Monthly Archives: August 2012

Keystone Marketing

Brad Bennett and Stacie Brenner

In 2002, Mike Grice and Brad Bennett founded Wildfire, a fully integrated marketing communications company located in Winston-Salem. In 2009, they bought Keystone Marketing from Roger Bear, who retired after 20 years at Keystone’s helm. This purchase folded Keystone’s motorsports-related business into Wildfire while retaining the Keystone brand.CEO Brad Bennett and Director of Business Development Stacie Brenner shared their viewpoints of the melding of the two businesses, saying they complemented each other and filled in some missing pieces each had.

The 52 employees – some of whom migrated from Keystone – are responsible for $30M in annual billing. Clients include Hanes, BB&T, National Guard, Wake Forest, Lowes, Mack Truck and Kraft. Its motorsports focus offers creative messaging reaching NASCAR fans, which features 10 components that include traditional media, social media, event signage and more. Field marketing includes product launches and loyalty programs and event planning is offered as well.

Activation, public relations, media planning and ad buys, brand identity and packaging, broadcast, radio and print production, sales promotions and in-store merchandising are all offered by Keystone. At track event hosting, hospitality and VIP experiences fall under the motorsports umbrella.

Keystone offers many diverse services. Maybe an example would help understand just what they do.

In 2010, Nabisco tasked Keystone with developing a consumer sweepstakes for 2011. Nabisco wanted a promotion that would allow its key brands to showcase the “Official Cookie and Cracker” status with NASCAR and Stewart-Haas Racing and leverage a new partnership with an existing Stewart-Haas sponsor. Keystone cultivated a relationship between Nabisco and Chevrolet in which Chevrolet helped support the sweeps with a key element to the prize offering – two vehicles. Another component enticed consumers to buy Nabisco snacks and engage them with a call to action of entering to win via web, text or mail. The sweeps went on to award two winners and three guests with a trip to the NASCAR Championship weekend in Homestead, Fla. Winners and their guests were VIPs: special access at NASCAR’s Championship Drive and the Blake Shelton concert, a behind the scenes look at the speedway and lunch with Ritz driver Tony Stewart and Oreo driver Ryan Newman. Guests witnessed history during the weekend and were able to congratulate Tony in Victory Lane on clinching the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Best of all, Tony’s winner drove away in a 2012 Chevy Camaro and Ryan’s winner was handed keys to a 2012 Chevy Silverado. Consumers loved it and Nabisco did too — it received more than 3.2 million entries.

Visit Keystone’s website to learn more.

Corinne Economaki

Forsyth Tech

There is so much to cover regarding the Race Car Technology department at Forsyth Tech in Winston-Salem, it’s hard to know where to start.

The program started in 1999 and in 2003 became accredited by the state, offering an associate degree after completion of the two-year, 76-hour school. And it’s not all car classes either. Students have to take humanities classes, varying from oral communication to interpersonal psychology to expository writing. All with the goal of being well rounded graduates.

Randy Buttner, program coordinator, started with the school in 2001 and does he love what he does. A former racer and chassis builder, Randy is proud of the program and says that more than 20 graduates are employed at Richard Childress Racing alone. In fact Childress was so impressed with his original hires, he has put his name and money into the school. It’s called Richard Childress Race Car Technology at Forsyth Tech.

Twenty students each year produce 10-15 graduates each semester. Students build cars from the ground up, field race cars at area tracks, all while learning skills that can garner employment in other fields like tool and die making, TIG welding and heating and air conditioning. None of this breaks the bank either. In-state students pay less than $5,000 to earn an associate degree in Race Car Technology.

In fact, students from Winston-Salem State University’s classes for its Sport Management major come to Forsyth Tech for Tech Aspects 101.

Forsyth Tech (the rest of it, that is) normally has a student body of 10,000 and it offers certificate and two-year degree programs. There are more than 190 programs, ranging from nursing to carpentry to plumbing to cardiovascular sonography. There is something for everyone.

Thanks to Randy Buttner for his enthusiastic tour. You can learn more here.


Corinne Economaki

Hank Thomas Performance

Tucked away in a quiet area of Winston-Salem is Hank Thomas Performance. Hank Thomas himself still runs things with the help of right-hand man Mike Phillips. The shop has been in the same location for 51 years and services drag, circle track and road racing customers.

Hank’s been involved in motorsports for some time, in fact the first race he ran himself in 1956 was promoted by Humpy Wheeler at Robin Wood Speedway in Gastonia. Hank raced quite a while and finally hung up his helmet and became a mechanic before starting his business.

The biggest part of Hank Thomas Performance is Sunoco Race Fuels; Hank is one of 15 distributors of Sunoco Race Fuels in the United States. He started with drums of fuel, moved to a 1,000-gallon fuel truck and now uses the truck pictured here. HTP now services more than 20 tracks with fuel during racing season. The difference between race fuel and what we pump into our passenger cars is price for one thing — $7.80 per gallon to roughly $3.40 for unleaded regular. The other difference is that Sunoco Race Fuel never sees a pipeline. Its transportation costs are much higher to ensure no cross-contamination and it has a yearlong shelf life compared to your local gas station’s 30-day lifespan.

Quite a bit of Hank Thomas Parts’ business comes from nearby Bowman-Gray Stadium competitors. And he also sells to mini-stock competitors, Cup drivers, and asphalt modified folks. Eighty percent of his business walks through the front door; the other 20 percent is mail order. HTP is the exclusive dealer for Gold Dust, which is used by dragstrips to enhance traction.

HTP sells Carrera, Moroso, Goodridge, G-Force, Kirkey, Wilwood, Ohlins, and QuarterMaster; well, you get the idea. There are more than 9,000 pieces of inventory on hand at any given time. Visit Hank Thomas Performance for more information.

Corinne Economaki

Controlled Thermal Processing

If you’ve attended an NCMA mixer, you’ve probably met Roger Shiradelly, who runs the Controlled Thermal Processing shop in Mt. Ulla, far enough off the beaten path he doesn’t have to worry about prying eyes.

Much of Roger’s work is protected by confidentiality agreements, so we grabbed lunch and he told me about himself and his business.

Roger’s early life included stints as a mechanic and along the way he became a certified tool and die maker. He even drove super late models at Grundy County Speedway in his native Illinois for a time.

In 1999 he moved to North Carolina and opened Controlled Thermal Processing. It’s a process by which parts – engine parts mostly – are “cryogenically frozen” in a vapor corrosion inhibitor that runs for 70 hours for each 2,000-pound batch of parts. This cryogenic process reaches 300 below zero. It might hold parts from a weekend warrior who is having transmission woes, or from engine builders who want a little more life for certain parts. Used parts that come Roger’s way are tested first to see if they are too worn or cracked, which would negate the freezing process that equalizes the atom spacing in a metal.

Other than engine parts, Roger routinely freezes transmissions, torsion bars, sway bars, rear ends, and go-kart tires. Yes, go-kart tires. He also sells brake rotors and pads to police departments (which can get a workout on pursuit vehicles). Prior to purchasing Roger’s brakes rotors and pads, police departments would realize 5,000-6,000 miles from those parts; afterward, Rogers’ treated parts run for 40,000-60,000 miles.

To learn more about Controlled Thermal Processing, visit the site here.


Corinne Economaki


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