By Shellie Turner
In Motion Staff Writer
The power of drag racing came to Daytona State College’s Hosseini Center Feb. 21 in the form of Elaine and Chris Larsen of Larsen Motorsports, who shared their recipe for success in business.
Founded in 1999, Larsen Motorsports was the high school sweethearts’ dream come true to build and race dragsters and, in the process, introduce more women to STEM careers. Science, technology, engineering and math all figure into the building of race cars and the jet engines that power them.
The native Michiganders built their first dragster, Miss Ta Fire, from a converted 1975 Chevrolet Vega. Using second-hand jet engines earned Elaine Larsen the International Hot Rod Association jet dragster championships in 2014 and 2015.
During the L. Gale Lemerand Entrepreneurial Speaker Series, some 100 interested audience members saved their questions for the end. One person, who challenged the speakers’ positive outlook, was met with even more encouragement.
At Larsen Motorsports, most drivers are women and most crew members are student interns. Nevertheless, they are a professional racing team.
“This is not a college program, we race against the best in the business.” Chris Larsen explained.
Looking at their childhood in Michigan provided their motivation for utilizing students as part of their team. They grew up during the days when General Motors was at its pinnacle and described a decline in the number of skilled engineers and manufacturing in the United States today. They saw the chance to work with college students to fill that gap. In addition to engineering interns, they have business, communications and marketing interns as well. Their dragsters and company website are built and handled by students.
Larsen Motorsports’ success isn’t confined to the track. It has built a successful business as well as a successful racing team. The couple wasn’t expecting its company to become a big a success as much as it did.
Chris put it into perspective, saying, “We are a couple of farm kids who found their niche.”
When she’s not racing, Elaine is fighting for funding in boardrooms. Their recipe for success, described as their “special sauce,” is quite simple: define the personal definition between winning and success. Not winning doesn’t mean failure. To them, a lack of a trophy after a race doesn’t equal defeat. Further, they find it important to be genuinely interested in who you work with and value everyone’s time.
“We work hard for everyone, whether we’re getting $100 or $100 thousand,” Chris said, conceding that he is the one who had to learn the most about the business of drag racing. He had to make the most changes and admitted that while he did get a lot of things right, he also got a lot of things wrong.
Despite their success, they are always striving to make themselves better. The Larsens are 100 percent debt free and warned that debt can destroy a business and a marriage. Their advice to new entrepreneurs was to plan strategically to avoid debt.
Chris credits Elaine for helping him achieve his dreams and advised that everyone should wholeheartedly embrace their own.