Caterpillar Marks 10th Season in NASCAR Racing

Fri February 21, 2003 - Northeast Edition
James Van Horn

Can lightning strike twice in the same place? The folks at Caterpillar Inc. and the Caterpillar dealerships hope so — especially when the place is Daytona, FL, site of the 45th running of the Daytona 500, the auto race that kicks off NASCAR’s Winston Cup 2003 season Feb. 16.

A year ago, Cat’s Ward Burton, driving his familiar No. 22 Dodge for Bill Davis Racing, pulled off an upset victory at Daytona, winning by only .2 second and leading only four laps out of 200 — fortunately for him, the last four. (Daytona is considered by many to be the “Super Bowl” of NASCAR racing. )

Cat, Ward Burton and the Bill Davis team hope to pull off another victory this year at Daytona. Caterpillar recently re-signed with Bill Davis Racing as the primary sponsor of Ward Burton and No. 22 for another five years, according to Greg Towles, director of racing programs for Caterpillar.

This year marks Caterpillar’s 10th year in NASCAR; the company began as an associate sponsor in the Winston Cup series in 1993 and later added a car in the Busch Series and a truck in the Craftsman Truck Circuit.

In 1999 Caterpillar went with Bill Davis and Ward Burton in the Winston Cup as primary sponsor, as well as taking on an associate sponsorship for its Cat Rental Stores in the Craftsman Truck Series. This year, Cat Rental is an associate sponsor of the No. 22. Towles noted that NASCAR is the only racing league Cat is involved with. Caterpillar is only one of two primary sponsors in the Winston Cup Series that does not market directly, strictly speaking, to the broad consumer market, like makers of breakfast cereals and soft drinks. (W.W. Grainger, an industrial wholesaler, is the other.) Despite that, Towles said, “The Winston Cup sponsorship has been excellent for us.” He listed the benefits:

1. Customer relations.

“We think construction people are the No. 1 auto racing fans as a group, in the world. And, our sponsorship in NASCAR has really enhanced our relationship with customers.”

2. Dealer participation.

“All of our dealers have rallied to support this program. And, it’s not too often a manufacturer gets nearly 100-percent dealer participation in a program. In fact,” Towles said, “Cat dealers have thrown their racing support entirely behind Cat’s Winston Cup program.”

3. Sales of merchandise.

“We generate millions of dollars a year in selling model cars, clothing, caps and other Cat/NASCAR merchandise.”

4. Television exposure.

“In the 2002 Winston Cup Series, we determined that we received $35 million in television time. This is based on measurements collected by market research firm Joyce Julius and Associates who measured the time our name appeared on the television screen and compared it with prices for comparable 30-second television spots.” He said Ward Burton’s victory at Daytona last year alone resulted in $9.5 million in worldwide media coverage. “This generates an enormous amount of public awareness for Caterpillar and the Caterpillar brand.”

5. Employee morale.

“Many of our employees are big auto racing fans and they really have gotten behind the program.”

So, for Caterpillar, according to Towles, Winston Cup racing represents a good return on investment, both tangible and intangible.

The Daytona 500 is the first of approximately 40 events on the Winston Cup schedule, which fittingly ends next December in Florida — at Homestead with the Ford 400.

Daytona Beach also is one of the venues where the 53-year-old NASCAR started, with informal stock car races on the wide hard-packed sand beach. The first track race, in 1959, resulted in a finish that took race officials, who scanned movies and photos, three days to decide. Lee Petty, father of Richard, edged Johnny Beauchamp by a margin of 2 ft. (a little less than Ward Burton’s in 2002 but not much). Richard Petty incidentally, also ran in that race, finishing 57th. Later, of course, he went on to become one of the winningest racers and an icon in NASCAR history. (Interestingly, in the first days of NASCAR racing, cars really were stock, right off a dealer’s lot with almost no modifications, because both cars and parts were still relatively scarce in the postwar era. )

In 2002, Ward Burton earned $4.8 million, won two races and finished 25th in the Winston Cup standings. A native of Danville, VA, Ward Burton began racing go-karts at age 8. He later drove Street Stock and Late Model Stock Cars on Virginia short tracks and was voted the most popular driver there in 1989. In 1990, he joined the Busch Series and moved up to the Winston Cup in 1994, when he competed for rookie of the year, finishing behind his brother, Jeff. Ward’s first big league career win came in 1996 when he claimed the checkered flag at the fall Rockingham (VA) Winston Cup event.

Ward Burton holds five career Winston Cup victories and has won at 1east one race in each of the past three seasons. He has earned more than $17 million in his Winston Cup career.

Outside of racing, Ward Burton is involved with wildlife and environmental conservation. In fact, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Burton and representatives from Caterpillar will be working together to promote wildlife conservation and education, and to highlight the importance of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which will celebrate its 100th birthday this March.

“The National Wildlife Refuge System would not be what it is today,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams, “without dedicated partners concerned about wildlife conservation who were willing to put forth a lot of hard work.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Much of the hard work on refuges involves on-the ground habitat restoration, from stabilizing stream banks, to constructing water delivery systems for properly functioning wetlands. Such endeavors require the use of heavy equipment, the kind of machines made by Caterpillar.

“At Caterpillar, we’re committed to social responsibility,” said Caterpillar Vice President Steve Gosselin. “We’re proud of our involvement in conservation and particularly our relationship with the National Wildlife Refuge System. It has a great legacy that can be enjoyed by current and future generations.”

Ward Burton is uniquely qualified to promote the National Wildlife Refuge System. An avid outdoorsman and conservationist, he founded the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation in 1996, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the natural environment for future generations. The organization focuses on both habitat enhancement and youth education projects. Currently 2,100 acres are owned or managed by the foundation.

Burton has agreed to participate in three Public Service Announcements promoting the National Wildlife Refuge System; display a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge logo on his racing uniform: and serve as a refuge spokesperson during media appearances.

“Preserving our natural resources,” said Burton, “has become a passion that was instilled in me by my father and my grandfather.

I believe that it is the inherent responsibility of all sportsmen and conservationists to preserve the wildlife, habitats, traditions, and values we hold so dear.”

It was another sportsman’s similar sense of responsibility that accounts for the establishment of the National Wildlife Refuge System a century ago. On March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside a 3-acre island off the coast of Florida as a preserve for waterfowl. It proved to be a great milestone in conservation history; the refuge system, administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service, now encompasses 95-million acres on 540 wildlife refuges in all 50 states.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.