Chris Arnold, owner of San Rafael Firestone, an auto repair shop in San Rafael, Calif., was selected as the 17th NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series at the NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway this weekend.

Chris Arnold

Arnold, from nearby Cotati, Calif., where he's resided for 24 years, has been operating his business for 35 seasons. "We're not a NAPA AutoCare Center, but we do get 99 percent of our parts from NAPA," he said.

"We have a very good relationship with NAPA. We've been using NAPA parts off and on for the last 35 years and more so in the last two years."

While he's not into motorsports in general, Arnold, 55, said he does watch NHRA drag racing on TV and that this was his first visit to the NHRA Nationals at Infineon. The closest he's gotten to drag racing himself was when he visited an amusement park in Los Angeles. "They had dragsters there," he said. "It was all computer-controlled, of course, but you got the thrill of getting in the car, stepping on the gas pedal with the foot on the brake and when the light changed you went for it. And that was a kick, an adrenaline rush. I lost so I don’t think I’ll make a career move."

Arnold's non-wrenching crew-member duties included escorting the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car to the staging lanes for the eliminations rounds on Sunday. He then helped retrieve the car at the end of the track following NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car driver Ron Capps' runs.

"It was great to meet Ron Capps and have the opportunity to be a part of what the actual crew does on race day. It was an incredible experience," added Arnold, 55.

Joe Lockard, Sales Manager for NAPA Distribution Center Sacramento, explained the selection process: "We had a contest for 50 repair shops that are served by NAPA stores and we challenged them to have an increase in sales with their NAPA store. And Chris's shop had a $26,000 increase over last year, which was almost double over a four-month period. It was the biggest increase out of any of the 50 shops that participated.

"I think this is a tremendous program," added Lockard. "It gets our customers very excited. I think our Distribution Centers can leverage this Honorary Crew Member program to grow their business with our wholesale customers with their stores. I also think it's unique in the automotive aftermarket to have this kind of a partnership that we have with Don Schumacher Racing and Ron Capps as the driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge."  

The side window of the NAPA Dodge sported Arnold's name as the NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member throughout the weekend.

Arnold also met and chatted with the entire NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car crew, was a special guest in the NAPA hospitality area throughout the weekend, received a NAPA team jersey, experienced an up-close-and-personal view of the NAPA crew as the team worked on the car, and enjoyed a private tour of the team transporter and pit area.

NAPA AUTO PARTS Distribution Centers at each NHRA event during the season have different criteria for choosing the persons who are potential NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Members.