26 A s the spring thaw settles in, car enthusiasts across the nation slowly begin to emerge from the dark sanctuary of their garages—sleepy eyes blinking against the bright sunshine, disbelief etched on their faces as comprehension slowly dawns. The gloomy curtain of winter sadness has, once again, lifted to reveal something better than warmweather and blue skies: RACE SEASON. Gearheads everywhere are descending into a frenzy of final preparations, and they’ll be turning to you to help cut weight and make choice upgrades before it’s go-time. You’ve prepared for this: the planograms are drawn, new product recommendations are locked in, and a marketing plan is already in the works. So, what’s left? Networking. Get out there and hit the event circuit with them. It’s a great way to connect with your current customer base, keep a pulse on the industry, and, in turn, build business. Ask yourself: What is it that I offer my customers? The answer always should be more than just ‘a good deal.’ The knowledge you acquire attending races and meeting influencers within the segment will prove instrumental in helping you stay on trend and ahead of the curve. We’ve compiled a list of some major racing events to have on your radar. Fromoff-road to drag strip, UTV to traditional muscle, there’s a little something for everyone—meaning you can zone in on current customers or test the waters and consider some diversification. BF Goodrich Tires Mint 400 Instituted in 1968, this popular racing event, winding through 400 miles of Las Vegas desert, grew from an entertaining public relations stunt into “The Great American Off-Road Race.” Now owned by action sports filmmakers, the Martelli Brothers, the Mint 400 has expanded dramatically in recent years into a can’t-miss desert racing event. For this year’s race (running March 6 – 10), motorcycles will return for the first time since 1976—competing on a grueling single-track course—and a second racing day has been added to the docket, ensuring big crowds and bigger thrills. Modern off- road technology combined with a classic racing vibe promises some interesting and illuminating conversations with fans and racers alike. 2019 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series The 18th season kicked off February 1 in Orlando but with 44 divisional and 25 regional events, there is still plenty of high- octane fun to be found over the next few months. A new location joins the lineup this year (the Tucson Raceway in Arizona) and some exciting doubleheaders are scheduled at the Texas Motorplex, Mission Raceway, Heartland Motorsports Park, and Sonoma Raceway. Check out the NHRA’s official website for the full schedule and find a race near you. Bring the family and be sure to share those photos on your business’s social media. A picture’s worth a thousand words— and it shows your customers that you share in their enthusiasm. Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Kicking off March 16 with the SoCal Shootout at the Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California, the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series blends modern West Coast vibes with traditional Midwest short- course racing. Eleven classes featuring UTVs, karts, buggies, as well as mid-size and full-size trucks brings intense 4x4 action in all shapes and sizes. These events run like giant, family-friendly festivals so take advantage. Immerse yourself in the action, meet the drivers, mingle with fans, and ask plenty of questions. Find out what kind of modifications drivers are making to their rides and what it is that spectators are most looking forward to. This knowledge can help you better target social media outreach, revise shop displays, and increase strategic promotional activity. 50th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals As part of theMello YelloDrag Racing Series, the Gatornationals is one of the NHRA’s longest standing annual events. Running March 14 – 17 at the spirited Gainesville Raceway in Florida, this year marks a special 50th anniversary of intense drag-racing fun. With plenty of NHRA legends in attendance, this would be a great opportunity to get some autographedmemorabilia for the shop or even a first-person rundown for the company blog. Toughest Monster Truck Tour While not a traditional racing event, monster truck rallies still draw impressive crowds and talented wrenchers. Crushed metal, flying dirt, and death-defying wheelies are an added bonus. The Toughest Monster Truck Tour, featuring the best-of-the-best, started in January but runs into mid-April, ending with a championship weekend April 13 in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Bring the kids (and some ear plugs) and spend some time at the Pit Party. Monster Truck drivers Ready, Set, Race: Mark Your Calendars Make Your Shop Visible at the Grassroots Level