Atlanta Motor Speedway Pit Notes 1 - Saturday, September 5, 2009 STEWART, OFFICE DEPOT ANNOUNCE SMALL BUSINESS WINNER: Robert Wiest, owner of Dragon Dojo Martial Arts in Panama City, Fla., was named the fifth annual Official Small Business of ...
Atlanta Motor Speedway Pit Notes 1 - Saturday, September 5, 2009
STEWART, OFFICE DEPOT ANNOUNCE SMALL BUSINESS WINNER: Robert Wiest, owner of Dragon Dojo Martial Arts in Panama City, Fla., was named the fifth annual Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot.
In addition to the trip to this weekend's Pep Boys Auto 500, Wiest will receive a $14,000 small business makeover from Office Depot and a private coaching session with NASCAR executives. Wiest's Dragon Dojo Martial Arts logo will also adorn the back panel of Stewart's No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet during Sunday's race.
"I was very excited to win," Wiest said. "My wife and one of my employees got this going, but my students are big NASCAR fans, and they picked up and ran with it. I remember saying, 'Sure, yeah, great.' But then we won, and I thought, yeah, that's pretty cool."
Wiest said that as a small-business owner, he doesn't have much extra time to watch television and doesn't consider himself a NASCAR fan -- yet.
"My students tell me that once you go, you're a fan," Wiest said. "I can see they'll probably be right. I'm thinking about buying me a car to see if I can go fast like him (Stewart)."
During Saturday's press conference, Wiest was calm and composed, prompting one reporter to ask if he was teaching Stewart how to be more zen.
"No, he's teaching me how to use instruments, shall I say, to eliminate stupid questions," Stewart said, laughing. "So we will soon have a stupid-question-free media center."
DARNELL'S SPEEDY CUP DEBUT: Things have moved quickly for Erik Darnell since being tapped to replace Bobby Labonte in the No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing Ford in seven of the last 12 races this season.
"It was all a little unexpected," Darnell said. "It kind of came out of the blue."
Darnell, who has a part-time ride in the Nationwide Series with Roush Racing, will attempt to make his Sprint Cup debut Sunday at Atlanta in the Pep Boys Auto 500.
Darnell said the move was motivated by sponsorship, which he brought to the table with Academy Sports and Northern Tool + Equipment.
"I feel real bad for (Labonte)," Darnell said. "I like him; he's a class act. But the way the sport is these days, money is a big thing, and we were able to bring a little money."
In the five days since the announcement, the team has thrashed to ready the car for Darnell.
"We've had to put seats in the car this week," Darnell said. "It all happened in a hurry."
It happened in such a hurry, in fact, that Darnell didn't have time to get the right credentials to enter the media center. Security held the driver for a moment before getting the OK to let him attend his own media session.