Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Spring 2002Kellogg School of Management
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  Bradley "Buzz" Calkins '00
Bradley "Buzz" Calkins has accelerated his Kellogg School training in the world of professional auto racing.
Life in the fast lane
Behind the wheel with “Buzz” Calkins ’00

Buzz Calkins ’00 lives life in the fast lane. Literally. A professional race car driver, Calkins, 30, has competed in races all over the world — including six Indianapolis 500s — earning more than $3 million in prize money.

Calkins’ racing career started “completely by mistake” at age 14, when his father bought him a go-kart. He was good, so he stuck with it.

He continued to compete as a student at the University of Colorado, winning the Formula Ford Midwest Division champion in 1990. In 1993, he began competing internationally. In 1996, he had his best year, winning the Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship, earning his team, Bradley Motorsports, $345,533 in prize money.

Despite what was shaping up to be a promising career in racing, Calkins knew he had to plan for the future.

“There’s not a lot of security in [professional] sports — racing in particular,” Calkins says, citing the win-some-lose-some nature of competition and the ever-present danger faced by professional drivers. “Basically I wanted something to fall back on.”

In 1997 a racing accident landed him in the hospital with a skull fracture and a broken ankle. Calkins says the experience was a wake-up call. “Lying there in the hospital for a few days was the first time I realized that this wasn’t going to last forever.”

In 1998, Calkins enrolled at Kellogg full time, juggling classes and course work with his training and racing schedule.

“I was definitely busy. I took a lot of red-eye flights, and did a lot of studying on airplanes, which actually worked pretty well. Once I figured out how to make it work, it was actually not bad.”

In Evanston, Calkins focused on management strategy with the objective of preparing himself to eventually transition into a career on the business side of the sport, a move he officially announced in February when he said he would likely begin working to grow the Indy Racing League from behind a desk rather than a steering wheel.

He’s already won a lot of people over, as has racing. Over the last 10 years, the sport has gained a huge fan base, due in large part, he says, to the advent of in-cockpit cameras that put viewers in the driver’s seat. As a result, the industry surrounding the sport has grown as entrepreneurs try to find a way to monetize that interest. Consequently, “there’s a lot of opportunity within the industry, whether it’s in ownership or manufacturing the cars or parts for them, or building the racetrack.”

When he’s not behind the wheel, Calkins is an avid athlete, having run in three marathons — twice in Chicago and once in New York. He also sits on the board of Natural Ties, a national charity that matches handicapped and non-handicapped individuals to promote friendship and acceptance.

Calkins characterizes his team’s recent performance as “mediocre”; at press time, he was ranked 10th out of 30 drivers. Luckily 2002 is shaping up to be a banner year for Calkins: In recognition of his academic achievement, sportsmanship and community involvement, Calkins was selected in October to carry the Olympic torch part of the way across Colorado on its way to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

“I am still a little stunned by the whole thing,” Calkins said. “This is one of the greatest honors of my life.”

— Chad Schlegel

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University