BRISTOL, Tenn. – Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 32 CorvetteParts.net Ford Fusion has stirred up a lot of chatter during the Food City 500 race weekend, and that’s exactly how Tom Keen likes it.
Keen is the owner of CorvetteParts.net and Keen Parts, the primary sponsors of DiBenedetto’s No. 32 Ford for the Bristol event and a leading manufacturer and retailer of Corvette parts and accessories for owners across the United States.
Based six miles north of Cincinatti, the Keen family has been involved with Go Fas Racing team owner Archie St. Hilaire since 2013, when Hilaire fielded a car in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Jeffrey Earnhardt.
Though Earnhardt didn’t remain with Hilaire when Hilaire took his team up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series a year later, Keen did and has kept working with Hilaire ever since – even though Hilaire’s team has been Ford-branded since its inception at the national level and Keen deals in Chevrolet parts.
That’s the side of the sponsorship deal that raises eyebrows every time Keen’s branding appears on Hilaire’s race car.
“At the time I thought it was an unfortunate thing when Archie made the deal he did with Ford, but his phrase is ‘guerrilla marketing’ … where because CorvetteParts.net deals with GM brands and it’s on a Ford race car, the confusion creates a stir and gets people talking,” Keen told SPEED SPORT.
“We’ve got some notoriety because of being different, but it’s a marriage that works out well for us,” Keen noted. “Archie’s the chief cheerleader; we may get some hate mail sometimes from people who don’t like the sponsorship … but our view is, if people are talking, then it’s a good thing for our company.”
Oddly enough, Keen’s first race sponsoring Earnhardt actually didn’t involve a car fielded by Hilaire at all.
“A lot of people may not realize it, but the first race we actually sponsored Jeffrey in was with JR Motorsports,” recalled Keen. “He raced the No. 5 Chevrolet for Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) at Richmond Raceway in April of 2013, with Keen Parts and CorvetteParts.net on the sides of the race car.”
That day was a family-oriented effort for all involved. Keen has remained true to that philosophy ever since, with both he and wife Teresa (T.J.) backing Hilaire’s team as it continues to grow and enjoying every moment of the journey.
“When someone asks us what we get out of racing, I always say that it’s an easy question, but a hard answer,” said Keen. “But what it boils down to is that T.J. and I enjoy what we’re doing here in the racing industry. We partnered up with Archie back when he was in the Xfinity Series with Jeffrey, and we were so grateful when that relationship allowed us to follow him up to the Cup Series.”
“I’m interested in racing, but the fact that T.J. is extremely into racing makes this that much bigger for us,” Keen added. “We’re both deeply involved in the Corvette parts business, and this is an avenue where she enjoys coming to the race track and gets very involved. She loves every phase of what we do here. It’s an outlet where we can come and have a totally different environment to what we’re used to.”