Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TRG, David Gilliland & Gilly's Gang: A Kind of Magic!

Proposed sticker for #71 TRG car at Martinsville.

Its a kind of magic

Its a kind of magic
A kind of magic
One dream one soul one prize one goal
One golden glance of what should be
Its a kind of magic
One shaft of light that shows the way!

(from A Kind of Magic, by Queen, movie Highlander)

Yesterday, I blogged a comparison of Yates Racing and TRG (The Racer's Group)! I discussed the magic that appears to be brewing at TRG, with wonderful chemistry between Driver, Crew Chief and Owner. Today, I want the NASCAR world to know that the magic continues. A special Kind of Magic.

Last year, the fans of David Gilliland, calling ourselves Gilly's Gang, attempted to contribute financially to David's team. We knew that it took a lot of money, but the dollar figure we were given was daunting. Frankly, we gave up!

This year, David has a new ride and a new owner. We wanted to reach out, but after the reaction to our attempts last year, we expected nothing different from TRG. One member pressed forward anyway, and on Monday of this week, received a response from Lloyd Wideman, TRG Marketing Director! His response:

Good Morning and Happy Monday!

My name is Lloyd Wideman, I am the Director of Marketing for TRG Motorsports. I spoke with Daniela just before getting out and on the road to Bristol about getting the Fan Club on the race car for one or more events... How could I turn down a fellow Missourian???

I ran some concepts past the ownership and spoke to David about the ideas... Here is what we have to work with:

What ever the amount of money you raise, $5 or $5000... we will provide you with the Deck Lid (trunk) for a race. The entire space is yours to do whatever you want with it.

We can put Martinsville together pretty quickly if ya'll would like to do it there!

If you need help developing a concept, please let me know.

As we speak, Gilly's Gang is in the process of gathering funds. There is an amazing amount of interest, and members are contributing whatever they can, and the Gang is accepting ANY amount!

Marketing folks are the unsung heroes of most businesses, and most especially in NASCAR. This sport does not run entirely on good looks, good faith, and good results. It takes real money to get those rolling billboards on the track. The marketing department of any race team is busy finding ways to persuade sponsors that their team is a good deal. Deals can be on the verge of a signature, and then get hijacked by other teams and THEIR marketing departments. The marketing teams are the ones chasing the leads, following up, and helping to negotiate the deals, while the owners and drivers get all of the attention during the announcements.

It is understandable that some of the larger teams might be reluctant to have a 'fan sticker' on a car. Accepting a less-than-market-value amount might cause a reaction similar to Retail Sale Syndrome (where buyers will hold off purchasing because they know it will be cheaper in the future) and cause other potential sponsors to balk at paying the amount that is really needed. This is probably the reason for the response from Yates last year, and is totally understandable.

The other part of being a Marketing Guru is in knowing that there are opportunities with any idea. And sometimes, the simplest idea can turn into a huge opportunity to sell a story, or a concept, or a sponsorship. It is always challenging for Marketing folks who have to prove to the owners that there is 'value' in any idea. But savvy marketers will at least try the idea, and see if it works. Taking chances is part of any NASCAR driver's race, but the marketing team finds it harder to present those dangerous chances to the owners, as they are never sure how ANY deal will work out. TRG is taking a chance with this concept, but the fan response has been energetic and exciting to watch!

David's fans know that it may be challenging to come up with the amount of money that TRG REALLY needs for the whole deck lid, or even the stickers on the wing mounts. But, we do know that we are being heard as fans, and we are excited to know that we indeed have an opportunity to contribute. Racing would not exist without it's fans, and TRG seems to understand that fans want to participate on a grass roots level.

Kevin Buckler of TRG told SpeedTV's Dave Despain that he has no problems with tweaking the angle of a team and driver in the middle of a Cinderella Story. However, Cinderella did not find her Prince without the help of Magic! And the fans, in this case, are providing Magic to help their driver, and his team! A Kind of Magic, indeed!

If you wish to be a part of the magic, go to www.davidgilliland.com, and sign up for the Fan Circuit. On that message board, you will see instructions on how to contribute. If you wish to not join but want to contribute, please feel free to email me, and I will give you all of the needed information! Join in the magic!

Monday, March 23, 2009

David Gilliland: Another Cinderella Story?

Photo by Snafam

Bristol has taken its toll on many of the competitors. The #82 Red Bull car, driven by Scott Speed, is below the Go or Go Home bubble, tied with the #8 car of the Ganassi/DEI stable, driven by Aric Almirola. Two of the 3 Yates Racing entries, the 28 of Travis Kvapil and the 98 of Paul Menard, are still solidly below the bubble. More on that subject coming up!

