Wal-Mart Eyes Marketing Benefits Of NASCAR Racing
MIDLAND PARK, N.J.
Where will Junior Nation shop? If published reports in the SportsBusiness Journal are on the mark, and they usually are, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon may be sponsored by Wal-Mart next season. DuPont has sponsored Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet since his rookie season in 1992, but its agreement runs out at the end of this season. What makes the Wal-Mart negotiations between Wal-Mart and Hendrick Motorsports significant is that according to SBJ, several of NASCAR’s “official” packaged goods partners, including Coca-Cola, Kraft, Mars, MillerCoors and Procter & Gamble and Unilever, met with NASCAR officials to discuss retail strategies concerning Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has hesitated to enter NASCAR in the past, but an entry into the stock-car arena at this point would potentially be a coup for both NASCAR and the box-store conglomerate.
Will Power does live up to his name. After being injured last year in a crash at Infineon Raceway, he came back to win last week’s open cockpit race at the California wine country track. Leading 73 of the race’s 75 laps, Power increased his IndyCar Series points lead to 59 digits over Dario Franchitti, who placed third behind Scott Dixon.
Much will be written about Kyle Busch after his historic victories the past weekend at Bristol. Don’t miss Ron Lemasters, Jr.’s column on page 25 this week about Busch — in addition to our other Bristol coverage.
International Speedway Corp. Chief Operating Officer Roger VanDerSnick was the first of what is expected to be many layoffs within the speedway company during the next few weeks. ISC officials said the reduction of workforce and operational expenses are expected to save the company between $20 million and $30 million beginning in 2011. ISC President John Saunders has inherited VanDerSnick’s duties.
Veteran open-wheel racer Tony Hunt e-mailed NSSN to remind us that he is already using an LS3 General Motors engine, similar to the LS7 version being tested by Ron Shaver and Donny Schatz. Hunt says he’s been running the powerplant, which is built on a 377 c.i. block, for two years with great success. Hunt is currently leading the USAC Western Sprint Car Series standings after his fourth victory of the season at All-American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., Saturday night, using the engine he says retails for $16,000
On the subject of racing families, and when they started and how long they’ve lasted, we have a new entry. Vic Enyart calls with the information that Louis Meyer, who won the Indianapolis 500 three times (and whose brothers Eddie and Harry both raced), had a son, Louis, Jr., also known as Sonny, who raced boats. Sonny’s son Butch raced midgets, as did Butch’s son. Eddie Meyer competed at Ascot in the ’20s and ’30s, and his son Bud raced, too. Harry Meyer competed at El Mirage Dry Lake in California. Quite a legacy!
The Motor Racing Heritage Ass’n has received permission from the Ormond Beach, Fla., city council to construct a replica of the famed Ormond Garage, which burned down in 1976. Henry Flagler ordered the original garage in the summer of 1904 to host William K. Vanderbilt and the Winter Speed Tournament. It was an important site in the pursuit of land speed records and was later a gathering point for the Ormond Beach Antique auto shows. The Motor Racing Heritage Ass’n is seeking to raise $65,000 to build the replica garage. More information is available from www.MRHAweb.com.
The ASA-Student Educational Series, which is co-sponsored by the American Speed Ass’n and Ohio Technical College, recently awarded $135,000 in scholarships to 15 students. Students participated in the program at two ASA Member Tracks — Madison Int’l Speedway and Dells Raceway Park, both in Wisconsin. One student at each track received the Track Manager Award. Each received a $20,000 scholarship to Ohio Technical College. Vern Fagerberg, Jr., of Bloomington, Ill., won the Madison Int’l Speedway award and will major in High Performance & Racing Technology. Josh Bonick of Boyd, Wis., received the Dells Raceway Park award and will specialize in Collision Repair.
Fifty-year readers Robert and Deanna Havran sent along a clip featuring Arcadia, Fla.’s Hazel Stephens, who recently turned 106. Hazel says her favorite pastime is watching NASCAR races on television. Might she be NASCAR’s oldest living fan?
Several years ago, Ye Ed asked third-generation racer Jamie Frankland, who operates Frankland Welding in Florida, about the whereabouts of the famed Frankland stagger-valve engine, which saw success in the 1930s. At the time Jamie said the engine was in Sacramento, Calif. But Frankland called last week to say that not too long ago he acquired the powerplant, which was based on one of six sets of cylinder heads constructed by Arthur Chevrolet in 1928, and that it has been restored and will make a few parade laps at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., later this year before entering the Don Garlits Museum. Thanks for the tip, Jamie.
Stan Lobitz, who was riding in a midget that Wright drove for him at midget racing events, recently spread the late Crocky Wright’s ashes over the racing surface at Pennsylvania’s Latimore Valley Fairgrounds.
One of the highlights of the Old Timer’s Weekend at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway was the introduction of veteran drivers. Eighty-year-old Bob Harkey shared with Donald Davidson the story of driving in the very first race at Daytona Int’l Speedway in 1959. The first race was a 125-mile event for NASCAR’s convertible division. Harkey had won the NASCAR midget championship in 1957 and had the ride in Buck Baker’s No. 86 Chevy Impala convertible. Harkey recalled passing Richard Petty in his Oldsmobile for the lead. He was later spun out by Leonard Franks and finished 10th.
Auto racing lost a pair of good ones recently with the death of Ed Adair at age 86 and longtime ASA crew chief Howie Lettow. RIP, gentlemen.