MADISON, Ill. (May 2, 2010) – Dave Damba, a full-time commercial airplane pilot who owns two NAPA AUTO PARTS stores in St. Louis, was selected as the eighth NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member of the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series at this weekend's 14th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals.
Damba, 45, purchased his first store two years ago as an investment. "Iíve always been a car or truck parts kind of mechanic," he said. "I always work on things myself and an opportunity came up to buy a NAPA store and I took it, and Iíve had a good time with it. It was a good investment to help with my kids' future, so I had a chance to buy a second store earlier this month and thatís where we are today."
Originally from upstate New York, Damba has followed NHRA drag racing and NASCAR competition but has never been seriously involved himself. "When I was younger I used to do truck pulls," he said. "It's similar to tractor pulls, but I've never done it professionally, just locally, where I grew up near the Buffalo-Rochester area. I don't do any truck pulls anymore, but I do work on my own Dodge Ram Diesel truck.
"I think this is pretty cool," he said of his first visit to the Don Schumacher Racing pit area and to the drag strip at Gateway International Raceway. "This is the first time Iíve been behind the scenes on the professional side of racing and this is awesome. This setup is great. I've been at Gateway before for a Nationwide Series race, but never for NHRA."
Damba was surprised by the invitation to be the NAPA Honorary Crew Member. "I got a phone call asking if I wanted to do it. Itís a great opportunity, Iím excited to do it. I donít know how NAPA picked me but Iím glad they did. Our relationship with NAPA is awesome. Itís a great group of people to work with. I couldnít be happier working with the NAPA Distribution Center in Mt. Vernon, Ill."
Jeff Hundley, sales manager at the NAPA Distribution Center in Mt. Vernon, explained how Damba was selected. ďDave is a relatively new store owner," he said. "Dave came to us about two years ago and basically bought an existing NAPA store and has completely turned it around. Heís more than tripled the sales in a year and a half. Recently - in fact, just last week - he took ownership of his second store.
"Dave stepped up and helped us out with a store that was struggling and he took on the challenge of buying this second store and has already, obviously in a very short period of time, had great results with that as well. So he was chosen to be our official representative because of his dedication and great spirit."
As for NAPA's relationship with DSR and NHRA racing, Hundley echoed the sentiments heard from other NAPA representatives around the country. "I think it's absolutely fabulous," he said. "In fact, I spent the day at the track on Friday and had all of my guys out at here and let them feel the excitement of the sport as well. It helps carry the word out in the street to our customers. Unlike other sporting events, it is truly a unique experience. Itís very hands-on, up-close-and-personal. The entire DSR racing team provides a great atmosphere and a positive experience and I think NHRA is probably one of the better venues that we participate in."
Damba's non-wrenching crew-member duties included escorting the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car to the staging lanes for Saturday's qualifying rounds. He then helped retrieve the car at the end of the track after each run.
The side of the NAPA Dodge sported Damba's name as the NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member this weekend.
The side of the NAPA Dodge sported Neil's name as the NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member this weekend.
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.
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.