Eel River Racing aowner turns businesses around

MOORESVILLE, N.C., (Nov. 17, 2000) -- Jack Birmingham knows what it takes to turn a struggling business into a thriving enterprise. Just a year ago, the former owner and operator of Steinway & Sons Pianos, a plastic distributing company and ...

MOORESVILLE, N.C., (Nov. 17, 2000) -- Jack Birmingham knows what it takes to turn a struggling business into a thriving enterprise. Just a year ago, the former owner and operator of Steinway & Sons Pianos, a plastic distributing company and three major musical instrument manufacturing companies set his sights on a new challenge - Eel River Racing and the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

A 1970 graduate of Boston College Law School, Birmingham became a partner in the well-known Boston law firm of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Pepeo in 1977. After a 14-year career in civil litigation, he chose to pursue business interests of his own and purchased a plastic distributing company in 1984. The following year, he purchased four musical manufacturing companies: Steinway & Sons, Gemeinhart Flutes, Lyon & Healy Harps and Rogers Organ. In ten years of ownership, he was credited with making sweeping beneficial changes to the world's leading manufacturer of musical instruments.

Four years after retiring from his businesses, Birmingham's competitive nature led him to stock car racing. In 1999, he partnered with veteran crew chief Barry Dodson to buy the assets of an existing NASCAR Winston Cup Series team. The acquisition was just another chapter in Birmingham's career of transforming companies that are not performing to their potential into profitable entities. Today he faces one of the biggest challenges of NASCAR ownership - the search for a primary sponsor.

"The business of NASCAR is no different than any other business. You have to assemble the best people, you have to watch profit and loss and you have a fiduciary responsibility in this case to sponsors, like investors or shareholders of a traditional company," says Birmingham. "The sponsor of the No. 27 Eel River Racing Team will benefit from my experiences as a business owner, the championship experiences of crew chief Barry Dodson and the tremendous marketing and competitive assets of our 2001 driver, Kenny Wallace.

"There are a lot of teams out there that view sponsors as the means by which they can get to the track. That's not what we're about at Eel River Racing. We're here to build businesses, both for our sponsors and for ourselves as a championship caliber NASCAR Winston Cup Series team. I'm a very competitive person, and I want success for our sponsor and our team, we are here to win a championship."

What are the key components of a successful race team? "Building a strong foundation for success. The crew chief, driver, facility, engine program and sponsor," says Birmingham. "We're working to be the best in each category. We have a proven champion crew chief in Barry Dodson; we have an experienced, very marketable driver in Kenny Wallace; we 're about to complete construction of the best facility in Winston Cup Racing; we have an excellent front office administration; and we're very happy with our engine manufacturer, T & L Engine Development. The sponsor is our missing link."

The construction of a 78,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility is an example of Birmingham's strategy of assembling the best foundation from which to build a program. Within the Mooresville, N.C., team headquarters will be a fabrication shop, a chassis dynamometer room, a machine shop, a paint booth, a parts department, garages large enough house two transporters and four motor coaches, and two finish assembly rooms that accommodate at least 14 race cars in each. In addition, the building will house at least 15 administrative offices. The team is slated to move into the building in December. Eel River Racing currently fields the No. 27 Pontiac for rookie driver Mike Bliss. The team is headquartered in Mooresville, N.C., located just 30 miles north of Charlotte.

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kenny Wallace