ENCINITAS — Nick Esayian, the 44-year-old champion racer and Encinitas resident has been driving professionally since 1994, and is primed for a podium finish in the 2012 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which starts Friday. Esayian, who races for RealTime Racing, a Honda-funded team, took an interest in driving after attending race driving schools while in college. “While I was going to the race schools, it appeared that I had some talent in that area,” Esayian said. “The (race) schools had kind of pushed me to quit school and start to drive, and that wasn’t in the deck of cards for me. I knew that wasn’t a good decision.”
After finishing college Esayian began competing in amateur races and was successful, winning his first eight or nine events. It wasn’t long after the wins that he received an opportunity to race professionally.
“It was a little bit different lifestyle,” Elysian said. “I was working a regular job. I worked for…Bain Capital, and I was racing cars with people that that’s all they did. So it was an interesting duplicitous life. I would race on the weekends and then I’d have to scramble back someway or other, get to work; work my four or five days and then back to the track. So it was difficult in the beginning.”
Esayian’s interest in racing stemmed from his own natural inclinations; as a kid from the mid-West he had always liked cars and motorcycles, but while growing up, no one in his family had any affinity for racing.
Being the first in his family to learn how to become a racer, he said he made all of the mistakes that racers who come from racing families like the Andretti family, all of the mistakes he’d make, made for some interesting comedy at times.
Since becoming a professional driver, Esayian also runs his own marketing business, he’s been able to learn a lot about himself, and especially how he reacts to things. “I’m an impatient guy,” he said. “I like to fix things right away. And when you’re in a race and…a competitor puts you in a bad position or endangers you at a point, you can’t immediately react to that. You need to box that up and put it away. Things are happening very fast and your ability to multi-task is critical.”
During a race there’s a conflict between the physiological and the psychological. “Developing patience, controlled patience is one part of it; the second aspect of it is you can’t be too hard on yourself.”
It was a lesson he had to rely on while racing in the Honda Grand Prix in St. Petersburg, Fla. in March, where he finished fifth in the second race. During the first race, Esayian was passing for third place when he got hit. “I knew that you can allow that to affect your next race, so you need to be able to compartmentalize.”
Esayian’s next race is the well-known Grand Prix of Long Beach.
He’s raced in the event four or five time before, he said, and considers this track to be his home course. Last year he crashed out early, but finished the race to earn points. When it comes to racing in any of the street circuits, Esayian explained that any error you make, you’re in the concrete, which could lead to disastrous results.
Still, Esayian feels good about his chances at earning a podium finish.
With the jets flying over and a crowd of 125,000 people in the stands, it is exciting, Esayian said. “When you’re sitting in the car, they sing the National Anthem, the plane goes over…you step out of it for a second and say, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool that I’m getting to do this.’”
Despite his excitement about the races, Esayian keeps what he does on the track in perspective to what may be happening to members of the military.
Living in San Diego, where the military presence is high, and his father being a retired Marine and Korean War veteran, Esayian contributes his race winnings to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides grants for college and counseling to the children of fallen Special Operations members.
“When something is bad that’s happened to me at the racetrack and you think ‘Oh, boy, this might be my last millisecond here,’ the thing that pops into your mind is your kid and certainly when these guys are fighting the bad guys, I don’t want them to worry about at least where their kids are going to be going to school or are they going to be taken care of.”
Last year, when the Chargers ownership opted to keep head coach Norv Turner and general manager AJ Smith, Esayian took out an ad in the North County Times in the form of an open letter, venting his frustrations at the mediocrity of the team and the organization’s lack of commitment to the community. It’s still a sore spot with him, he said, and something that remains a concern about the team staying in town.
“I don’t necessarily like the moves,” he said. “I think that, normally, professional sports participants will not comment on other professional sports; owners are participants, but I know that the Chargers mean a lot to the community and my gut is, that being a business-guy, and… being involved in professional sports…with no new stadium and not bringing in blue-chip players, the commitment doesn’t seem to be there to remain in San Diego.”
When it comes to committing to his own goals, both personally and professionally, Esayian takes a realistic approach. It’s an approach he arrived at in part, after reading the book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.”
“My expectation is to win some races, but it’s a long season and in the end, it’s the accumulation of points at the end of the season. So you don’t want to make short-term decisions and take a lot of risk to win a race as opposed to finishing second,” he said. “And you make these goals while you’re sitting comfortably at your desk at home, but you’re executing all the actions in the heat of battle out on the track, and it goes back to that emotional control.”