro athlete, Motorsports