the Holy Grail of racing

By Jeffrey Fazio
Special Sections Writer

Want to stop your favorite amateur race car driver in their tracks? Simply ask them: Would you rather win your next race or pick up a sponsor?

Sponsorship, particularly on the amateur level, is so coveted that many racers would take it over the chance to win their next race. The smart racer realizes that with the help of a sponsor, he could look forward to winning many races, not just the next one.

In the world of automobile racing, sponsorship is the Holy Grail. Although most racers seek it, many never acquire it. Some of those who actually obtain it, sadly lose it. Like most things in my life, I just happened to fall into it.

Although I have been racing since 1996, last year was the first time I started pursuing sponsorships. I never considered it until a friend suggested it to me last May.

The first business that I approached was ATS Racing out of Texas. They specialize in the car that I race and I was already a customer, so it was comfortable and easy to approach them. We easily came to an agreement; ATS became the main sponsor of my car in exchange for a great deal on parts.

Next, I talked to Neil D. Fisher, owner of Fisher's Metal Finishing right here in Reading. I had been working with Fisher on making my engine more attractive through powder coating. I had taken several batches of various engine pieces to him to be coated and on the last batch, Neil and I came to an agreement. He offered some of his services in exchange for his company's name on the car.

This was going great, but now I had to figure out how to get these business' names on the car. Needless to say, I was looking at getting some vinyl lettering done.

I contacted two other businesses that do vinyl work, World Motorsports, Muhlenberg Township, and TurboForum, a Lancaster County-based Web site. I was able to get all the vinyl pieces I needed between the two businesses in exchange for their company names on the car for the 2004 race season.

Then I learned about contingency sponsors. These are typically national companies that pay you cash on the contingency that you win (or come in second place) at a national event while having their sticker and parts on your car. After learning about them, I wrote to a couple of the companies whose products I use and I received sponsorship packets that included their contingency stickers. Now I just have to win a few races so I can collect their sponsorship money.

Throughout the 2004 race season, I managed to get some coverage of my car from various media outlets which ultimately led to more sponsorship possibilities. Apparently, it is easier getting new sponsors when you already have some. It's sort of like how women seem to notice you more when you already have a girlfriend. Ever notice that?

At any rate, Chico Race Works, Chico, Calif., and Wolfkatz Engineering LLC of Pasadena, Calif., both contacted me with sponsorship offers for the 2005 season. I had already been doing business with CRW, so it was not surprising that we worked out a deal. Wolfkatz, however, was a unique experience since I had not done business with them in the past.

Sometime in January, I read an article on Andrew Fischer's eBay auction, offering advertising space on his forehead via temporary tattoo for a period of one month. That auction was won for more than $37,000 by snorestop.com.

Being inspired by that article, I offered advertising space on the front fenders of my race car on eBay. The auction brought in some interesting requests, some jokesters and actually some sincere bidders. Unfortunately, toward the last days of the auction I had some bidders that were being less than genuine and not playing by the eBay rules, so I ended the auction early.

Luckily, I managed to get enough attention from the eBay auction that I was able to secure not just one, but three cash sponsorship deals. Up until then, I only had parts and service sponsors.

Heidi Nolen of Tennessee requested that the words "Rolling Liberty" be put on the fenders of the car. She is actually not advertising a business, she simply enjoyed the idea of sponsoring a race car and she wanted a patriotic message of some sort.

The second agreement came from Tim Walker of Maryland. He is a promoter of the online gambling site LuckyCasino7.com. The third deal came from KBOX.CA, a specialty car-parts supplier in Canada.

As of this past week, I secured my final sponsorship for the 2005 racing season with PA Auto Racing, Souderton, Montgomery County. We had been discussing an arrangement for a few months and everything just finally came together.

If it wasn't for these sponsors, my race car would not be at the level it is, and for that, I am truly grateful. As the days get longer and winter's time gets shorter, the first days of the 2005 race season are fast approaching. Because of the support I have received, I will be ready for that first green light.