#31 Mike Skeen – A reality TV star making a name for himself in racing
Host: Jai Shukla & Guest: Mike Skeen
Q1 — So, what was it that got you into racing?
You could say that it was his father’s love for cars that had him set up for success. Together, they’d work on cars until he was old enough to get into the driver’s seat racing karts. It wasn’t long until he was instructing for events and having others vying to get him into their cars.
Q2 — And how did your first break come about?
Mike Skeen actually became a minor reality TV star on the Speed Channel, believe it or not. While not winning the final show prize, the exposure alone led him to a big fan of the show asking him to race professionally.
Q3 — How did you manage to secure your sponsors? And also, how do you build that fanbase that you can go to a sponsor with, as well?
Mike Skeen believes that it’s always a struggle to find representation no matter what level you’re at. Even those with established careers are always on the hunt for the next thing. When it comes to his fanbase, he’s always been a grassroots rider. From being extremely accessible as a whole to hosting his own videos, he knows that the work involved on the ground level is certainly worth it.
Q4 — What do you think amateurs don’t understand about the industry, that professionals do?
There’s seems to be a misconception that as long as you race fast, there will be unlimited opportunities to become a pro driver. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy.
Q5 — When did you jump onboard with Racers360 and how’s that been going for you?
He started only earlier this year, but so far, it’s been going great. Mike loves that he can offer high-level pro coaching quickly and inexpensively for drivers all around the world, something that didn’t even exist when he was starting out.
Q6 — What sort of results have you seen from your students so far?
He’s had returning customers already, one of which is now a podium contender under his instruction. It’s still a bit early for him in the program though, so it will take a bit more time to show the results that he’s been striving for.
Q7 — And are you a contract instructor? How does that work?
Right now, it’s one-offs, simply pay-by-session instruction. It’s different rates for different instruction, but all of it is much cheaper than what most charge for a typical day.
Q8 — You’re also involved in Circuit Studies. Tell us a bit about that.
Mike started Circuit Studies with another coach from the BMW Performance Center, its approach having racers study-specific tracks to help them place as best as they can. It’s completely online and reaches drivers from all over the world.
Q9 — What would be one of your favorite races that you’ve had?
He really enjoyed the hard and aggressive sprint racing at World Challenge. Another mention is Pikes Peak, where rode against some high-level equipment. He loves cars and machines, so any chance to just be around top-level equipment clearly puts him in his element.
Q10 — Do you feel like there’s a difference between the type of people that love sprint racing versus endurance racing?
Yes and no. So many of the endurance races nowadays have sprint elements, so, of course, the line gets blurred a little bit.
With endurance racing, you really need a great program behind with a great team, great pitstops, a great co-driver. It’s harder to control all of those variables as a single person. When you’re sprint racing, once you’re on the track, it’s more on you as a driver, taking on the pressure and the responsibility yourself. Mike admits he prefers sprint driving for those reasons, but thinks they are both a lot of fun, equally.
Q11 — To what degree do you feel like you’re in control as a driver inside the car? How much do you feel like, as a percentage, you’re in control?
As a sprint driver, honestly, about 90%. The driver has to do everything incredibly well to succeed. Of course, there’s no substitution for a great team behind you, but obviously, the driver is a massive part of that performance, especially in a sprint race.
Q12 — Do you still get nervous as a driver?
All the prep is hard work and situations like when you’re just sitting there on the grid waiting to go can be nerve-wracking, but once you’re in the car it all starts to become natural again.
Q13 — Making mistakes can be a killer in this industry. How have you gotten better at handling them?
Usually, until he gets a good feel for the car, he’ll drive fairly conservatively. At this point in his career, though, he has so much experience driving in different vehicles, he knows his limits and knows exactly when and where to push them.
Mike Skeen also considers himself fortunate that he hasn’t made too many big mistakes throughout his professional lifetime, although he knows that they are always bound to happen to even the best drivers.
Q14 — What do you feel is one of the biggest things that impacts the way you’ve progressed positively as a driver?
One thing he feels that has kept him on track is his analytical and critical personality. He’s the guy that will come home and watch hours of his video while critiquing it. Coaching has helped, too, as it makes him think about why he does what he does on the track.
Q15 — How much time do you think new drivers should be spending off the track, as opposed to on the track?
Mike’s more preferential towards off the track because he’s a stickler for the fundamentals. The guys that have found success seem to have the driving part down quite naturally. It’s the off-the-track stuff that they’ve devoted time to that propels them to a more successful career.