Thursday, March 22, 2001
WP motorsports of Youngstown is climbing from ARCA to the Busch Series in one season.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- A locally-based company will sponsor a race car on the Busch Grand National Series this summer, with the ultimate goal of climbing into the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit.
Dynatek Telecommunications Services, owned by Steve Palac of Vienna, sponsors a car-racing team called WP motorsports that will make its Busch debut on Aug. 18 in Brooklyn, Mich.
The Busch Series is considered one level below the Winston Cup circuit.
"We have hired a crew chief, Tim Weiss, from the Dale Earnhardt Enterprises and he is going to build two Busch Grand National Series cars that will take 2-3 months to complete," said Palac, a graduate of Howland High.
He said the new cars are Chevrolet Monte Carlos and are being built in Charlotte, N.C.
Objective: "One of our goals is to get into the Winston Cup in a few years," said Palac, who also serves as president of WP motorsports and is one of four owners of the team.
The others are Charles Woodruff , Darin Pinkham and Scott Pinkham, all of Sturgis, Ky. Woodruff is the team's vice president of operations.
Palac founded WP motorsports in February 2000 when he and Woodruff acquired the team from Bill Baird, the 1999 Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) champion.
WP originally planned to compete in a 16-race ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule this year, and hired Mike Swaim Jr., 24, of High Point, N.C., as the driver of the team's current car, a Chevrolet Monte Carlo with No. 22.
WP's show car is on display at the Eastwood Mall from today through Sunday.
WP and Swaim made their ARCA debut in a February race in Daytona, and are scheduled in their second ARCA race April 13 at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn.
Exposure: But WP decided to reduce its ARCA slate this year and advance to the Busch Series in the summer because of the greater exposure provided by the latter circuit.
"We were not getting the exposure we expected to get [in ARCA]," said Palac of the switch to Busch. "Our company [Dynatek] is looking to go public, and it is this kind of exposure that draws people to the company."
Palac explained: "In Busch Grand National, all races are televised. If we were going to spend the funds, we wanted more bang for the buck."
Whereas in ARCA races, "Most of them are delayed broadcasts and at undesirable times. And about half of the ARCA races won't be televised, and [of] the other half, all but one are tape-delayed and some of them at undesirable times."
Sponsor: Palac said WP, which is a sponsor of the Hunter's Hope Foundation, "is talking to huge American corporations about sponsorship."
Hunter's father, Jim Kelly, former Buffalo Bills' quarterback, serves as WP's honorary crew chief."
Palac met Woodruff about five years ago before both were involved in car racing. At the time, Woodruff was in the construction business and tried to hire one of Palac's employees. They found they shared a mutual interest in racing.
Palac said he and Woodruff "looked at motor sports as a business. That is why we formed WP motorsports." And that they "always had a real interest in racing. We thought racing would be an excellent opportunity to promote our company."
When WP bought the team from Baird, they retained Baird's crew chief, Keith Strunk, of Sturgis, Ky., who was the 1999 Cornwell Tools Crew Chief of the Year.
WP also kept Baird's full-time racing crew of Jerry Ferguson, Denny Fuller, Brian Ebelhar, Kenny Lanham and Tim Lanham, all likewise from Sturgis.
Change: But when WP decided to advance from ARCA to the Busch circuit, they hired Weiss as crew chief to replace Strunk.
"Tim [Weiss] brings an awful lot of experience to the team, so it is an opportunity for our crew chief [Strunk] to learn a lot," Palac said. So, "[Strunk] will step back to the position of car chief."
Palac said WP expects to add more experienced personnel to the crew, which will almost double in size.
They hope to use that foundation to build a NASCAR Winston Cup team.