Mooresville, N.C. (May 31, 2005) - Life on the road for a member of the NASCAR community often means limited resources for the comforts of home or at least good food, unless you are a crew member for Penske Racing South or Penske-Jasper Racing.
In 2001, Cindy Lewis, co-hauler driver for the No. 77 Kodak Racing team, began a friendship with Dan and Hope Ring, owners of Trio Provisions - a food distributorship in East Texas, Pa. The friendship grew and while most race fans often wonder how to gain access to the garage and pit areas of a NASCAR event, the Rings capitalized on the old cliche, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."
Dan and Hope had their first taste of NASCAR as guests of one of their vendors; their first track - Dover Downs, now Dover International Speedway. They were hosted by another team and after striking up a conversation with the hauler driver for that team, the Rings were surprised to learn with all the sponsorship surrounding the sport, teams provided their own nourishment.
"We were told the teams went to the store and did their shopping like everyone else and I couldn't believe it," Dan said. "The teams had/have a sponsor logo on almost everything they used. I thought for sure the food was provided."
During that first conversation one thing led to another and before long Dan was boasting on the burgers and steaks Trio has to offer. He was invited to attend the Pocono event where he showed up, as promised, with food in hand.
It was at Pocono where Lewis introduced herself in hopes of building a relationship with the food distributor. She got more than she bargained for as she gained a friend.
"Dan and Hope are more than the owners of a food provision company, they are personal friends," Lewis said. "I have to admit it was the food that got my attention when I met Dan and Hope at Pocono in 2001 but they have been honorary team members ever since.
"They are really good people and the whole team loves to be around them. They come to several events throughout the year. We even celebrate Dan's birthday at Alabama Jack's in Homestead [Fla.]!"
Lewis introduced Dan and Hope to Doug Bawel, co-owner of the No. 77 Penske-Jasper Racing team as well as president and CEO of Jasper Engines and Transmissions, at that Pocono event. Bawel was immediately impressed with them on a personal level, but "the food wasn't bad either." Bawel, who often jokes that he never misses a meal, values the Ring's friendship.
"Anyone who looks at me can tell I like to eat; I joke about it all the time," Bawel said. "I can say for a fact that Trio has the best chili cheeseburger I have ever tasted, and the marinated steaks... it makes my mouth water just thinking about them. It just does not get any better.
"Food aside, Dan and Hope have become a very important part of our team. They run their company like I run mine, with strong family values, and that is important. I have a saying, 'When it comes to friends, they are the family we choose.' I already have a big family but I added two more members the day I met the Rings."
Trio's chili cheeseburger also has become a favorite of Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 77 Kodak Dodge Charger.
"Man, those things are good!" Kvapil said. "I always pack some up at the hauler and take them to my motorcoach. I can't get enough of them."
Dan and Hope enjoy the relationships they have built in the NASCAR community and look forward to the events they can make during the season.
"We never expected for our relationships to grow this big," Dan said. "Hope and I have been blessed to grow our relationships within the garage via Trio and we pray it will continue.
"From the first race, we couldn't believe how nice everyone was. It was like one big family and they just welcomed us in like we had been around forever. The least I could do was get them some good food."
Trio's products have become a mainstay for several teams. Instead of burgers and hot dogs of the past, teams currently enjoy a menu of fresh meats including smoked custom steaks, pork, chicken, cheeses, desserts, etc. that are flown in weekly. Teams still enjoy burgers and hot dogs, only "Trio Style".
Trio's list of clientele/friends have grown over the years and now include all three Penske Racing teams with drivers Rusty Wallace, Ryan Newman and Kvapil in addition to five other teams with seven drivers combined, NEXTEL Vision and Motor Racing Outreach.
"We do it because we love it," Dan said. "Hope and I just love being around people. We can't stop ourselves. Just like any other family member, you want to make sure they eat right.
We just make sure we are out of the way when the guys are running in and out of the hauler getting parts for the car. You can't work without energy and there is only one way to build energy - by eating a good meal."
NEWS OF NOTE
Birthdays This Weekend:
* June 4 - Matt Lucas, No. 77 Team Engineer
* June 6 - Kelsey Kvapil, daughter of Travis and Jennifer Kvapil
Equipment: PRS-089 - The Kodak Racing team is taking PRS -089 to the MBNA RacePoints 400. Kvapil raced PRS-089 at Atlanta earlier this year (St. 20th/Fin. 42nd). PRS-089 was new prior to Atlanta.
Event Preparation: The team tested at the Dover, Del. facility May 17.