We have good news this week, and we have bad news! First the bad news!

Travis Kvapil will most likely not be in the 28 car at Martinsville. Multiple sources on the web report that Yates Racing will suspend operations for the 28, unless a miracle happens and a sponsor shows up with dollars in hand, by Wednesday of this week.

This has been a source of frustration for many on the web, especially long-time fans of the storied #28 of Robert Yates Racing fame. Last year, David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil performed exactly to their instructions, to get the most out of the car and to do everything they could to grab the attention of sponsors. Both drivers had their cars solidly in the Top 35. For this year, due to a reported lack of sponsorship, David Gilliland was given his walking papers, and his points were given to the #96 car of Bobby Labonte. Travis was given a 5 race bye to perform and find a sponsor, but his points were transferred to the #98 car of Paul Menard.

After the first 5 races, Travis suffered from not qualifying for the Vegas race and a blown engine at Atlanta. He had, however, a splendid run at Bristol, with a 10 to 15 lap battle with Kyle Busch, to try and maintain his lead lap. Finishing 18th, it may be too little, too late. And after the first five races, team mate Paul Menard now joins the ranks of those who have to qualify on merit, rather than inheriting the efforts of someone else. (To be fair, he would have been 'in' the race if he could have used his points from DEI, but he also stated on Sirius, over the off-season, his contract required that he would have Top 35 points available to him for the first five races of 2009.

Many feel that Travis is getting the short end of the stick, when it is obvious that he can get the job done, and when it is widely felt that Paul Menard has squandered away the points, and the opportunity that was provided to him from other than his own efforts.

As a David Gilliland fan, I too should be feeling the same way. However, David opted out of his contract with Yates Racing, missing the Daytona 500. By the time that the Auto Club Speedway race rolled around, David had a 4 race deal with start-up team TRG, The Racers Group, led by motorsports enthusiast Kevin Buckler. And that, leads to the good news! TRG team 71 left Bristol in the top 35 in owner's points, thereby insuring that they have a qualifying spot reserved for them at Martinsville!

Start up, or upstart?

Is TRG a start up team, or an upstart team? A bit of both, it appears! Buckler has a solid racing history, dating back to 1988, and most recently in the Grand-Am series, with his GT cars winning 1st and 2nd at the 2009 24 hours of Daytona. Started from a garage operation in 1994, Kevin and wife Debra built their businesses to success in many areas, including the TRG enterprise, and the Adobe Road Wines. Kevin dangled his toes in the NASCAR pool last year, with 1 win in the (then) Craftsman Truck Series, by driver Donny Lia.

The 'bad' economy, which has so negatively impacted many both in and out of racing, gave Buckler the opportunity to jump into Cup racing. Starting with a single car, the team failed to qualify for the Daytona 500. Buckler then hired David Gilliland, and brought in crew chief Slugger Labbe. Both Gilliland and Labbe have proven to be a cohesive force, and dropping the cars firmly into the Top 35 after Bristol. They now have 4 cars, and ten employees!

It's a kind of magic!

There appears to be a certain magic with this team. Even though they did not have the best of runs at Bristol, (a lugnut penalty and two green flag flat tire changes were to blame!) they stuck it out and still finished in the Top 35. The chemistry between Gilliland and Labbe is amazing! Many reports have statements from Driver, Crew Chief and Owner, all saying how much fun they are having. This team is the epitome of grass roots racing. Gilliland's first three races were in the same car. And the first two races were on the same transmission. The team left California, headed to Vegas, and spent a few days in a casino parking lot preparing and painting the car for the Las Vegas event. Very old school! Their pit crew is rented, and they have been know to hustle for tires on pit road, from competitors who have fallen out of the race early. They are bare bones, with a plain pit box. However, it is apparent that they are not scrimping on parts, as their runs have been good, but tied up with misfortune not of their making!

Magic, or a hunger to succeed?

Perhaps it is not all magic! TRG recently took the time to send out a press release in an off week. The whole purpose of the release was to remind the media that there was a Cinderella story brewing. Since the NASCAR teams were on an off-week, this placed the TRG firmly in the middle of the mind of the media, resulting in multiple articles and interviews, leading up to race day. Even late last night, after the race, TRG was busy making sure that all of the media outlets had their post-race reports in their email boxes by the start of today's business day.

Evidently, it takes work to make magic! Perhaps the Yates Racing team needs to look at what is happening with The Racers Group, as they are doing better than two of the Yates cars, with even less funding. They are most certainly working to make that magic! As for Slugger Labbe, David Gilliland and TRG, magic indeed! And as for the fans of the 71 team, we are all completely enchanted!