After two years on Patreon, here’s why I’m sticking with it

I’ll never forget sitting in Carl Edwards’ retirement press conference in 2017 when he was trying to explain to a baffled room why he’d walk away from a perfectly good job into an unknown future.

“There’s no life raft I’m jumping onto — I’m just jumping,” he said.

That hit me hard, because I had started to tell my media friends the same day that I was soon going to quit USA Today and start an independent website funded through Patreon.

I related to Edwards in a major way, because at the time, hardly anyone even knew what Patreon was. It was a terrifying leap of faith — a trust in strangers who follow me on Twitter — and I found out later my friends were quite worried about my decision!

It was two years ago today when I actually launched the site. I can remember practically being sick to my stomach, because I knew the next few hours would reveal whether it could work or not.

If it didn’t succeed, I was going to be out of journalism. It was this or bust. But if it worked, it had potential to be the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had.

As it turned out, the past two years have been the best of my life. I’m so incredibly grateful to those who have chosen to support this website and podcast and keep sending me to the racetrack. It probably gets repetitive to hear me say THANK YOU all the time, but that’s honestly how I feel every day, so I can’t help but constantly be appreciative.

That said, I often get asked: How long are you going to do this? And also: If another outlet approached you with an offer, would you quit Patreon?

I can’t predict the future, but as of now, my plan is to keep doing this as long as you’ll have me. I’ve actually had some great offers over the past couple years and thought about those possibilities. But ultimately, I feel such a strong bond with those who have gotten me to this point — and I’m having so much fun doing it — that I feel it would be a mistake to change course.

Patreon has given me the freedom to cover what I want, how I want, when I want — and for who I want. And that connection to my “bosses,” as I call them, is something I really cherish.

I’ll give you an example. During a Southern 500 watch party here in Portland last September — a barbecue with some patrons who attended the Portland Grand Prix earlier that day — I was given a major shock. A group of my patrons had secretly raised more than $6,000 for my baby daughter Liliana’s education fund (which didn’t exist yet!) — and presented me with an oversized check! “Speechless” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.

And that wasn’t even the only time the group of “Gluckers” (the nickname they gave themselves) had conspired to do something generous for me and my wife, Sarah.

As you can imagine, things like that are deeply humbling. I certainly don’t think I deserve ANY of this and I constantly wonder why people have decided to be so supportive — through Patreon and beyond. I truly don’t get it, if we’re being frank.

But it certainly makes me want to work harder and stick with this, because I view my role as trying to help entertain and inform people about their favorite sport. If they feel that’s being accomplished, then I’m not about to abandon it.

Anyway, today is the start of Year 3, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to post the link to Patreon if you’re interested in signing up for the first time. This year I’m offering a few more patron-only pieces of content, so you can check out the details there. Plus I had 1,000 stickers made with my cartoon face on them, and if you become a patron by the Daytona 500, I’ll send one your way.

Here’s how you can help support this website and my podcast (and get a sticker!).

Thanks for reading — whether you’re a patron or not — and I’ll talk to you soon.

Thankfully, luckily, amazingly, it’s a Happy Anniversary

One year ago today was one of the scariest days of my life — and also one of the best.

I remember my heart practically pounding out of my chest that morning as I got ready to launch my Patreon page and let everyone know about the crazy idea to try and cover NASCAR for my own site. If you want to see how nervous I was in the time leading up to the launch, you can read this letter I wrote to myself early last year.

The scary part about this day in 2017 wasn’t whether I’d end up getting enough money to cover 31 races last year (I still can’t believe that happened!); it was wondering whether I’d get enough to eat and pay rent.


From the post linked above, here are a couple excerpts that are fun to look back on now:

It might seem surprising/crazy/borderline insane to leave a great job voluntarily, but that’s what I did. Ultimately, it came down to this: USA Today needs a NASCAR writer in Charlotte, but I might not live in Charlotte for much longer.

My wife, Sarah, is trying to become a Child Life Specialist (someone who works in a children’s hospital and helps sick kids and their families). She’s currently doing an internship in New Mexico, and she’ll be able to look for jobs after she’s finished in May. It’s a no-brainer for me to support her career and I need to have the flexibility to relocate, because who knows where we’ll end up?

Well, Sarah did become a Child Life Specialist! And it did require that we relocate — all the way to Portland! Moving to Oregon definitely wasn’t on my radar, I can promise you that.

Here’s another excerpt:

There’s no magic job waiting for me. As Carl Edwards said in his retirement news conference: “There’s no life raft I’m jumping onto — I’m just jumping.”

I’ll be honest: This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done — I gave up a solid income, health insurance, travel budget, etc. — but it’s also the most exciting. I’m totally comfortable with the decision and it would be an absolute dream to make a living while remaining independent.

I don’t know if this will work, but I guess we’ll all find out at the same time!

The nervous part was always going to be the waiting and wondering whether it would work. I didn’t know what the response would be; it was impossible to predict.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long after the launch.

If you look above, that first tweet was sent at 11:01. Well, the first pledge — a $2 per month pledge from a guy named Mark Holthaus — came across at 11:03. Two minutes! That seemed like a good sign.

Hey, at least I’ll have $2 a month, I thought.

But Mark was far from the only person to jump on board right away. A total of 283 patrons pledged on the FIRST DAY my Patreon page existed. That’s absolutely insane! I have just over 1,000 current patrons now, so to have that many sign up on Day 1? It was overwhelming and honestly pretty emotional, because I knew then that everything was going to be OK.

By the way, there are 133 people who are still patrons from that very first day. They stuck it out all year long and are still showing their support. I can’t even describe how much things like that mean to me.

In the year since this whole thing started, I’ve constantly been reminded about how amazing people can be. I feel unbelievably lucky to have such a remarkable group of supporters who also serve as my “bosses” — it’s an affectionate term, but it’s also appropriate because I really do work for them.

Honestly, I’ve already been the recipient of more generosity and kindness than anyone deserves in a lifetime, so I don’t know when all this luck will run out. I know it won’t be forever, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

But since enough people have stuck around and continued to sign up, Year 2 starts today. And I’m more fired up and excited than ever.

If you are interested in becoming one of my bosses, here is where you can find more information.