DINWIDDIE, Va. (Oct. 11, 2009) – Robert West, owner and operator of West Service Center, an automotive and truck repair facility in Chesapeake, Va., was selected as the 25th NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series at the NHRA Virginia Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park, just south of Richmond, Va.
West, 54, who had been president of the Business Development Group of NAPA AutoCare Centers for four years and currently sits on the advisory board of the BDG, made his first visit to VMP this weekend. "We run a very large shop, with 24 employees, and our leisure time is limited," he said. "We don't get to the races often. Our children are grown now, so this is the first time my wife Deborah and I have been to a race in 20 years.
"My brother Charlie is involved in racing, as one of the local guys racing here at VMP in a Dodge called the 'Bone Shaker.' I follow all forms of motorsports, though, and my son and I built a '66 Chevy II Nova Super Sport for the street, which is pretty hot. We don't mess with race cars at our shop. We're too busy for that, but it's in my blood."
As for his longtime connection with NAPA AUTO PARTS, "We've been a NAPA AutoCare Center for over 20 years," he said. "Our relationship with NAPA AUTO PARTS has been fantastic. NAPA helped us become a professional shop and also brought quality to the shop as far as its image was concerned.
"NAPA helped us with all the needs of running a repair shop, including a lot of tools. When I say tools, I mean in all areas, from management back down into the shop. The support I get out of the parts department and also the management team continues to be very good for us."
Chris Rice, General Manager, NAPA Distribution Center Richmond, was on hand to present the award to West. "Robert has been a NAPA AutoCare Center member since 1983," he said. "This year he's serving on the national NAPA AutoCare advisory council in Atlanta, and that's a select group of AutoCare Centers from across the country that meet two or three times in Atlanta. They actually help the marketing and sales people plus the people that run the AutoCare program with strong direction.
"The AutoCare program includes a little over 13,000 NAPA AutoCare Centers nationwide and since Robert's been a member for so many years, since 1983, he knows the AutoCare program inside and out. We're pretty proud of the fact that he's been selected.
"We didn't run any contests. We just felt that, because of his accomplishments and the fact that he was chosen to be on the national council, it was only appropriate that he be selected."
West's non-wrenching crew-member duties included escorting the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car to the staging lanes for the two rounds of Funny Car qualifying on Saturday. He then helped retrieve the car at the end of the track after each pass.
"I was very surprised to get this honor," he said. "I was really excited when I was told about it. I've never been to Virginia Motorsports Park. It's very impressive and being a crew member on the NAPA Dodge, even though I don't have any actual wrenching chores, is just incredible. To make sure I got with the program, I went on the Internet to read up on it a little bit the last few days.”
Continued Rice: "The BDG is where a localized group of AutoCare Centers will get together, either for advertising or sales efforts. The Virginia Beach area is doing something a little more special and it has to do with working with the local community colleges to help bring new technicians into our industry. In fact, they're working on a scholarship program currently and it's unique in our industry. Hats off to Robert and the group down in Virginia Beach.
"Right now there's a real need for technicians in the automotive aftermarket and especially through the NAPA AutoCare Centers, and that group is doing a lot of special things to bring people into our industry."
The side window of the NAPA Dodge sported West's name as the NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member this weekend.
He 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.