BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 16, 2009) – Barry Whitmore, of Cottage Grove, Minn., was selected as the 18th NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series today at the 28th annual NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
General Manager for over three years of two NAPA AUTO PARTS stores in Newport and Inver Grove Heights, both suburbs of the Twin Cities, Whitmore, 51, enjoyed a rainy day in Brainerd before he was able to participate in his crew-member duties.
"I think it's great. I've never done anything like this before," he said, although he has been coming to this event off and on for the last 25 years, and even "pitted here for a couple of years in the early '80s with a guy that had two drag-racing cars. So, I've actually been up at the starting line before," he added.
"Our relationship with NAPA is extremely good," Whitmore said. "They take good care of us. They have a lot of good programs for our dealers that allow us to lock in our customers real well with us. We actually have 12 customers that I brought up here for this event this weekend."
Chris Wall, Sales Manager of the NAPA Distribution Center in Minneapolis, helped present the honor to Whitmore today in the Don Schumacher Racing hospitality area.
"Out of our roughly 250 stores that we have, we did a contest based on sales increase between the Owatonna Distribution Center and the Minneapolis Distribution Center," he said. "And we took those guys from the top 20 and we then drew their names out of a hat. It was based on the sale increase, but then it was kind of luck of the draw towards the end.
"The NAPA stores where Barry is General Manager were actually a changeover from a competitor about three years ago that we got. They've been great customers ever since. The owner also owns a couple of NAPA stores, six or seven Goodyear locations, and other stores. They're very good guys to deal with, quite honestly.
"This program gives our customers a chance to experience the sponsorship up close," continued Wall. "So, having those guys be here to enjoy this opportunity and have the Don Schumacher Racing team treat us all so well is phenomenal. It doesn't get any better than that.”
Although Whitmore is not directly involved in motorsports, he has raced a stock Yamaha motorcycle at the former Minnesota Dragway and North Star Speedway.
His 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 Capps' runs.
The side window of the NAPA Dodge sported Whitmore's name as the NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member throughout the weekend.
Whitmore 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.
"It was great," he said. "I had met Ron during some of the NAPA events we had here this weekend, and he's a great guy. The customers I had with me also met him and got his autograph and they really enjoyed it. They feel NAPA is putting on quite a good show here in Brainerd."
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.