A “Whatever it takes” attitude will help a David beat a Goliath anytime.
Here’s an excerpt from FUELIN’ AROUND and exemplifies the extra effort, many times creative, that VP employees, dealers, and racers did for the cause.
That “whatever it takes” attitude ran through everyone’s blood at VP. When the same push back came at Volusia in Florida, Tommy Chapman made a deal with a property owner right across the street and set up a fuel truck. When Sunoco had the deal for a race at Sebring, Fred and Mark Klein from Florida would deliver drums to teams late at night. When Watkins Glen wouldn’t let me make a delivery to the Archer Brothers for their Trans Am entry years back, later in the day I met the team and rolled the drums under the cyclone fencing. Sure, sometimes the police or a fire marshal would stop by but by the time they arrived we were usually asked, “What drums?” Sometimes it was the attitude of the gatekeepers or the arrogance of the Goliath dealer that fired us up even more.
We all know for every action there is a reaction and back at Syracuse, Donnelly finally decided to make a big move. Now, if a racer wanted to receive Sunoco’s portion of the point fun money at the year-end banquet you needed to fuel exclusively with Sunoco. Not just that but you had to run their decals and patches and couldn’t run any from a competing brand. Some racers followed suit while others might have forgotten about it or thought it was just an idle threat, but boy, were some people “surprised” at the banquet.
The top 10 or so racers from each class were presented with an envelope. Inside was a check or in some cases, a note that read to the effect: “Had you participated in the (then) Official Fuel Program you would have been entitled to $25,000. As you did not, you will not receive any funds from the fuel portion of the point fund.” Ouch. We had secured a bunch of customers, gotten around many of the roadblocks, and kept building momentum but the note in some of those envelopes was like a gun going off. I’m talking someone just shot our DIRT sales in the head, not the starter pistol kind. Holy Shit is all I could keep thinking.
“Hang in there guys,” is the best I could tell any of our customers who were out a bunch of point fund money. They liked VP. They knew it ran better that the other brand. They just couldn’t afford to give up anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000. For the non-professional racer who operated without sponsorship support, which was many of them, they counted on those funds to make it through the winter. We needed to do something and do it fast.
Within a few days I had sent formal letters to the teams stating that going forward we would match the money they forfeited by running our fuel. If they couldn’t run VP Racing Fuel decals on their cars then we gave teams VP racing lubricant ones to use. To help many of the teams who missed out on the point fund fuel money we gave them some drums of free fuel that they could in turn sell to snowmobile racers up in New York and use the cash to help pay some winter bills.
At the start of the next season, big names like Brett Hearn were on the VP program and flying our colors. The guy’s smart, presents himself very well, wins a ton of races, and knew the value of making more power AND having an engine run at cooler operating temperatures on those hot July nights. I still have the photo of Brett posing in front of his pole winning DIRT Modified at Super DIRT Week. He won the pole on VP and a month or so later at the awards banquet he got the envelope that said he missed out on $18,000 in fuel point fund money. It was expensive for us but if you’re in it for the long haul then you dig in and keep going.
To find out more about how things went from there, check out Fuelin’ Around in paperback or Kindle. Mike Christopher said, “I read it from cover to cover. I couldn’t put it down.” Bruce Larson added, “Your book is great,” and many other editors, racers and fans have shared very similar comments. Click back to books and you can order now.