Work hard, play hard and give back to the community. In a nutshell, that's the life philosophy of Sean Naslund, who has gotten to do all three while racing a kart at PGP Motorsports Park.
"That's what racing is for me -- I want to do well and get better, but I want to be smiling as much as possible at the track," the Kenmore, Wash., resident said. "Those are the ingredients for a well-balanced and happy life. Keep everything in balance and in check."
Recently the 38-year-old airline pilot won his first Stars of PGP Series main event, driving a Swedetech-equipped Birel shifter kart purchased at PGP, and that came just a couple weeks after he helped raise more than $32,000 for Seattle Children's Hospital by putting on a charity race at the premier multi-purpose racing facility in the Northwest.
Going fast is nothing new to Naslund, who has been married to wife Dina for nearly eight years. As a kid Naslund spent days at the racetrack while his mother raced cars, and he later tried his hand at motocross racing while working part-time at a graphics company.
After realizing making it as a professional motocross racer was a long shot, Naslund relocated to Seattle and began putting in 12-hour workdays while steadily climbing the corporate ladder. Success came at a price, however, and when Naslund began to feel burned out he decided a change was needed.
"I sold the house, the truck, packed up the van and Dina and I moved to Arizona for flight training," Naslund said. "It's amazing how life goes. I needed to chase my dream, and we live in America where we can do that."
By returning to a childhood love of flying, Naslund found a new career and a new balance to his life. After getting his license and certifications, Naslund spent some time as a flight instructor before joining SkyWest Airlines six years ago.
Naslund said being a commercial pilot and a racer are similar in many respects -- both quickly evaluate and reevaluate their intended actions based on constantly changing variables -- but one difference is his leadership role while flying.
"We all work together on the airplane and as the captain I have to coordinate what's going on," Naslund said. "From the first officer up front to the flight attendants in the cabin, it's a team environment and I really enjoy rounding up the troops to ensure a safe and successful flight."
To keep himself mentally and physically fit, Naslund continued to dabble in motocross until a serious accident three years ago. After recuperating he decided to retire from motocross, but not racing.
Curious about karting, he raced a rental at an indoor track and found it fun and challenging. Naslund went on to win a rental kart championship there but when PGP Motorsports Park opened a little more than a year ago, he jumped at the chance to race outdoors.
"PGP has an unbelievable racing surface with technical corners, neat combinations of corners," Naslund said. "There's a fast section on the south end and a technical section on the north end. To have both on one track is fantastic."
Although he started racing in PGP's rental karts, Naslund said it didn't take long for him to start thinking about getting a shifter kart. He helped another racer refurbish a shifter, and was rewarded by getting to turn some laps in it at PGP, confirming what he suspected.
"Some want to shift, others don't -- both types of drivers still race hard and go fast. But for me, I'm doing something fun when I'm shifting," Naslund said. "My Birel kart is an absolute dream to drive -- it does exactly what I want it to do, every time. And it was that way out of the box, from the day I got it from PGP."
Last fall, around the same time he finished third in PGP's rental kart series, Naslund realized PGP would also make a great venue for the third part of his philosophy: giving back to the community.
Although he doesn't have a vintage car, he is part of the Society of Vintage Racing Enthusiasts (SOVREN), a Seattle-based non-profit for owners and admirers of older sports cars. Through the SOVREN Guild, the organization puts on the annual Pacific Northwest Historics Vintage Car Race to benefit Seattle Children's Hospital, and Naslund approached the race organizers to suggest holding a companion event at PGP.
"I feel very blessed and fortunate that they trusted me and the vision, that it could work," Naslund said. "Over the next eight months we hammered away at making it happen ... our goal was to raise as much money as we could, and to make sure everyone had the most fun they could have."
Naslund flies out of Chicago for SkyWest, but he still tries to get to PGP at least once a week, to drive a rental or the shifter he bought earlier this year, or just to hang out. Sometimes Dina joins him to take some laps.
"That's the great thing about PGP, the whole family can come out and enjoy it," Naslund said. "The way Dina has been driving lately, I'm getting worried that she will show me the fast way around the track shortly."
Working hard, playing hard and giving something back -- for Sean Naslund, PGP has been a place to do all three.