Valvoline to become team owner in 2001

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The Valvoline Co. today announced a landmark agreement to become the first major consumer products company in history to own a NASCAR Winston Cup team, with veteran driver and Michigan native Johnny Benson behind the wheel of...

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The Valvoline Co. today announced a landmark agreement to become the first major consumer products company in history to own a NASCAR Winston Cup team, with veteran driver and Michigan native Johnny Benson behind the wheel of the Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix.

Valvoline will be an owner with MB2 Motorsports of the No. 10 team, starting in 2001. The new team is named MBV Motorsports.

Valvoline also signed a three-year agreement to be the primary sponsor of the No. 10 Pontiac beginning in 2001, continuing Valvoline's long and successful sponsorship role in Winston Cup racing. Benson will continue to be a teammate with Ken Schrader, who drives the No. 36 M&M's Pontiac for MB2.

Valvoline President Jim O'Brien, speaking at a news conference today at Michigan Speedway, said, "This is an exciting and important day in the 134-year history of our company. For many years, Valvoline has enjoyed a reputation as an innovative and successful sponsor. Today, we raise Valvoline's commitment to NASCAR Winston Cup racing and its fans by becoming a team owner.

"Valvoline's move into team ownership mirrors the technological advancements found in our products used by millions of racing fans," he continued. "We now step into a larger world, one full of new challenges and opportunities as a team owner.

"In MB2, we have found a partner which not only shares our passion for NASCAR racing, but also our commitment to attain goals and produce results. In Johnny Benson, we have not only a talented driver, but also a quality person who will continue to attract new fans and be an excellent representative for our Valvoline, Eagle One and Zerex brands."

Nelson Bowers, an owner of MB2, said he looks forward to working with Valvoline. "They bring a lot of marketing expertise to the table," he said. "And we are really excited about fielding a two-car team for the full season next year."

The team plans to re-locate, prior to next February's Daytona 500, to a new facility under construction in Concord, N.C. James Ince has agreed to continue as Benson's crew chief.

Steven A. Kirchner, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Valvoline, said becoming a Winston Cup team owner, in addition to sponsor, was a marketing-driven decision. "In recent years, we have witnessed many changes in NASCAR ownership and sponsorships," Kirchner said.

"We're doing something different here. But the marketing philosophy mirrors what we've been doing for years with our brands. We must continue to be innovative, creative, challenging and aggressive in our marketing strategies to maximize the return on our marketing investments.

"Winston Cup racing has experienced tremendous growth in TV ratings and attendance. Newly formed network broadcast alliances, new race tracks in major markets and expanded marketing opportunities all but guarantee a new growth curve for the sport. That's why Valvoline wanted a bigger stake in Winston Cup racing. What better way to be more involved than by becoming an owner?

"This partnership with MB2 fits our marketing objectives, and well-positions Valvoline in the business of NASCAR Winston Cup racing moving into the new 21st century."

Valvoline also introduced a new Valvoline Racing brand, which symbolizes the company's numerous racing accomplishments and future innovations. Valvoline's racing victories and achievements include Indy and Daytona 500 wins, the Formula One World Championship, Winston Cup Championships and NHRA Drag Racing Championships. The logo will be introduced to the public through a comprehensive advertising, marketing and licensing initiative.

Benson, 37, is a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., who now resides in Cornelius, N.C. His accomplishments include: 1990 American Speed Association (ASA) Rookie of the Year; 1993 ASA champion; 1994 NASCAR Busch Grand National Series Rookie of the Year; 1995 Busch Series champion; and 1996 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. He currently is 15th in the Winston Cup point standings. Benson led both the Daytona 500 and Pepsi 400 and has a best finish of second at Bristol.

"Wearing the Valvoline driving suit is such a great honor for me," Benson said. "No other sponsor or brand stands for winning or racing as much as Valvoline. I worked with Valvoline earlier in my career and know their tradition and the quality of the company's products and people.

"I wanted to keep working with James Ince and I wanted to keep driving Pontiacs. Kenny Schrader and I are good friends and I'm looking forward to running the full season next year with him. Our goal will be to run up front as much as we can."

Jay Frye, general manager of MB2, said: "Can you believe this? A few weeks ago we were running a white car. Next year, we'll have the No. 1 brand and sponsor in the history of racing on our car. I can speak for Tom Beard, Nelson Bowers and Read Morton (MB2 owners) in saying that we are absolutely thrilled to welcome Valvoline as an owner-sponsor.

"Valvoline's presence will also help us attract associate sponsors," he said. "We now have a great outlook for next year."

Barry Bronson, Valvoline's sports marketing director, said Valvoline remains fully committed to Mark Martin and Roush Racing for the rest of this, the 2000 Winston Cup season. "We hope Mark and the No. 6 Valvoline car runs well in every race and can climb in the Winston Cup standings," said Bronson. "We will do everything we can to help contribute to Mark's success in the remaining races."

THOUGHTS FROM JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 AARON'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX COURTESTY OF PONTIAC RACING

(ON SIGNING VALVOLINE AS A SPONSOR FOR 2001) "I think it's great. We obviously needed sponsorship for the 2001 season, and Valvoline was looking to go on a car, so this is a great situation. I worked with Valvoline in the past with my ASA cars. For us and them to join together in a Winston Cup team is going to be a really cool thing. It's going to be an honor to be able to wear that Valvoline suit. They are making a huge commitment on their part, playing the role of an owner as well as the sponsor. This is just going to be a good deal for everybody involved."

(ON SPONSORS PLAYING AN OWNERSHIP ROLE) "I think you'll see more of it in the future. It's an interesting concept and it brings stability to both the race team and the sponsor, which everyone knows is critical in this sport. There are a lot of things that can grow out of this kind of arrangement."

(HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR 2001 TO HAVE EVERYTHING IN PLACE IN AUGUST?) "It's real important to have everything done now. We can prepare for 2001. We can be ready. When we get to Daytona there won't be a bunch of shuffling around; 'Do we need this? Do we need that? There's a lot of fun little stuff you have to deal with, like uniforms and stuff like that, that you don't need to be dealing with at Daytona. There is enough going on down there to start with, let alone worrying about all these other details. "It helps, too, with Valvoline having been in the sport for so long, that they understand the sport. That should make everything run very smooth."

(ON THE PRESSURE AND PRESTIGE OF RUNNING FOR A LONG-TIME WINSTON CUP SPONSOR) "Sure, it adds some pressure, but in the same token we know we've got a good, quality sponsor behind us and that is worth a lot. They understand the racing end of it. Valvoline has been in this sport for a long time. They've won a lot of races and accomplished a lot. It is a good group of people there, they want to race and they want to win. We all do, and that's obviously important."

(ON THE ON-GOING DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR NEW TWO-CAR OPERATION) "I think the further we get down the road the better it's going to be. The teams are starting to work together, but we're in two different buildings right now, which is, of course, going to change pretty soon. That's the kind of thing that will really help. But James (Ince) and Sammy (Johns) still work together really good, and having Kenny Schrader being the other driver involved is really good, too. There have been times already that I know they've helped us and I hope that we've helped them, and I think it will be a good combination throughout the years."

(ON SUNDAY'S RACE) "I think we'll be OK. I think the race car is a good race car. We had an outside shot at maybe making something happen yesterday, but we didn't. So it's just a matter of getting the car real comfortable. We've got a few more cars to pass than what we originally anticipated, but it doesn't matter. If you've got a good race car it doesn't matter where you start."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ken Schrader , Johnny Benson , Mark Martin