Sherwin-Williams' impact to be felt on many levels
May 15, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
Video: Up to Speed from the announcement
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Greg Biffle's No. 16 car was parked in the Great Hall of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday, but that wasn't the vehicle the Sprint Cup star was most interested in. Instead he gazed into the cockpit of a snazzy Daytona Prototype from the GRAND-AM Road Racing Series, rendered all the more dramatic by its opened gull-wing doors.
Those two vehicles, as well as the K&N Pro Series car of C.J. Faison, all had one thing in common -- a little Sherwin-Williams sticker on their front-right quarter-panel. They were each a testament to the investment from NASCAR's newest official partner, which will back contingency awards not just at the sport's top circuit, but across many other levels as well.
"The contingency awards are big, and sometimes we don't talk about them as much as we should."
NASCAR on Wednesday officially announced Sherwin-Williams as an official partner in an agreement that will impact the sport from its premier division to its grass roots. The Cleveland-based paint company will back weekly cash contingency awards not just on the Sprint Cup tour, but also at NASCAR's touring and weekly levels, and the GRAND-AM Road Racing Series.
"Most people when you think of NASCAR, you think of Sprint Cup. But NASCAR has a grass-roots effort as well," NASCAR President Mike Helton said. "It's very important to us, and has been in our entirety. The weekly program, the touring program, the K&N and the Whelen series we work so hard on, are as important to us, relatively, as the Sprint Cup. But it doesn’t get the attention as much."
"Those efforts are important to us. We've always relied on partners to help us build the sport and to build the different series. For a Fortune 500 company such as Sherwin-Williams to step up and go that deep with contingencies at these three levels of our piece of motorsports is very important, and we're very grateful for that."
Sherwin-Williams has sponsored teams over the past 13 years, and will appear on Biffle's Roush Fenway Ford later this season at Kansas Speedway. But the company saw an official partnership as a "natural next step," according to Karl Schmitt, vice president of marketing, research, and design, who lauded both the brand loyalty of NASCAR fans as well as the reach this new multi-tiered agreement provides the company.
"We are actually the first company to be part of a contingency program that runs across the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the GRAND-AM, and also the NASCAR touring and weekly series," Schmitt said. "… We have more than 3,500 store locations across North America, so we can truly partner with NASCAR wherever they are, at any location, at any track."
NASCAR's Whelen All-American Series is a national championship for weekly division drivers contested at roughly 70 short tracks across the United States and Canada. The touring division is comprised of seven circuits: K&N Pro Series East and West, Whelen Modified and Southern Modified, Canadian Tire, Toyota Mexico, and Euro Racecar. For a driver trying to climb the ladder, contingency awards like the one backed by Sherwin-Williams can make a difference.
"The contingency awards are big, and sometimes we don't talk about them as much as we should," Sprint Cup driver David Ragan said. "As a NASCAR late model stock racer at Caraway Speedway, that was something you looked at. Every single week we were in the running for a certain contingency award at the end of the season, and that's another $5,000 or $2,500. Even at the Sprint Cup level, you win a race or you win some of these awards, and it's a big deal for your team, for your pit crew, for us as drivers. So it definitely is a cool thing to have that."
Ragan, who started at local short tracks and won two weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway, said contingency awards can fund an entire race weekend for some weekly series drivers, or help others take the step up to the touring division.
"That's a big deal, absolutely, and that's great," he said. "Because that's where the next generation of not only pit crew members and drivers are coming from, but also fans. You go to these local short tracks and you see a lot of young kids. My family owns a local short track down in south Georgia, and I think that’s the next generation, and it’s suffered some over the last decade. It’s important for companies like Sherwin-Williams to believe in the future, and for NASCAR to kind of steer everyone that way to reinvest in the short tracks, and eventually it will come back and help the big tracks.”
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