Local firm revved up for SplitFire DeWalt sponsors Dotter at Dover AUTO RACING

September 18, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

Here's a switch. In auto racing, winning or finishing among the top 10 can mean the difference between keeping and losing a sponsor, but when Busch Grand National driver Bobby Dotter races around Dover International Speedway this afternoon in the SplitFire Spark Plugs 200, his finish won't matter to his Baltimore-based sponsor, DeWalt Industrial Tools.

"We said from the beginning that we weren't interested in the television exposure, the car exposure or the racing results," said Tracy Bilbrough, DeWalt's vice president of sales and marketing for professional products. "What we wanted was to meet people at the tracks and demonstrate our tools. At some of the races, people have been 10-deep waiting in lines to try our products."

DeWalt, a division of Black and Decker, is assessing whether it will expand its commitment to a full program next season or continue with a limited plan. Just how much a limited sponsorship is varies, but most go from $5,000 to $10,000 a race. A full, top-of-the-line commitment can run from $500,000 to $1 million.

"Our feeling is that we get a tremendous return from what we invest," said Mike Weatherread, director of marketing. "We know where our money is spent and how it is spent. We know Team R is not a frivolous operation and our goal is to be the full-time sponsor for the 28-race season next year. But it is painful for us because it will be a big part of our promotional budget."

Before undertaking the limited sponsorship this season, DeWalt had followed more traditional avenues of marketing -- radio and print ads.

"There is no denying the demographic of the people who come to Grand National and even Winston Cup races are the kind of people we're trying to reach," said Weatherread, who was unfamiliar with the sport before this season. "People who come are people who use tools for a living. They are also brand loyal."

Today at Dover, more than 300 Black and Decker employees from plants in Hampstead and Easton will be clad in the sponsor's yellow T-shirts cheering Dotter.

DeWalt has enabled Dotter, 33, to move into the top 10 in the Busch points race for the first time in his four-year Grand National career. He is ranked seventh, having two top-five and one top-10 finish in his past three outings.

"Their sponsorship has taken us from just going racing to going with the attitude that we can run up front," Dotter said. "We can now afford to buy some tires."

That is no small feat. It takes four sets of tires at a total cost of about $5,000 for just one race.

* A crash yesterday at Dover Downs has left NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Brett Bodine hospitalized with a broken right wrist.

Bodine's older brother Geoff, also a driver, expressed concern that Brett likely has a concussion, too.

"He was very woozy, almost out for a while. . . . I don't think he knew me," said Geoff.

Brett, 34, who drives a Ford for the team owned by Kenny Bernstein, slammed into the Turn 2 wall at the one-mile track during practice for the Splitfire Spark Plug 500.

Dick Trickle will drive if Bodine, who has 168 straight starts, is unable to. Ford sources said Bodine's racing status is doubtful.

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