Reiser's road to success began at Daytona

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONCORD, N.C. (January 29, 2001) - Racing a stock car at Daytona International Speedway is the dream of many in motorsports. With the crowds and hype surrounding the Super Bowl of racing, one can't help but get caught up...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONCORD, N.C. (January 29, 2001) - Racing a stock car at Daytona International Speedway is the dream of many in motorsports. With the crowds and hype surrounding the Super Bowl of racing, one can't help but get caught up in the adventure. Robbie Reiser, crew chief for the No. 17 DEWALT Racing team, is no stranger to adventures in Daytona. His story illustrates the seemingly insurmountable risks and sacrifices many in racing take to make it to the big time.

To understand Reiser's story, you must first take a trip down memory lane. As the son of late model champion John Reiser, Robbie was exposed to racing at a very young age. He started racing while still in high school in the 4-cylinder division at Milwaukee area tracks. Reiser racked up three track championships and one area championship over two and a half years before making a switch to late models. Reiser then grabbed 14 different track, area, regional and state championships from 1990-1993.

In an attempt to move up in the ranks, Robbie purchased a NASCAR Busch Series car to run the inaugural race at the Milwaukee Mile in July of 1993. Things went well, so Reiser packed his bags heading south for North Carolina to set up shop.

Reiser ran a limited Busch Series schedule in 1994, and in 1995 Reiser ran the entire season with only three race cars. At the end of that season, Robbie made the first of many sacrifices when he put his team aside and went to work for Hut Stricklin's Busch team.

"That was a tough decision," Reiser recalled. "I came to North Carolina to drive. Racing is an expensive sport. I bought everything I needed to start up a team and drive. It worked for a while, but needless to say, I was substantially in debt. I knew when it came down to basics, I couldn't do it without a sponsor, so I had to let it go."

Opportunity to run his own team knocked again in late 1996. Reiser was approached by Kraft Foods who wished to sponsor driver, Tim Bender. When Bender was injured at the Bristol race of that year, Reiser did not suggest he become the replacement driver, so he called upon an old competitor from Wisconsin, Matt Kenseth, to do the job.

"Matt and I were pretty big competitors back in Wisconsin," described Reiser. "When I was winning championships, Matt was always in the top five. I knew he would be really competitive in our Busch car."

Together the pair proved successful when Kenseth took the reigns of Reiser's ride. The team posted two top five's and finished 15th in the point standings. The sponsor, however, was contingent on Bender as the driver, and at the end of the year Reiser again found himself scrambling for dollars to continue the pursuit of his dream.

"I had a greater level of confidence at this point," Reiser stated. "I knew we had a team that could win races. So, I decided to go for it and make Daytona a 'make or break' situation. Right before heading down to Florida, I went to the bank and told them how big this race could be for us. It was a scary feeling for a while there. It was pretty hard going home at night to my family not knowing what the next day would bring."

Reiser, Kenseth and Co. unloaded at Daytona, with no sponsor decals to be found. The anxiety heightened when the only competitive engine they had was out of commission for three days. After the engine builder worked feverishly to make repairs, the team qualified seventh for the race.

The tide started to turn when only two days before the race, Lycos expressed an interest in sponsoring Reiser's car for the inaugural event. Unbelievably, there was one more hurdle to face. Lycos had one condition for sponsorship -- the car had to be painted black. Reiser pleaded with the NASCAR officials to allow him to take the car out of the garage and have it painted at a local body shop. "I talked them into letting me take the car outside of the track for four hours," Reiser described. "We loaded the car, and brought two NASCAR officials with us to a local body shop, painted the car black, and were back to the track by 12 p.m. By 2:30 p.m. that day we were in the inspection line and ran the race for Lycos the next day.

"We finished the race sixth and made enough money to go to Rockingham. Even though Lycos was only for one race, we decaled the car to thank them for coming aboard in Daytona and helping us out. Then we ended up passing Tony Stewart on the last lap to win the race, and Lycos decided to come aboard for the season."

Reiser's earlier confidence in the team was not unfounded, and at the end of the season, he had the stats to prove it. The team collected three victories in 1998, and a second place in the overall point standings. Yet, racing would throw Reiser another curveball. The Lycos sponsorship was only for one year so Reiser was faced with uncertainty once again.

Enter DEWALT Industrial Tool Company.

DEWALT, Kenseth and Reiser joined forces in the Busch Grand National Series in 1999, and then with Roush Racing advancing to the Winston Cup Series in 2000. Success was found again, as Kenseth and Reiser won the Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte, and coveted the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title.

Robbie Reiser has graduated from the school of hard knocks and made it to the big time. He still has not lost sight of himself, or where he came from.

"This has been a pipe dream for me," reflected Reiser. " When people ask if I would do it all again the answer would probably be 'no'. I don't think I could do that again to myself or to my family. It was too hard. Thankfully, it all worked out. With the help of DEWALT, we've found some stability and I'm able to keep my dream alive and do what I do best - racing."

-Amy Walsh

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Hut Stricklin