RICHMOND, Va. – Dan Ritchie always puts his customers first and last Saturday night, the tables were turned on him. Ritchie was recognized by NAPA AUTO PARTS as its Honorary Pit Crew Member for the Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
“This is a really neat concept,” said Ritchie who brought one of his customers, Steve Maier with him to take part in NAPA’s new program for valued customers. “To see my name on the car was very different. That was pretty impressive. It’s my 15 minutes of fame!”
Ritchie, of Fredericksburg, Va., is the owner of Express Auto Service. He started his company 20 years ago because he knew he could provide a much better experience for customers than the dealerships where he worked in the early stages of his career.
“I have been a customer of Dan’s for almost 14 years,” said Maier, also of Fredericksburg. “What has impressed me most about his business is he is so customer focused. The employees are on it. They are always asking customers what they can do for them. They keep you up to date on the status of your car. Customers just don’t sit in a waiting room and wonder when their car is going to be done.”
Over the course of time, Express Auto Service has grown to 20 bays, two buildings and 24 employees. In January, his company joined forces with NAPA by becoming a member of the Integrated Business Solutions (IBS) program – a program that has become a huge help to Ritchie.
“My business is a NAPA AutoCare Center and we concentrate on two aspects – quick service and a full-repair shop. We take care of all of our customers’ needs whether it is something quick or something more involved.
“NAPA has been wonderful. I am a part of the NAPA IBS program. Thanks to the program, I now have an in-house NAPA store. It has helped us get parts quicker, on time and accurate. Our expertise is not in parts management so they help us so all we have to do is focus on fixing the car. Being a part of the IBS program has taken a load off of me”
Ritchie is not new to NASCAR races. He was fortunate to wave the green flag at the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 2003. It was at that time when he met NAPA’s Michael Waltrip at driver introductions.
“I got to shake Michael’s hand and realized just how tall he is,” remarked Ritchie. “He’s been a wonderful ambassador for NAPA. He gets it.”
Ritchie and Maier arrived in Richmond after a one hour drive to catch up with Waltrip at his appearance at the NAPA Race Day Experience. The two-time Daytona 500 champion presented Ritchie with an autographed crew shirt. From there, they were taken to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage where they got a personal tour of the garage, NAPA team hauler and pit road by Michael Waltrip Racing’s Rick Wainright. He joined the NAPA team for dinner and then headed out to pit road to participate in pre-race activities with Waltrip and the NAPA Racing team.
“I enjoyed all the one-on-one time with all the people at Michael Waltrip Racing,” commented Ritchie. “I enjoyed hearing how things work– from competition, marketing and public relations. What makes a company run is interesting. I am fascinated. Michael Waltrip Racing is more than people who show up at a track and make the car go fast.”
For the remainder of the night, Ritchie and Maier watched the race from the NAPA pit box and listened in on the team’s radio. “It’s a shame the team had problems on pit road,” said Ritchie. “There were some controversies. Michael had a really good car. It would have been great to have gone to victory lane with him.”
This season at 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup events where NAPA is hosting its popular Race Day Experience, a guest will be chosen based on different criteria determined by the NAPA management from that region. The Honorary Pit Crew Member program will take place at upcoming hospitality events at Kansas Speedway (October 4), Texas Motor Speedway (November 8) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (November 22).